Learning to Play Music as an Adult: Why it’s Never Too Late to Start

There’s a common misconception that the window for learning music closes once childhood ends. However, the truth is that the journey of music knows no age limit, and picking up a musical instrument as an adult can be an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience.

While there are certainly unique challenges that adult learners may face, there are also distinct advantages and strategies to overcome these obstacles.

In this article, we’ll explore some the differences between learning music as an adult versus as a child, highlighting both the advantages and challenges, and we’ll discuss how adult learners can find success in their musical pursuits.

How Learning Music as an Adult is Different

It goes without saying that learning a musical instrument as a child is a completely different experience than to doing so as an adult.

It’s evident that a student’s stage in life actually matters a great deal to their level of commitment and the pace which they are able to make meaningful progress. Unfortunately for many adults, the difficulties that they might encounter often overshadow the numerous advantages they might experience when attempting to learn music later in life.

So let’s break down some of these advantages and how they might benefit adults who are interested in learning to play music for the first time.

Unique Advantages for Adult Learners

Motivation and Purpose

Adults often have a clear understanding of why they want to learn music.

Whether it’s for personal enrichment, stress relief, or to fulfil a lifelong dream, their motivation tends to be intrinsic, driven by their own desires rather than external factors like parental influence.

On the other hand, most young children who take music lessons had this decision made for them by a parent or guardian. Because adult learners have more autonomy in their learning process, they also tend to take greater responsibility for their progress and practice habits.

Goal Setting

Adults tend to approach learning a musical instrument with specific goals in mind, such as mastering a particular song they enjoy. Having realistic and achievable goals helps them to stay more motivated and focused on their musical journey.

Because adults are often focused on specific goals and outcomes, they can allow for more targeted and efficient practice. Making consistent progress towards specific goals can also lead to a more fulfilling learning experience.

Cognitive Maturity

It’s often repeated that learning a new language is easier to do a a child than as an adult, but the research suggests this might not actually be true. Moreover, if an adult learner can dedicate the same amount of time and energy towards learning a new skill as a child, they are often able to go even deeper into the given subject.

While adults may need more time to absorb new concepts and develop certain motor skills, they also bring greater cognitive maturity and analytical skills to their musical studies. Compared to their younger counterparts, adults may have a better understanding of abstract concepts such as music theory.

Biggest Challenges that Adult Learners Face

Time Constraints

Balancing their musical endeavours with multiple responsibilities in life such as work, family, and other commitments is often the single biggest challenge for adult learners.

Unlike children, who typically have more structured schedules, adults must proactively manage their time to prioritize their practice and lesson attendance. This can be quite a challenge for some adults, especially those with busy lifestyles.

Fear of Failure

Adult learners may be more self-conscious about their abilities and fear being judged by others, especially in group settings or performance situations. The pressure to excel quickly can also lead to frustration and discouragement, which holds a lot of adult learners back.

Overcoming this fear of failure and embracing vulnerability is an important aspect of adult musical development.

Less Neural Plasticity

Neural plasticity is a fancy term describing the brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to new experiences.

While children’s brains are highly adaptable and primed for learning, adults show a lower degree of neural plasticity and may take more time to develop certain motor skills. This is the reason why it’s easier to learn to ride a bicycle as a child than as an adult.

Overcoming Challenges: Strategies for Adult Learners

Below are some ways that adults can overcome some of the challenges that come with attempting to learn a musical instrument later in life:

Strategy #1 – Time Management

One strategy to combat the time constraints is by scheduling practice sessions into daily or weekly routines. We recommend that adult students break their practice sessions into shorter, more manageable intervals so that it feels like a less daunting task.

Strategy #2 – Patience and Persistence

Be patient with yourself and learn to embrace mistakes as part of the learning process! Remember that every successful musician was a beginner at some point. Set small, incremental goals for yourself and celebrate small victories along the way to maintain motivation. Lastly, surround yourself with people who will encourage your musical pursuits and won’t judge you harshly.

Strategy #3 – Seek Help and Guidance

Getting help and guidance from an experienced teacher can be an excellent way to accelerate your progress towards your musical goals. Find a music school with instructors who understand the needs of adult learners. Make sure ask how much experience they have with adult students, and what they can do to tailor the lessons to your specific goals and interests.

Final Thoughts: Why It’s Never Too Late to Start Learning Music

Learning to play music as an adult may present its own set of challenges, but it also offers unique advantages and opportunities for personal growth. With determination, patience, and the right support system, adult learners can overcome obstacles and embark on a fulfilling musical journey.

As adults, we often carry with us the weight of responsibilities and the regrets of missed opportunities. At Resound School of Music, we believe that it’s never too late to rewrite your story; to embrace your inner musician and embark on a journey of creativity and self-discovery.

The path to musical mastery is not measured in years, but in passion, dedication, and perseverance.

Every note you play, every chord you strum, is a testament to your courage to face challenges and learn new skills. Music has the power to transcend time and space, connecting us to our deepest emotions. It’s a universal language that speaks to the soul, regardless of age.

So if you’ve ever dreamt of learning to play an instrument, let go of your doubts and fears. Embrace the journey with an open heart and a willingness to learn. The world is waiting to hear your music. Let your voice be heard, and let your passion inspire others to do the same.

Phil Barrow

Phil Barrow

Phil is a guitarist and Director of Resound School of Music, a music school specializing in at-home music lessons. Phil's passion is helping others to discover their lifelong love of music, and he writes about a variety of topics aimed at helping you to become a better musician.

1 thought on “Learning to Play Music as an Adult: Why it’s Never Too Late to Start”

  1. Consider me baffled by your ability to continually unearth unexpected yet convincing perspectives. A wizard, clearly!


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About Us

Resound School of Music was started in 2009 with a vision of providing the finest music instruction available from the comfort of your home. But don’t be mistaken; we’re not your typical, stuffy music conservatory, nor do we want to be. Instead, we are the music school that was designed with you in mind.