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Learning at late ages

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Postby Nuno » May 20th, 2012, 2:29 am

I read an opinion on the learning process at several ages in the free book "Fundamentals of Piano Practice (http://www.pianopractice.org/). The author says that at the ages 45-65 "depending on the person, there will be increasing limitations on what you can learn to play" (p. 190).

Usually I never set my own limits but this time it made me wonder if I could play all the pieces I'd like to play on an instrument. Surely it is a matter of time: the time I am able to get every day for practicing and the years I can dedicate to the instrument. Perhaps, a five years old child can dedicate 8 hours a day for 20 or 30 years, surely an adult can not. I guess there are physical issues, too.

Any thoughts?
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Postby Liontable » May 20th, 2012, 3:25 am

There's also the attitude of children to consider. Many adults get discouraged when they make mistakes, or don't dare to do something due to being afraid of making them, while a child generally doesn't face these issues. Enthusiasm and discovery seem so much more important to them as well.

I do believe that you can still fully learn how to play piano when you're an adult, provided you don't want to go for contests. Also, I believe your hands will start to have issues when reaching age 60 and up (depending of the individual) but that also goes for guitar. Clapton's got the same issues.
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Postby Alan Green » May 20th, 2012, 8:44 am

Adults try to find a quick way to get to playing an instrument and the repertoire they want to play. Children will happily accept more (I'm going to use the word carefully) mundane pedagogical material because it's part of a learning process and a process of discovery; and they seem to sense and enjoy that. Add to that the fact that whatever it is you do the best time to start is when you're really young and it kind of holds together that the best musicians were practically born with the instrument in their hands.

I don't think that should limit what you can achieve as an adult learner. Someone starting to play guitar today in their 60s may never physically play Recuerdos de la Alhambra, or Operation Ground And Pound, but so long as they get enjoyment out of the guitar what does it matter? Segovia was performing publicly into his 90s. Les Paul gigged to the end. John Williams is 70. Keith Richards is 69.

The issue of practise time comes up fairly regularly. It's taken for granted that if you want to learn piano you will get a teacher, you will buy the recommended book and you will get a whole load of material to study between lessons. It seems to be taken for granted by guitar learners that you shut yourself away in your bedroom with Master of Puppets and a Tab book. You can achieve a lot with 30 minutes practise time each day, but you do have to practise the right stuff.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » May 20th, 2012, 10:30 am

I started playing guitar at 17 - way too many distractions! I learned a few chords, and that was it really....made do with them for near enough thirty years. When I decided to learn PROPERLY, in my mid-40's - when I joined GN - I was much more focussed, more intense, more receptive and more willing to learn. When I was a teenager it was too much like hard work.... when I got older I was prepared to work hard at guitar in order to play properly.

I learned more in the first few weeks as a GN member than I did in almost thirty years of trying to teach myself.....

:D :D :D

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Postby almann1979 » May 20th, 2012, 11:01 am

I honestly believe a persons character, not age, determines how they will progress.

I have seen kids who have only been playing six or seven years, who are amazing, and others, who don't even know what a pentatonic is after playing even longer.

To me, I really think that what Alan says is bob on. It is what you practice that counts. I started playing in my late 20's, but in a way, that helped me. I always felt I was playing catch up, so my practice routines where very focussed and I never "played" during practice. I always said to myself that if I could learn a new lick a day, or improve on something or learn something that I couldn't do the day before, then the practice session was a success. If I couldn't, then I had failed, and I still stick to that idea now. It stll feels great now to look back even two months, and see progress.

I think adults are more likely to have that mentality than children. If I see a fantastic 18 year old guitar player, then I think he can only have been playing ten years or so, so why can I not achieve more in the same time?
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Postby NoteBoat » May 20th, 2012, 2:45 pm

I ignore age.

Really, I do. I've had an AARP card for a few years, but I feel like I'm still 19 or so - because I see no reason not to. I keep learning new things all the time, and I expect to for years to come yet.

My mother started taking piano lessons when she turned 70. She still plays, and has a great time with it. A few years ago, I had a classical guitar student, a complete beginner, in her mid 70s. After 3 years of serious effort, she gave a solo public recital, and it went quite well. I have a student right now... I don't know his age, but he's considerably older than I am. He's shown up for some lessons with a portable oxygen bottle. He's improving, and quickly.

You get out of any task what you put into it. Heck, Nuno's post cites a quote that starts "depending on the person, there will be increasing limitations..."

Depending on the person. So it's pretty simple:

Don't be that person.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » May 20th, 2012, 4:15 pm

Age? Hell, I don't care which god-awful nursing home my kids put me in, in a few years time....but I will give 'em hell if they don't bring me my guitars and my amp!

:D :D :D

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Postby Vic Lewis VL » May 20th, 2012, 4:16 pm

Oh, and headphones, of course....

:D :D :D :D

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Postby s1120 » May 21st, 2012, 6:20 am

Well as a older learner myself....

I started first as a kid, then as a teen. Never took off. Just did not have the personalty to stick to it. Well come my early 40's I figured I would try agean..... Spent 3-4 years mucking around, and realy not doing great. Learned a lot though, and enjoyed what I was doing.... but "playing" the thing was still not realy in the cards. Finly I bit the bullet, and started lessons, and with some direction Ive progress farther and faster then any other times Ive tryed!!! Now at least I have the basic framework of how to play this thing. Ive gotten more confdent behind the fretboard, and love to pick it up when ever I can. My biggest issue at this point? Its time. I was a late starter with kids, and now have a 6-and 9 year old... Well after work, and taking care of the kids, and dinners, and bed times.... Pratice times can be tough to get in some times. When I was in school, I had hours to just hang around.... I could have spent many hours every day playing..Now that Im older if I can dig out 1/2 hour Im doing good. Everyonce in a wile, Ill get a big chunk of time, and get to spend a hour or more, and I realy see that helping my progress. So to ME anyways....its the time thing.
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Postby Alan Green » May 21st, 2012, 8:11 am

This ties in to my point nicely.

You have a teacher, and not a lot of time to practise. I presume your teacher gives you things to work on between lessons.

So - when you practise, what do you practise?
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Postby Cat » May 21st, 2012, 10:54 pm

NoteBoat wrote: I ignore age.


Ah! Thank you... !

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Postby rparker » May 22nd, 2012, 5:35 am

Age isn't the culprit. It's what's happened to you as years have passed on by. Head injury? Arthritis? Stroke? Other degenerative conditions? All that can happen and might happen. If so, you deal with it and do what you can, how you can and when you can.

The great thing about music is that you can play music at a wide variety of skill levels.

The great thing about music is that you can do different activities each day, depending on what that day is bringing to you. (reading, listening, playing, soft music, heavier & harder music, etc.)

The great thing about music is that it can be theraputic if you allow it to be. You can make your own soothing noises if you need them. You can stay quite busy when you need to be, or you can kick back and read an instructional book when your not up to anything else.

It's also versatile.
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Postby s1120 » May 22nd, 2012, 12:04 pm

Alan Green wrote:This ties in to my point nicely.

You have a teacher, and not a lot of time to practise. I presume your teacher gives you things to work on between lessons.

So - when you practise, what do you practise?



Yes, I get stuff to work on. As for what do I pratice. Well that depends on what we are working on in any given week, and what parts I struggle on. Back when I first started I struggled a bit on know not only what I needed to work on, but also how to. Mostly I spend most of my time on the stuff I have problems with. I do always take at least a day or two a week to just mess around. Work through some past songs, toss notes and chords together and see what comes out... I would rather take longer to learn, and have fun, then progress fast and hate picking the thing up.
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Postby Alan Green » May 22nd, 2012, 1:09 pm

s1120 wrote: Mostly I spend most of my time on the stuff I have problems with.


Good - practise sessions concentrating on improving as a musician


s1120 wrote: I do always take at least a day or two a week to just mess around. Work through some past songs, toss notes and chords together and see what comes out... I would rather take longer to learn, and have fun, then progress fast and hate picking the thing up.


Oh yeah - there most definitely has to be some fun in all this.

Sounds like the perfect practise regime to me.
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Postby s1120 » May 23rd, 2012, 5:44 am

As a example... I was doing OK on a piece I was working on, but started to notice I was playing it inefficiently. SO I backed up, saw what I was doing wrong, and started to redo it, in a manner that worked a lot better for me. So I had to take a few steps back...but working on doing it more efficient should hopefully help as I progress more. I was lucky that I had some tme to work on it though.... spent about two hours off and on doing it.

So how this ties in?? Well I do OK with short pratice times most of the times.... but once in a while you REALY need that longer time to sit down, and realy put in a fair ammount of time into working through a tough point/problem. When your younger, you have a LOT more times when you get to devote that extra time. When you get older and have that full time job, and house to keep up, a few kids pulling at your shirttails.... Well those extra hours or two are REAL tough to dig up!!!
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