A common question I hear is whether you can ever be too old to learn music theory. I think most people these days are comfortable with picking up the guitar at any age. After all there are plenty of success stories around about people that start learning guitar very late in life and still become very skilled players.
But something that still persists among many guitarists is that if they haven’t learned music theory before a certain age then they might as well not bother trying.
There are a couple of reasons why this is the case. One of the best things about the guitar compared to other instruments is that you can start making good sounding music relatively quickly.
Think about instruments like the violin or saxophone where you have to put in a lot of practice just to be able to play single note. Whereas with a fretted instrument like the guitar this is relatively simple. Since progress with most instruments is slower it means a player’s technical ability improves at the same rate as their ability to read music and understand music theory.
If you are shown how to learn and apply music theory as a guitar player then it doesn’t matter how old you are. In fact your age can actually be an advantage.
With the guitar however you can start making great music without reading music or understanding any theory. As time goes on many guitar players develop their ear, meaning they have an unconscious understanding of some theoretical concepts. This means they have even less incentive to learn theory.
But most guitar players will find they eventually hit a wall in their development. They aren’t able to jam with friends like they want to, they can’t write music that is up to the standards they want or they find they are having difficulty learning to play more complicated types of music like Jazz. This is the point where knowledge of music theory comes in handy.
So what stops people from learning theory? A big issue that guitar players face is that when they first look into learning it they find it hard to translate the theoretical concepts to what they are doing on the guitar.
The fact is that many people believe the piano is the best instrument to learn music theory on, so it is with that paradigm in mind that it is conventionally taught. This is a big mistake and causes a lot of people to become confused and give up.
More mature people are also more motivated to reach their goals. They don’t push things off into the future because they realise they either work on the problem they want to solve today or it will never happen.
The guitar is actually one of the best instruments to learn music theory on as long as the design of the instrument is taken into consideration. The way the guitar is tuned actually contains the very essence of how music theory works.
If you are shown how to learn and apply music theory as a guitar player then it doesn’t matter how old you are. In fact your age can actually be an advantage. Many of my best students are actually older than 40 and there are several reasons for this.
First they have a lot of life and learning experience. They don’t want to waste time on things that don’t work and will embrace ways of doing things that bring results. They know there’s often a difference between the ‘official’ way of doing things and the way that people in the real world do things in order to get where they want to be.
More mature people are also more motivated to reach their goals. They don’t push things off into the future because they realise they either work on the problem they want to solve today or it will never happen. That’s why when they see an opportunity to jump forward they reach out and grab it without hesitation.
Finally, whether they realise it or not, they’ve picked up a lot of musical knowledge over the years. Simply from hearing lots of music over time. This gives them an innate sense of how music works and it’s something that they will become conscious of when they start exploring music theory in the way that guitar players were meant to be taught.
To get started learning music theory using a clear road map sign up to the newsletter and receive a free multi-part music theory course.