Learning to Play Guitar Later in Life

Have you always wanted to learn to play the guitar but assumed that opportunity to do so had passed you by? Have you heard the old refrain that to learn to play the guitar at a reasonable level a person has to start learning while his / her age is still in the single digits? I can tell you from my own personal experience that those assumptions are true only if one chooses to believe them.

Learning to play the guitar (or any musical instrument) is an extremely rewarding experience. It's a hobby that can provide a person with countless hours of stress-relief, as well as a sense of accomplishment. No matter how tense you may be after a day of work, or any other stressful activity, sitting down with your guitar will help dissolve that stress. You will be surprised at how quickly time passes while you are engrossed in your learning and playing. If you love music, being able to play an instrument adds another wonderful layer to your experience.

I have been a lover lover since early childhood. From my early adolescence through young adulthood, I had the ambition to learn to play the guitar. However, for reasons that are all too common, I never seemed to have the time to turn my ambition into action. By the time I reached 30, I had given up on the notification. I had accepted the fact that my music enjoyment would always be as a listener, never as a player. Then, when I turned 35, a wonderful thing happened. My father bought me an inexpensive acoustic guitar. He had always known of my desire to learn to play, and sometimes felt a pinch of guilt that he had not done more to encourage me as a child. That simple gesture changed everything for me.

I am now 53 and have been playing for 18 years. I would rate my skill level as somewhere between intermediate and advanced. The thousands of hours I have spent learning and playing has been, and continues to be, one of the great joys of my life. If I could start my journey at 35, so could you.

From my perspective, there are no absolutes that one must follow in order to learn the guitar. I can only share suggestions and observations based on my own personal experience ….

· Set Realistic Objectives and Expectations: Despite what you may find on the internet, there are no programs that will transform you from beginner to "Guitar God" in a few easy lessons. The truth is that this will be a journey. A journey that will only be rewarded through persistence and patience.

· Set a Realistic Practice Schedule: This will depend on how much time you have to devote to learning. Set a schedule that you can consistently adher to. If that's two hours a day, great. If that's 30 minutes a day, that's OK too. The critical thing is to stick to your schedule and try to pick up the guitar every day.

· Start with Technique: For most beginners, the natural urge is to try to learn to play songs right away. I strongly recommend you avoid that pitfall. Regardless of which instructional approach you decide to utilize (eg; private lessons, books, video, internet) your initial focus should be on learning the basics of guitar playing. Those basics include:

o Right-hand technique (strumming and picking)
o Left-hand technique (formation of notes and chords)
o Scales
o Basic theory

· Learn the Entire Song: Once you start learning to play songs, make sure you learn the entire song. There is nothing more annoying than to play with someone who knows 30% of a lot of songs but can not play a single song all the way through.

· Play with Others: Once you build your skills to the point that you have a reasonable degree of confidence, seek out others to play with. One of the most productive methods of learning is to play with other musicians. You will pick up on new techniques while, at the same time, improving your ability to coordinate your playing with others in a live setting.

· Keep Learning: Never become complacent in your quest. There will always be more to learn. That is one of the most exiting parts of the journey.

Always remember to have fun. Your progress will likely come in fits and starts. There will be times when it looks that your progress has stagnated. In those cases, take a week or two off, recharge your batteries, and then get back at it. You will continue to improve.

As with all human endeavors, the more you put into learning the guitar, the more you will get out of it. I hope that it brings you the same levels of satisfaction and happiness that it has given me.

Keith Merrill


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