“I used to play an instrument when I was younger, but I quit. I really wish I would have stuck with it.”

“I always wanted to play and told myself over and over that I’d eventually get around to it. Now I’m so busy with work and family that I don’t know if I have enough time.”

“I just retired and have the free time I need to dedicate to the music I’ve always wanted to play, but I haven’t played in such a long time/never played before.”

Have you ever said one of these lines or heard them from someone you know? Most likely the answer is yes. Music and creative expression are such important aspects of many cultures that it’s no wonder so many people want to take part in performing.

Picking up an instrument is always in the forefront of your mind, but you understandably have questions. If you struggle with doubts about whether you’re qualified to study music or whether you’re too old and that you might have missed your window, know this:

Don’t let your age or past experience discourage you; it’s never too late to learn how to play a musical instrument!

Dick Van Dyke didn’t start learning the ukelele until he was 97 (opens in new tab)! If you’re ready to make your age just a number, here are a few tips to help adults pick up the instrument they’ve always wanted to learn.

Older man learning how to play a classical acoustic guitar from American Musical Supply.

Embrace your enthusiasm

Congratulations on saying yes to bringing music into your life! This means you have already taken that difficult first step. Yes, there will be moments of hesitation and doubt — which is why many fall into the easy trap of just saying no and then looking to justify never trying in the first place.

But undertaking this new endeavor is a source of excitement, and the fact that you’re doing something to better yourself and fulfill a personal goal will provide you with a constant source of motivation.

Find the right instrument and accessories

Choosing the right instrument is almost as important as deciding to finally learn. If you choose the wrong instrument, it can make your learning experience more frustrating than it needs to be.

AMS is here to take the guesswork out of buying an instrument, and we have exactly what you need to get started playing the instrument of your dreams:

We have an inventory of hundreds of educator- and technician-approved instruments from the best brands in music with all the accessories you need for day-to-day use, maintenance, and protection.

And if you’re not sure where to start, be sure to call the AMS customer service gear experts at 800-458-4076. All our customer service representatives are musicians, and they’d be happy to help you find your perfect instrument to begin your musical adventures.

Woman learning how to play piano while looking at sheet music.

Find a dedicated space in your home free from distraction

Practicing your instrument at home requires focus and a committed routine. When setting up a personal music space you’ll need a place to comfortably sit, an area for your music and instrument stands, and a storage space for your accessories, sheet music, and lesson notes.

AMS Pro Tip: If you want to learn guitar or bass, choose a chair without arms. Chair arms get in the way of your elbows as you learn to pick and fret the instrument.

Having access to a nearby electrical outlet (or a few) allows you plug in amplifiers, practice aids, and a light source. Put up some decorations to add a personal touch to your space and help put you in a musical mood.

Most importantly, silence your device(s) for the duration of your practice. Text messages, e-mails, social media alerts, and the temptation for unfocused internet browsing are distractions that need to be eliminated for a successful practice session!

Find a private teacher

Having a teacher is incredibly important for the beginning student. They can make sure you’re using the proper technique, eliminate potential bad habits, and help you develop a focused practice routine through well-defined curriculum.

There are a number of great independent music studios near you with teachers who cover every family of instrument out there. Contact the studio and schedule a time to meet the owner/manager, the teachers, take a tour, and go over their lesson policies. Research their areas of expertise and credentials. Check with the studio to see if you can take a trial lesson with a particular teacher to see if everything is a good fit.

Many studios also hold student recitals and provide outside performance opportunities. Their teachers will also likely have great connections to the musical scene in the area, whenever you’re ready to showcase your talents.

You may see advertisements floating around for music lesson services that send a teacher out to your house to work with you in person, touting both the comfort and convenience factor. In my experience, travelling to a dedicated second lesson location (such as a studio) for music is more productive than having someone come to your house. Unless your practice area is very isolated, it’s easy for little distractions to sneak into your thought process. The noise of children, pets, and technology creeping into your lesson space and worrying yourself with the events happening in the rest of your home can truly keep you from having a focused learning experience.

Also, teachers in these programs can easily become fatigued, flustered, and unfocused as a result of demanding travel schedules and tiring commutes over the course of an entire day as they move from home to home.

Another option is online music lessons. There are several websites and even private teachers with their own websites who offer music lessons via video call over the internet. This is a great option if you want to enjoy the joy of learning in your own home without requiring a commute for anyone.

Again, the situation is different for everyone, so make sure you take a look at your own schedule and home layout before committing to anything long-term.

Man learning how to play a drum set from American Musical Supply.

Practice and play daily, even if only for a short while

Regular practice is the key to memorization and retention of physical muscle memory, which is most important during the earliest stages of learning.

I want to dispel the myth that you need to set aside large amounts of time to practice every single day without exception. This rigid, more demanding approach works with a certain type of student, but its failure to account for alternative types of learners is what often leads so many to quit in the first place.

The truth is, you do need regular practice to improve your skills, but quality is much more important than quantity. Focused practice for 15 minutes every day is considerably more effective than a haphazard once-weekly hour-long cram session.

So when should you do your practicing? Any time that suits you! If you’re a night owl, simply plug your headphones into the keyboard or amplifier so you won’t disturb family, roommates, or neighbors and enjoy a late-evening practice session. Some people are notorious early-risers and benefit from getting practice in before they start the rest of their day.

We’re all unique, so there is no universal method that works for everyone. Everybody has different schedules and times of day when we’re most efficient, so it will take some individual experimenting to find out what works best for you. Don’t let “being too busy” become a convenient excuse for you not to practice.

It’s okay to be frustrated, but don’t let it linger

Difficult music, complicated techniques, and confusing new concepts can cause frustration. The truth is that all musicians get frustrated at times, but you can’t let it linger and overwhelm you with negativity.

The reality is that whenever we start something new, we’re not going to be good early on. And well… most adults don’t take very well to being bad at anything.

So how can we overcome our frustrations? Think young! Part of why young children learn so effectively is that they realize they’re working with an expert and will follow them without letting their insecurities distract them from attaining knowledge from the lesson. So think like you’re young, engage your teacher (As an adult, it’s so much easier to communicate your concerns with a teacher!), commit to your regular practice, and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming the adversity that causes frustration.

Remember to enjoy the journey and keep your long-term goals in mind

Always remember that learning to play an instrument is the beginning of a lifelong journey. Keep in mind that you’re here because this is something you have always wanted to do, not because you’re being forced by an outside presence. Keep looking forward, stay committed, don’t be overcritical of yourself, and know that you’re making positive steps each and every time you pick up your instrument.

And most importantly, have fun!

Music is a wonderfully fulfilling hobby, and there’s no such thing as being “too old to start.” No matter your age, if you follow these steps, it won’t be long before you’ll be able to play the instrument you’ve always wanted to play.

And if you would like more information about the gear, accessories, or knowledge needed to take the next steps of your journey, check out the AMS Content Hub. It’s full of helpful resources to give you the knowledge and tools you need to become the musician of your dreams. Happy playing!