Part One — Why Is An Old Guy Learning to Play Guitar?
Have you ever wanted to do something creative in your life, but always had roadblocks in your way? That is the case with me learning to play electric guitar. I grew up in the 60s and 70s when some of the best rock bands ever were recording iconic albums, and I still love the music of that era as well as a lot of newer bands. I’m a middle aged man — almost 62 years old — and I’ve decided that it’s finally time to learn guitar. In this open-ended series about my adventure, I’ll write about teaching an old dog (me) new tricks (playing electric guitar) with a special emphasis on how technology is helping.
If I ever get to the point that I’ll want to record my music, I’ll have Josh Sularski’s new Rocket Yard series on Pro Audio to point me in the right direction. Josh is a musician and audio engineer, and his experience is being highlighted in this set of articles that describe building a home studio.
The Big Question: Why Now?
Why didn’t I learn guitar as a kid or younger adult? Too little money and time. I learned to play the clarinet in elementary school because my parents had bought my older sister that instrument…and then she could no longer play it because she was getting braces. Lucky me — I got the hand-me-down instrument, along with no lessons and absolutely no desire to play. I guess I should have stuck with it; one of my friends and band-mates from that time is now a popular and successful jazz musician.
I got interested in guitar as a high school student when a friend of mine started playing an Ovation acoustic guitar and we sang together as a duet. At the time I was saving up money for college, so even buying a cheap acoustic guitar was out of the question. Add to that the fact that I was singing in our high school concert choir, acting in plays and shows, and trying to impress girls, and there wasn’t a lot of time available. Next came a four-year stint in engineering school and working jobs for tuition, so I had even less time to think about learning guitar.
Fast forward to adulthood. Suddenly I had an important job, first as an engineer, then a manager, then running an IT department. In my spare time, I was doing a lot of writing, maintaining a house, running a bulletin board system and then a series of websites. I was still fascinated with rock music, but more as a listener and concertgoer than as a performer. I had friends who had bands and played gigs, so I recorded and edited videos for them.
Over the past couple of years I have been looking for a new pastime, and it occurred to me that learning guitar was finally within my reach. I have the money to buy equipment, time to practice, and several reasons to want to learn to play. But is it too late in my life to learn? Many experts on aging actually think it’s a great time for “senior citizens in training” to start playing an instrument.
A 2016 article on Connolly Music’s String Ovation blog shot down four common myths about learning an instrument as an adult. The key points of that article:
- Adults can bring all of their life experiences to play when learning an instrument, and music stimulates all areas of the brain — particularly those associated with memory.
- Adults get to choose what instrument they want to play, which adds desire to the goal of learning. Adults also have the self-disciple to practice and succeed that many children don’t .
- There are a lot of training options available now, including the one I am going to use — Fender Play. It’s an iOS app that lets students learn at their own pace and master a lesson before moving on.
- Music helps to reduce stress and gives you a mental workout that enhances other areas of life. For adults, learning music regenerates cognitive skills and can improve your mood.
There you have it — the reasons why an “old guy” like me is going to learn guitar. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to play The Beatles’ “When I’m 64” when I’m 64! In my next installment of the series, I’ll discuss the equipment I decided to buy and the method of online learning I’m embracing.
If you’re a wannabe musician like me, I’d love for you to join me on this journey and hear about your experiences in the comments.