There are many things in life that aren’t ideal to start at a later age. Becoming an athlete comes to mind, as well as anything else that requires a great deal of physical energy or strength. Some people put learning a musical instrument on their “I’m too old for that” list, but that is a mistake. At least 50 times in my teaching career I’ve been called or emailed with the same question: “is it too late to start learning?”
My answer is always a resounding “NO!”. I believe that everyone can start learning a musical instrument if they put their mind to it. I understand why they ask the question, though: they haven’t seen the positive experiences and success stories that I have. I want to share some of that with you.
Learning to play the violin doesn’t require you to be a certain age, it requires you to have a certain desire to learn. Some of my most successful students have been in their 60s, and at one point I even had a student that was in his late 80s! What was common amongst these students was their desire to learn, and they showed it by their willingness to tackle the basic mechanics of playing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and these students just had a late start that caused no disadvantage to them achieving their goals.
A person can learn to play the violin/viola at age 9 or age 90–it really doesn’t matter. Children and great-grandparents alike have to learn the fundamentals, and that’s where a good attitude is far more important than age. The 50-year-old with a desire to learn will achieve far more success than the 7-year-old being forced to learn by his parents. The child might have more years ahead of him to learn the instrument, but that learning can become easily sidetracked by other priorities and interests. When an older person takes up an instrument, they’re making the choice to learn. They’ll usually make the time as well.
Want to hear about this concept from multiple teachers? This video below includes published author Michael Sanchez, published author of 4 Hal Leonard violin books Thornton Cline, and concertmaster Steven McMillian.
Let me give you an example of a student that I think many people in their later years will relate to. Barb was in her early 60’s, and had actually wanted to learn to play violin since she was a kid. But she was skeptical about learning the violin–she felt she could never do it at her age.
Barb decided to pay up-front for 10 lessons, and gave herself that much time to either fail miserably and quit or see a new hobby begin to blossom. Barb didn’t fail. In fact, five years later, Barb still gets up every morning and practices for an hour. She absolutely loves playing violin. She uses her music to serve God, and has finally reached her goal of being able to play every song in her psalter hymnal. She can play in multiple positions, gets a really nice tone of the violin, and now wouldn’t trade her new hobby and passion for anything. This was a person that didn’t think it was even possible to make it past her first lesson, and couldn’t have dreamed of getting as far as she has. She has become fluent on the violin–at age 66!
If you are considering picking up the violin as a “mature person”, start by eliminating from your mind the idea that you can’t do it. Anybody with the desire to learn violin or viola can do it if you keep your goals realistic. You don’t have to aspire to being first chair violin in the local symphony. Your goal could just be playing for friends, serving in your church, or simply giving your mind a new challenge. Many studies have linked learning music to better physical and mental health, and that alone is reason enough to learn a new instrument.
Ready to start? Get an instrument, get some inspiration, and get some help.