Am I Too Old to Learn Guitar?

If we, at whatever age, are truly determined to make music come out of those six strings, we will.
Painting of man playing a guitar by master of the annunciation to the shepherds

If you’re worried you’ve waited too long to get started, fret not and read on for some advice and encouragement about learning guitar at any age.

Is there an optimal age for learning guitar?

There really isn’t—any more than there is a perfect age for all people to get married or have children or take up tennis. We all live and learn according to our own schedules, and the simplest answer is that we are ready to take up the guitar when we are ready to take up the guitar—when we have the desire, the energy, and the time.

Of course, our age and stage of life does significantly affect the learning process. Kids are famously fast learners, with high energy, flexible limbs, and a gift for imitating what they see. But Marcy Marxer, who along with Cathy Fink has been teaching and entertaining both kids and adults for several decades, points out that some things can be harder at a young age. “The coordination and dexterity it takes to play guitar is often a bigger challenge for kids than it is for adults,” she says, “so they need to be patient, as it may take a bit longer. But the one thing kids have is time—they tend to have more free time than adults do.

“Adults have other advantages from having listened longer,” she adds. “I once had a student who was in her mid-50s and was playing guitar for the first time. She wanted to learn swing music, so we went in that direction, and all she needed to know was how to play a few chords—she knew automatically how to put them together from how they sounded. She’d say, Oh, that’s just like this song or that song. That life experience really helped her.”


Carol McComb, a veteran teacher and performer and the author of Country and Blues Guitar for the Musically Hopeless, observes that certain aspects of the guitar tend to be easier to learn at certain ages. She says, “For example, fine fingerstyle playing is hard for younger people; I don’t think they have developed the motor coordination, by and large, to do it. Some kids are unusual and are OK with it. Teenagers get very coordinate from about 12 on.” That coordination remains with adulthood, but she finds that some students over 60, especially those with arthritis, have difficulty getting their fingers to learn basic techniques.

Because of the guitar’s close kinship with rock ’n’ roll, many of us start to play in our teens, a time in which we (potentially) have not only the coordination but the drive and schedule to devote countless hours to listening, practicing, and poring over guitar magazines—Bill Purse calls hungry young students like these “legends of their own room.” Of course that same wellspring of energy can easily be diverted into any number of other activities, leaving the method book or the lessons unfinished.

What it all comes down to, Purse says, is commitment. If we would rather be shopping or flyfishing or surfing than playing the guitar, we won’t very likely go far with the instrument. But if we, at whatever age, are truly determined to make music come out of those six strings, we will.

Any advice for a grown-up beginner with a job and a family?

As a grown-up, you may well look enviously at all the kids learning guitar, with seemingly bottomless supplies of time, energy, and confidence in their ability to conquer the six-stringed beast. But you’ve got some special advantages, too. As noted by Marcy Marxer, your years of listening have given you a lot of intuitive knowledge about the structure and traditions of music, as well as a sense of what specific style(s) you want to play. Your experience in mastering so many new skills, from driving a car to job responsibilities to parenthood, has undoubtedly given you insight into the ways you learn best—lesson that you can apply to this new quest.

And while you may have passed up the chance to be a child prodigy or teen heartthrob, it is never too late to start. Ask any teacher. Cathy Fink tells about a favorite student who picked up guitar at 55. “I went around the room and asked all the beginners what they were doing in the class,” she recalls. “This guy said, ‘Well, I watched my father when he retired and he was lonely and bored. That’s not going to happen to me, so I got a guitar.’” Too bad that man’s father didn’t know about the couple in their 90s who once took Carol McComb’s beginning class at a music camp!

As an adult beginner, you first need to strategize about time—this project is going to take a regular commitment. Be realistic; it doesn’t do you any good to set a goal of practicing three hours a day if there’s no hope of actually pulling it off. If you are taking lessons, discuss time issues with your teacher right away. Your playing sessions need not be long: efficient 20-minute practice sessions that tackle specific and achievable goals are more effective than hours of mindless noodling. So set aside small chunks of time at frequent intervals for you and your guitar, and protect them. Finding a space at home where your kids won’t be climbing all over your back while you’re playing is not a bad idea either.

There are so many ways to learn guitar these days, from books, videos, and apps to private and group lessons to music camps, that you can surely find one that matches your schedule and your personality. (Check out our guide to the best websites and apps for learning guitar.) Plus, you’ve got more options than a kid does, considering that you hold the purse strings and presumably have wheels.

Many adults are inclined to study on their own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But many teachers strongly recommend group classes, jams, and music camps as a way to accelerate learning and have big fun in the process. (Check out our guide to planning your summer camp getaway.) The opportunity to play along with even one other person can bring tremendous rewards. I know several parents who decided to begin playing guitar along with their kids, a special experience for all concerned.

Remember that whenever we are learning something new, we need to allow ourselves to be clumsy and awkward for a while. Kids are more used to this, while grown-ups tend to favor activities that they know well and can do competently and unself-consciously. Jimmy Tomasello, who teaches a wide range of guitar classes at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, notes that “people in adult education are somewhat insecure. And they want to be right—that’s a falsehood when you’re learning something. The more mistakes you make, the closer you get to reaching the goals that you set for yourself.” So cut yourself some slack, take chances, and most of all, enjoy the matchless experience of learning to make music with your own hands.

Here are some more resources for adult beginning guitarists from the master teachers at Acoustic Guitar magazine:

Book cover for "The Acoustic Guitar Method" by David Hamburger with subtitle "Learn to Play using the techniques and songs of American roots music"


The Acoustic Guitar Method is the only beginning guitar method based on traditional American music that teaches you authentic techniques and songs. From the folk, blues, and old-time music of yesterday have come the rock, country, and jazz of today. Now you can begin understanding, playing, and enjoying these essential traditions and styles on the instrument that truly represents American music, the acoustic guitar.

Book cover for "Teach Yourself Guitar Basics" by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers with subtitle "Learn how to choose, buy, and care for a guitar. Plus 6 lessons on how to play your first chords and songs"

You want to get started playing guitar on the right foot so you can quickly enjoy all the fun and satisfaction that making music brings. This helpful book is full of guidance from the master guitar teachers at Acoustic Guitar, who show you the right way to play chords, songs, and solos with six essential lessons and companion audio. You’ll also get answers to dozens of questions about buying, owning, and beginning to play your guitar. The best way to have fun with the world’s most popular instrument is to get solid advice and instruction from the beginning, and Teach Yourself Guitar Basics is the perfect companion as you start your musical journey.

Please note that this piece contains affiliate links, meaning Acoustic Guitar will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! And, to learn more about how you can support this site, please click here.

How old were you when you started playing? What tools have you found most useful in beginning your guitar-learning journey? Give us your suggestions, stories, and questions!

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, founding editor of Acoustic Guitar, is a grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, Beyond Strumming, and other books and videos for musicians. In addition to his ongoing work with AG, he offers live workshops for guitarists and songwriters, plus video lessons, song charts, and tab, on Patreon.


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  1. I am a male of 72 , I recently started guitar playing, I know quite a few chords and can play a few tunes BUT having no interest in learning scales I rely heavily on recognizing the beat of a tune.I do have Determination, Dedication, and Drive to succeed. Anyone have thoughts on this?

    • I am 74 and started playing seriously this year. My advise is to approach the challenge completely disconnected from ego. But with determination and consistency of methodology, i. e., Ensure the way you fret chord shapes developed good muscle-memory. Also, what I try to do is rather than think of moveable shapes as barre chords, think of them as ways to play as many of the arppegio notes as possible so that single note patterns can be naturally developed to developed a uniqueness to your playing style. Another part of my thought process is , not to think of your guitar activity as practice but as actually playing. This tends to make it enjoyable not a chore.

  2. I just turned 37 nothing playing guitar since I was 10 I think you have a great approach and a good attitude about it the only way to learns to do it and not talk about it. Let’s break it down into three different topics technique paperwork and rhythm technique is nothing more than how good you can move your fingers paperwork is the theory of music and rhythm is rhythm it takes a will to want to play and some drive and lots of time what one man can do another can do so can you

  3. I am 74 years old. I have had guitar’s for many years but only started to play seriously this year. I play for around three hours a day. Mostly I play on a reasonable quality parlour guitar. My biggest challenge is the pain I experience when fingering awkward chord shapes such as the Bm, Bm7 shapes based on the Am open chord. I recently hurt my upper left arm while working on a motorcycle and now the pain is exacerbated when playing these shapes. I persevere and get the sound I want but it is not easy. At the moment I am working on a particularly challenging project, i.e., Carolina on my Mind by James Taylor. This piece I feel is a masterpiece that not only challenges my limited dexterity but creates soreness in many parts of my aging body, e.g., my wrist, forearm, back, etc.

  4. It’s so discouraging for me learning to play. I’m 81 yo, been attempting to play or learn the guitar. After 11 months, I practice 10 to 20mins most days and I still cant play a song. I now have come to realize it’s no longer fun for me and it’s a waste of time. Forget lessons for we are on a very tight budget. Has anyone else experienced the same.

    • Mr. Wagner,
      Hate to hear of your struggles. My advice would be not to expect so much. If one method hasn’t clicked, try another. Get good at playing G D Em C.
      Mix those chords up into as many combinations as you can think of. This is how songs are born. There are millions of songs that use the G chord group. Keep a capo handy as well.

      Also perhaps your solution lies with the C chord. See if things improve by using C9 in place of C at first.
      Very common chord used in pop, praise/worship music, jazz, and rock.

      E -> X32033 <- e
      #'s represent which frets to press down.
      Also when chording, make your chord hand like a vice. rather than applying pressure from only the fretboard side, use your thumb to squeeze those chords into submission, but light enough to still switch chords. Best of luck to you sir.

  5. I’m 75 and have just purchased my first guitar. I’m scheduled to start a series of group lessons in a few weeks but in the meantime I’m using some online apps to help with chords etc. I’m a great fan of pop, rock and classical music but have had no experience with playing. With my small hands and fingers I’m finding it hard to form the C Major Chord. Any tips would be appreciated.

  6. My attempt to learn to play the guitar has been nothing but a giant waste of time. No amount of practice has produced even the slightest results