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OPINION: Why it's never too late to learn an instrument

Laura  Barnes
OPINION: Why it's never too late to learn an instrument

Freelance music and technology writer Jessica Walter tells her story of why she picked up the guitar for the first time in her 40s and how it helped her bond with her father…

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks... Or can you?

When the last of my brood left for college I suddenly found myself alone for hours on end every day. The daily chores were finished in a matter of minutes and the distraction of my part-time job was not enough to keep me from wondering what I was doing with my life.

Sure, I have a gorgeous family and a doting husband, but I never got to be the cool adult I always thought I would. I’ve never travelled or even learned a musical instrument…
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A Little Burst of Culture

Then I started heading down to Brighton once a week, spending the day enjoying the adventures along the pier that is so synonymous with this part of the world. That’s when the buskers really started to stick out to me. I remember striking up a conversation with an elderly gentleman who had recently taken up the drums as an instrument. I asked him why he decided to take up a new instrument at his age and he simply said: “Deary, it keeps me swinging”. And with that, he entertained the crowd with a few drum rolls Brian Blade would be proud of.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. There has never been a time in my life where I had the financial stability and clockwork schedule like I have now. Fitting in music classes would be both affordable and easy to slot in. Furthermore, if I took up an instrument now it would be because I love music, not because some overbearing parent is pressuring me into it. Finally, I have four decades of listening to music as a portfolio of evidence. I was ready and my poison: the guitar.

A Family Affair

My niece’s husband is a high school teacher and also happens to take the kids for guitar classes after school. I phoned him up, got the schedule and paid my deposit. It wasn’t necessary for me to have a guitar yet as he had a spare, but the ritual of looking for one of my own was one I just couldn’t resist. I browsed shop after shop and held many guitars over the next few weeks. I just couldn’t seem to find the one that stood out to me.

It was a rainy day and I took my father to a second-hand shop to sell some of his stuff. He was moving into a smaller place because he said the big old house was getting drafty.

As we walked in, we saw them, side by side. The two box guitars that had father and daughter written all over them. My father, who played guitar a little as a youngster, looked at the darker of the two and I could see the same longing in his eyes that I experienced in Brighton that day.

He joined me at guitar lessons the very next day, and for a 70-year-old, that’s still young enough to learn an instrument.

Jessica Walter is a freelance writer and has teamed up with guitar learning site Guitar Fella. You can read her extended article offering advice to those picking up an instrument for the first time here.

Tags: guitar , Opinion , learning an instrument , Jessica Walter

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