This Is Why Seniors Find It Harder To Learn An Instrument


Did you always dream of playing an instrument but never had the chance? As a senior, you might wonder if learning an instrument gets harder as you get older?

As a general rule, learning an instrument takes longer when you get older. Research shows that seniors can easily pick up the theoretical concepts of playing an instrument, like intervals and scales. However, coordination between the hands gets more challenging with aging. 

Knowing this, don’t let your age stop you! In fact, learning new things, like playing an instrument, at an older age is related to many health benefits. However, it might take more determination and consistency than when you were younger. In this article, I’ll go in-depth about why it’s harder to learn an instrument at an older age but also why you should learn to play an instrument as a senior. Let’s get started! 

Just a heads up, this post contains some affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Purchases you make through these links may earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Scientists Say; “Learning An Instrument Gets Harder When Aging”

The good news is, learning an instrument when you’re older can be done. However, for most people, it’s getting harder to learn new skills at an older age. Many people believe the brain loses its plasticity while aging. Meaning it has more difficult to adapt to new things. The brain can still easily adapt, according to Norman Weinberger. But it might take a bit longer than when we were younger. 

Norman Weinberger is a neuroscientist at the University of California and dedicated his research to the brain’s ability to learn new things while aging. He is renowned for his pioneering research of the brain’s auditory system. You can find some detailed scientific publications of his research on Pubmed.

So, why is it harder to learn a new instrument when you’re older? Weinberger says it sometimes feels like doing several things simultaneously when learning a new skill as a senior. According to his research, the learning ability of the brain slows down compared to a younger person. But there’s more. 

I spoke to several music teachers and asked them, ‘why do older people find it harder to learn a new instrument.’ The answer was more or less the same every time. 

According to the teachers, older people come in with a certain goal. They put the bar high for themselves from the start and spend a lot of time analyzing the theoretical concepts of music. Most of the time, children just want to play and don’t pay attention to how something sounds or trying to be perfect in some way. 

It reminds me of a saying my friends and I always say to each other, ‘Grow Old, Never Grow Up.’ In other words, keep playing, keep having fun. 

So, if you want to start learning an instrument during your retirement, focus on your learning as a child. In meditation, this is known as the beginner’s mind. Doing things every time as if it’s the first time you’ll do it. You’ll be surprised about how much fun you’ll have and how easily you’ll learn new things. 

The Easiest Instruments To Learn When You Get Older

Many people ask themselves what the easiest instrument to learn is. I feel it’s asking the wrong question for yourself. It should not be about how you learn the easiest but more about your learning experience. When you make sure you’ll having fun when learning to play an instrument, you’ll benefit much more from it. And while having fun, learning goes almost unnoticed. You don’t think of it, which makes it much easier as well. 

However, as we just learned, it is harder to learn an instrument when you get older. Mainly because of the high expectations older people set for themselves. And also, because most people want to really understand the concept of music or the instrument, they just forget how to have fun and play during that learning process. 

According to Levine’s Music, a regional music school in the US, some instruments are easier to pick up when you get older. Many of their students are retirees and seniors. They offer even specific programs for adults to make learning more easier. 

Instruments that ask a lot of hand-eye coordination might be more challenging to learn for older people. But with the right dedication, there isn’t one instrument that’s impossible to learn when your hearing and memory are still functioning as they should.

How You Can Benefit From Your Learning Experience 

So, learning an instrument is harder as you get older. Earlier, we talked about that learning an instrument or new skill is more difficult for most seniors because we start the learning with certain expectations. We set high standards for ourselves and forget to have fun. 

When we learn with the beginner’s mind, we go into the learning journey without expectations. Maybe only with some curiosity, which makes it exciting to start learning. 

The beginner’s mind is a perfect mindset to start learning a new instrument. However, it is not the only one. As an adult we can also benefit from our experience, right?  

Most seniors spend a lifetime learning new things so they know what works for them and how they learn best. Combining this knowledge and start learning without any expectations might be the key to successfully learning an instrument as a senior. 

You can set out some sort of schedule for yourself where you use your knowledge about how you learn best. For example, if you learn best while learning in the morning before breakfast. You should do so! It’s all about creating the conditions where you can thrive. But, don’t set any goals besides the fact you want to learn to play that specific instrument. 

Many older people fail because they want to play at a certain level or making it too difficult for themselves by focusing on the theoretical aspect of the music. Forget about all that. Focus on how you learn best, and play like it’s your first time. Let the music carry you away and have fun. Because in having fun, you’ll find the best learning experiences. 

Best Virtual Music Lessons 

So, there are a ton of different music lessons available online and offline. But for free or in some sort of membership. If you want to learn new things, like playing an instrument, you need to learn from the best. This means signing up for a premium program where you can follow lessons from successful people in a specific area. 

Don’t worry, there is a way to do this which is also very affordable. You need to sign up for the MasterClass platform. 

MasterClass is an online course platform where you can follow courses from the world’s most successful and renowned people. Musicians, artists, athletes, chefs, writers, and so on. They all have a MasterClass course available. And the best thing? The all-inclusive membership for MasterClass costs you only $ 180 for one year. 

There are more than 100 classes available on the platform. Each month, a new class is added, which is also included in your membership.

Following a MasterClass course costs you less than $1.80 per course. And each course has an average of 20 different video lessons. You can download the lessons to your device and watch them offline at the best time for you.

You can follow classes from renowned artists like Herbie Hancock (Jazz), Itzhak Perlman (Teaches Violin), Carlos Santana, and many more in the category music category.

Sign up for MasterClass here and start today! 

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 100+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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