Learning to play a musical instrument in midlife

Learning to play a musical instrument in midlife

Learning to play a musical instrument is not difficult. Learning to master an instrument is another thing altogether. Still, playing music for fun and relaxation is a great benefit to the brain and soul. I say it’s never too late to learn. So, why not pick up an instrument and take some classes. And if you can’t find someone to teach you, check out Youtube, you can learn just about anything on YouTube.

The instrument I took up again in midlife was the guitar.

When I was a teenager I took a few lessons, learned a few chords. Still, I couldn’t play a single song. I didn’t know any riffs and my timing was pretty bad. In the end I dropped the guitar and pretty much forgot about it.

In my late forties, I bought a guitar and began goofing around with it. I reacquainted myself with a few chords and felt pretty good. I invented my own songs. Heck, I was playing only for myself, so it didn’t matter. And then something happened: I felt good. At the end of a day I would sit on the couch or outside on the patio and strummed the guitar. My mind wandered while I played my own strange music. afterwards, I realized I had decompressed. I was happy.

Also read: I wasted my youth feeling old; at midlife I’m young again

Learning to play a musical instrument in midlife

A few months later I chose to learn to play a few easy songs. I Googled songs with lyrics and guitar chords and printed them out. I also went on Youtube and picked up tips there. And little by little, I learned how to play. They were simple classic rock songs I might play around the campfire. And that’s pretty much what I did. I played the songs and my kids sometimes sang along and we had great fun with it. We have an old piano at home, and even though it’s out of tune, my youngest stepdaughter often plays it while I strum. I’m having fun with music.

I can’t say that learning to play the guitar has made me smarter, but it does help me relax. I don’t envision myself ever playing ‘for real’. I don’t want this relaxing hobby to turn into work. I just want to use it to chill, perhaps learn a fun song and sometimes play for friends during a gathering.

The one thing I can say is that I took learning to play the guitar in stride. I was not in a hurry. I had no ambition. I just wanted to play for myself.

The progress was slow, and while I can play a few simple songs, I don’t have them committed to memory. What I like best about my new hobby is that I can improvise and play my own music. I know a real guitarist would probably laugh at me. I know that someone can take my guitar and play circles around me. But I’m 50 and I don’t care.

I am not doing it to impress anyone. I’m just playing. Playing. That’s the thing. I am playing and enjoying the time I have with my instrument. And I that makes me feel good about myself. I highly recommend you give it a try. We all need a little downtime. Chilling with a musical instrument is a terrific way to spend an hour or so.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!