Let's talk about a subject that's quite frankly dear to my heart: How to learn guitar as an older beginner.
Even though I've been playing guitar since I was a young kid, I consider it one of the biggest benefits to my life to be able to go out and learn something new right now. It can be an intimidating thing as you get older, so I really want to help others with this. You might have to try a little harder than say a teenager, but the benefits are well worth it.
Today I'm going to give you some tips that will make learning the guitar much easier and much less daunting.
Start With A Good Guitar
If I've said it once I've said it a million times: never buy a cheap guitar! Now, cheap doesn't mean inexpensive. Cheap guitars play horribly, sound bad, are made cheaply, and won't last very long.
On the other hand, a quality guitar will play well, sound good, and because they're made from quality materials by quality builders, they'll last a long time. I think something in the $200-300 range is perfect for beginners. If that's a little outside of what you were thinking, treat yourself!
Here's the thing. If you buy a cheap guitar it's going to play horribly. By that I mean you'll have to work way harder to play simple things. And it won't sound very good no matter how good of a player you are. Both of these things give you discouragement. You want a guitar that's going to encourage you to play more.
You can buy a new guitar for $200-300, or find a slightly higher quality used guitar for about that price. Go down to your local music shop and ask questions and get recommendations.
Set Up A Practice Space
So you know you have to practice to get good at anything. But what most people don't realize is setting up a distraction free practice space is incredibly valuable. You want a quiet space that's comfortable. Get a space where you can play guitar, have space for picks and a tuner, a comfortable chair (without arms), and maybe even a footstool and music stand.
As small as it seems, having to pull out your guitar, find your tuner, find a pick, and figure out where you're going to practice- these smalls things can discourage you from practicing. I'm in the same boat! That's why I have my own studio I've created for myself. The fewer barriers you have, the more likely you are to practice.
Get Support From Your Family/Friends
Think about the people you're living with. If every time you go to practice you're interrupting someone about to watch TV, or bothering someone who's doing work, you're going to be shy about practicing. Especially if they start to grumble about it.
First of all, get their support. If they know how important this is to you they're more likely to be more flexible. If you say, "Hey, I want to start practicing guitar today. What's a good time for you where it won't be distracting?". This sets the expectation that you want to practice, and gives them a chance to know that their time is being valued. Everyone wins.
It's also valuable to have your friends and family hold you accountable. You can have someone check in on you once a week and make sure you're practicing. This is something I miss about taking formal lessons myself. I always had to report back to my teacher. If I hadn't been practicing much the week prior to our lesson, he'd know. And I'd be embarrassed. That was motivation enough to practice!
Listen To Your Body
Let's face it, as we get older our bodies get a little more cranky. So we have to take some extra steps to make sure we're playing guitar in a way that doesn't work against our physical selves. (this is good for people of all ages, by the way).
Let's start with the hands. It's important to stretch before even picking up the guitar. Stretch your wrists to get them a little loose. Then spend a few minutes doing warm ups. These warm ups and stretching are for the same reasons as you would warm up and stretch before exercising. It gets you loose, gets blood flowing to your muscles, and prevents injuries.
I also find that warming up helps me play better during my practice session. That makes playing more fun, which in turn builds confidence and encourages me to practice more.
The next big thing is your back. Sitting down for long periods of time, whether playing guitar or working in an office, will definitely catch up to you. There's no absolute way to keep yourself from getting sore. Humans weren't meant to sit for as long of periods as we do. But you can take simple measures to limit this as much as possible.
The first thing is to get an ergonomic chair that puts you in a good posture. Try not to look down at your guitar the whole time. That causes you to hunch over. Look down when you need to and then look back up and sit up straight. Practice for short sessions and get up and move around. You can throw in some more (full body) stretches at this point.
Take A Quality Guitar Course
I don't know how many times I've heard "Oh I'll sit here and fumble around with books and random YouTube videos until I get good enough to take formal lessons". This is so backwards! You need the formal, intentional lessons from a qualified instructor from the start.
I'm not knocking books or YouTube videos by any means. As you progress these are extremely valuable. Step by step instructions from a qualified and experienced teacher get you on the right track from the start. You'll progress much faster than trying to figure it out on your own.
You have a lot of options for this. One on one lessons are a great way to go as long as the instructor is a good one. Bad instructors are just as bad as aimless scrolling through YouTube. A good online course is the most approachable method. They're cost effective and guide you intentionally through foundational techniques. My Real Guitar Success program is designed to do just this. Thematic lesson plans, play along tracks for practicing, one off lesson videos to build other skills; everything you need to get a solid foundation.
(Insert cliche saying such as "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" here)
Even the best in person instructor or online course can't get your from learning your first chord to playing your favorite song without a lot in between. I see a lot of my students get frustrated when they can't play something fancy after only a couple months of playing.
Slow and steady really does win the race. Playing guitar is a journey. And like anything worth while, it takes time, dedication, and a whole lot of practice.
Stay Away From Your Mental Chatter
File this under the Positive Reinforcement column. Pay attention to your attitude and mental chatter, what you're telling yourself. If you keep thinking "Maybe I'm too old for this and I don't know if I can learn guitar", then you're right. But if you tell yourself "I can do this!", then you're right.
It's easy to get discouraged and feel inadequate, especially if you're comparing yourself to younger players. But here's the deal: you have to let it go. Let yourself be a beginner. Check your pride at the door. It's hard to be an adult and feel like a beginner in anything. I totally get it. But you have to get past that. It'll feel awkward and even a little silly at times but it's all part of learning to play guitar.
You need to stay positive and celebrate what you're learning. Playing guitar is supposed to be fun after all. Which leads me into my last point...
Find Ways To Have Fun And Feel Good About Your Playing
Like I said earlier, learning guitar is a journey. You have to find ways to find a sense of inner enjoyment and achievement with what you're learning. Set small and achievable goals. When you first start out you have to learn a lot of small and basic things. Only once you learn those can you really apply them to learn songs. So learn all of these basic things and do so with gusto.
It'll pay dividends in the long run to learn Happy Birthday before you try to learn Sweet Child Of Mine. I like to think of it as trying to jump over a two story building. It's just not going to happen.
So make a checklist of what you want to learn. If you are learning a simple song that has 4 chords, make learning each chord an item on the check list. Celebrate those victories, and then move onto the song. You'll find a lot more enjoyment and fulfillment this way.
The way my Real Guitar Success program is set up is to create a bit of a checklist. You can see all of the lessons you've taken and have a sense of accomplishment. Learning to play guitar is a gradual thing. You learn a lot of little things and you might not notice how far you've come until you see all of the things you've learned clearly written out.
The bottom line here; look for ways to find a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. Little accomplishments turn into bigger accomplishments. Let that momentum carry you throughout your guitar playing journey.
If you're an older beginner, what's the biggest thing you feel is holding you back right now? Is it the time dedication? Maybe having to start something from scratch? Let me know in the comments, and let me know if this article was encouraging to you.