I got to a certain age (around 30) in my life when suddenly I had an incredible urge to learn how to play the piano. Why it happened to me at such a late age, I cannot say, but it was quite strong. Naturally my first thoughts were that I am too old to learn how to play a musical instrument as challenging as the piano.
I instantly thought of how most top musicians took up music from as early as three years, which gave me a feeling of utter despair. Then I was fortunate to read a very influential article regarding how music lessons, even at a later age could improve your brain power and help you perform better in almost all aspects of life. The message I got right there and then was that it is never too late to learn music, and it is not too late for me to play the piano and be good at it as well.
What Holds Us Back?
The least of my problems were my aging brain or my stiff hands and fingers. Thoughts of what my family and friends would think and say, and my own self-confidence were the real issues that held me back at first. Well-known neuroscientists acknowledge that it is harder for an aging brain to learn new things, such as playing a piano, but it is far from impossible.
The human brain maintains the ability to change throughout adulthood. Surely, I thought back then, it cannot be as easy for a 50 year old brain to learn the piano, compared to a six year old for example. And this is definitely true, but not unattainable! As soon as I started believing that this was possible, positive things, such as finding a good quality and affordable piano, started to happen.
As an adult beginner, I struggled at first, because playing the piano is truly challenging. I have to use most of my senses and my muscles simultaneously, which demanded a lot from my brain. My brain was attempting to read the notes, keep the perfect beat, and count the correct rhythm to ensure that what I was doing sounded like music. Our brains have no one single area that is responsible for learning music, it has several of them.
Children find it easier to grasp and learn all of the above in a short time, mostly because their brains produce new brain cells continuously. These new brain cells are dedicated to learning how to play the musical instrument, while my adult brain had to use its existing cells to create brand new connections to allow me to learn music.
Fear of Failing
Adults generally fear failure and this fear holds back many would-be adult music students. Adults are used to being highly competent in most areas of their life and they do not enjoy appearing incompetent with any type of task. When a person overcomes this fear of failure, nearly everything becomes a possibility.
Patience and Attitude Was Enough
I soon realized that as an adult, I have a few characteristics that many children do not have. I have patience and attitude when it came to new challenges. Patience in particular became my savior when I took up piano lessons. I used these characteristics to my advantage and with a lot of attitude and drive; I was able to make a success of my piano lessons.
At times, I did find it hard to motivate myself to practice and because nobody forced me to practice, it took plenty of self-discipline. Again, self-discipline is something that young people do not typically have, so it was another factor that worked in my favor as adult student. I was determined to succeed and with many hours of practice behind me, and buckets full of patience, I learned how to play the piano.
Is it your dream to play the piano?