Am I too old to learn guitar?

For adults I would say that it’s never too late to learn and to benefit from the many advantages of playing a musical instrument. An instrument like the guitar involves so many different aspects that it can be beneficial on so many levels, (improve coordination & discipline, reduce stress, creative expression) even more so if you are older. The myth is that it’s much easier to learn guitar when you are young. This is really too much of a generalisation, learning guitar is not easy regardless of age and an adult who is motivated to learn can learn as quickly as a child. The biggest hurdle for adults is time or more to the point – time to practice. It is impossible to improve at playing guitar without practice so it becomes essential to try to fit it in around your normal schedule. There have been various studies that suggest to master something (in our case playing an instrument) would take approx. 10,000 hours of practice which translates to about 3 hours of practice everyday for 10 years. Obviously if you start at an early age then this is achievable before you reach your twenties but also it’s worth remembering that these figures are if you want to be a master of the instrument, if you’re just looking to be able to play a few songs most students would reach that stage within a year. If you would like some further reading the book ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell explores this 10,000 hour principle examining high achievers in different fields.

What Guitar should I buy?

This is a difficult question as the instrument you buy can either encourage you to play or put you off learning. Probably the first thing to decide is your budget. Generally more expensive guitars are better quality, sound nicer and are easier to play but for a first guitar they are more than likely going to be too expensive. Set your budget and try to get the best guitar you can within that price range.

Secondly if you don’t have much experience with guitars I would suggest buying a well-known brand such as Yamaha, Fender, Epiphone and there are plenty more. It doesn’t guarantee anything but there is a better chance that a guitar from a well-known brand will be of a certain quality.

Thirdly, for acoustic/classical guitars, if your budget will stretch to it, a guitar with a ‘solid top’ will sound nicer, these are usually more expensive than the very first entry level models.  A ‘solid top’ just means that the top of the guitar (the front bit with the hole in it!) is made from one piece of solid wood and not from several layers of laminate. Sometimes it’s good to try expensive guitars because then you know what you should be looking for in terms of sound and playability.

Finally do some research, ask friends what brand of guitar they have and obviously what they think of it. If you’re not confident in your playing ability maybe try to bring a friend who can play to the store to help – they can play the guitars and you can listen, maybe you’ll like the sound of one guitar more. Ask for advice in the music store, but obviously use your own judgement.

Avoid buying really cheap guitars from supermarkets, not mentioning any names but any of these that I’ve seen have been atrocious and unplayable and would definitely put you off playing the guitar. Support your local music shop instead, they specialise in selling instruments not bananas

Best of luck choosing a guitar and let me know what you buy.

There are different types of guitar which one should I start with? 

Well a good place to start is to figure out what genre of music you want to play. If you want to play folk, pop, rock or acoustic blues then a steel-string acoustic would be the preference. If you plan on learning classical music then you will need a nylon string classical guitar. Or maybe you want to play lead guitar and then you could look at electric guitars.

Regardless of genre classical guitars can be a good starting place for budding guitarists, they have several advantages – they tend to be cheaper, they are softer on your fingers, the body is a bit smaller (handy for petite people) and the neck is a bit wider (useful for people with larger hands/fingers).

But can I play folk/pop/blues music on a classical guitar? Well yes, but it won’t have the same tone – they have a softer sound – so if the sound is the most important thing for you then to get the ‘folk’ sound you would need a steel string acoustic. This pretty much applies equally to blues, pop or rock. So steel strings might give you the sound you’re looking for but be prepared for sore fingers at the start (especially so if you buy a budget model).

And is it ok to start learning on an electric guitar? Yes, although years ago the attitude was that you should start on an acoustic and then progress onto an electric but if the music you’re interested in playing is mostly played on electric guitars then there’s no harm in starting with an electric instrument. Remember though that you will need to budget for an amplifier and possibly a pair of headphones if you want to be able to practice without disturbing anyone else.