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Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar?

Am I Too Old To Learn Guitar?
Legendary guitarist Les Paul in concert - Cliff Smith Guitar Lessons

This is a very common question that I am asked by prospective guitar pupils. “Am I too old to learn guitar?”. My answer is… No!

I believe that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. I have taught adult complete beginners how to play and perform a song at their wedding/special event, from scratch, in just five one hour lessons. What sets these people apart from those who still can’t play a song all the way through after three months of lessons?


In order to achieve anything in life, you need some kind of drive. Whether it be passing an exam so that you can get a better job, or training your body so that you can fulfill your lifelong ambition of running a marathon. With exams etc. it could be that you HAVE to pass to move forwards with your life in the way you desire. You may not enjoy the process, but you know that passing those exams will lead to a positive outcome.

When learning an instrument, most people don’t HAVE to do it. They make a choice to learn to play that instrument. Some children are forced to learn an instrument at school, and although they may excel, many will give up as soon as they are old enough to make their own decisions. Many never play again, as they have no desire to do so. As an adult, you will choose to play an instrument. What will determine your success rate is your desire to succeed.

“I’m not musical”

Many people will say to me “I’m not musical”, or “I don’t have an ear for it”. Were you born with an ability to drive a car or type at a keyboard? No. You learned how to do those things. Playing guitar is also a learned skill, but because playing an instrument is an optional life activity, not everybody has the opportunity to learn.

I am not saying that there is no such thing as natural ability, just that it’s not the only thing that is important. I divide pupils into four categories:

  1. Those with natural ability who wok hard. They will generally exceed.
  2. Those with natural ability who do not work hard. They can do well, but may fail and give up .
  3. Those with little natural ability who work hard. They will do well, and in time, exceed.
  4. Those with little natural ability who do not work hard. They will usually fail and give up.

I must stress that this is not a scientific study! These are my observations based on twenty years experience teaching adults and children at many different levels and styles.

What is natural ability?

For me, the signs of natural ability in a pupil are:

  • The ability to hear a rhythm, remember it and repeat it.
  • The ability to hear a simple melody and sing it back (or repeat it on the instrument).
  • A good level of coordination when strumming simple chords or picking single notes across strings

All of the above can be learned. Some people just pick it up quicker than others.

Why do some guitar pupils work harder than others?


Do you really want to learn to play guitar? How badly? What are you prepared to sacrifice to find the time to practice every day? T.V? Gym? Time with your partner?

I can tell you that if you book lessons with me and practice for one hour per day, every day, then you will do very well. If you practice for much less than that, you probably won’t.

I have taught many adult beginners aged 40+ who have reached grade eight (the highest grade) on the guitar. I have also taught many adult beginners who have made limited progress. If anything, the pupils with less ability get MORE attention from me. So why the huge discrepancy?

Paying a guitar teacher isn’t enough!

The difference is, those who do well have a great desire to learn and they put the hours into practicing the guitar. Those who make limited progress have less desire and do not work as hard. A guitar teacher can only do so much for you.

I can give you the material, guidance and information to succeed, but I cannot rearrange neurons in your brain! If you don’t have enough desire to learn, you probably won’t practice enough and ultimately may not achieve your goal.

If you have enough desire, you will work hard and do well on the guitar. Age is just a number.


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