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So many people have always dreamed of learning how to play an instrument but never got round to it. When you reach middle age, you might think it’s too late, but it definitely isn’t.
There are studies to suggest that music lessons can help to keep you sharp and boost your cognition later in life. 50 is as good a time to start as any.
In this guide, we’ve listed some of the top instruments to learn at 50. Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself, or just find the easiest method of being able to play a few tunes, there’s an instrument for you.
The piano is a wonderful place to start your musical journey whether you are 50 or 4 years old. You can play pop hits or classical music, and virtually every song ever written translates to piano, so you can play all your favorites.
Another benefit of playing piano for senior citizens or over-50s is the fact that you can get started relatively easily. Some instruments need you to learn finger positions and techniques first. With piano, you simply need to learn how to hit a key in order to generate sound. Compare this to guitar, where you may even have to build up your finger strength first.
There is a lot of information available for free, or affordably, on YouTube and elsewhere online. There are even specific piano courses for seniors. On top of that, learning how to play this instrument is cheaper than ever.
You once would’ve had to get an acoustic guitar and pay to have it tuned regularly, but you can learn on a digital piano or keyboard now. These are not just cheaper, but easier to transport.
Piano is a great hobby to have as you go into later life. Some studies shared by Roland have shown that piano can keep your neural connections stronger later in life. It keeps your brain sharp.
A piano doesn’t require you to have strong lungs, to stand up to play, or any of the other aspects that may hinder you as you get older.
Ok, it probably isn’t the easiest of all musical instruments, but guitar can still be a great choice.
If you’ve always dreamed of playing the guitar, don’t sell yourself short and settle for an instrument you don’t want to play. 50 is not too late to learn how to play the guitar.
It can take a little while to build your finger strength up, and learning the hand positions for chords isn’t easy. However, after a few lessons you might find that you can strum some basic tunes.
An acoustic guitar will lead to more calloused hands and you’ll need more strength if you’re using steel strings. If this is a concern, you can go for nylon strings, like those you find on classical guitars.
If you dream of playing electric guitar, you will need a few accessories, including an amplifier, to get started. Expect the first few weeks of practice to involve a lot of incorrect notes, but eventually, it will feel like it clicks and you can rock out your favorite riffs or play mellow acoustic guitar songs around the campfire.
The bass guitar is slightly different, as it is tuned lower, but it is another choice. These instruments have big, heavy strings, but you don’t play chords. The good news is that there are plenty of simple bass lines that can be learned in one lesson.
If you are simply looking for an easy instrument there could be a better choice, but if you love guitar, there’s nothing to stop you from learning. There are many online courses, and tutors in most towns and cities. It’s also a great instrument to learn if you have a good voice, it works as an accompaniment instrument perfectly.
It’s estimated that more than 1.5 million ukuleles are sold every year in the US. When you consider all the positives these tiny musical instruments can offer, it’s easy to understand why they’re so popular.
Ukuleles are small, and that means fewer raw materials. You can buy a decent model for less than $50. It’s a great choice if you’re on a budget. On top of that, ukuleles are portable, and the four-string design means that there are some really easy chords you can learn in order to get started.
As well as a variety of simple and easy songs to start playing, the ukulele can also be a great way to boost your coordination. The nylon strings are soft on the hands, and we all know about the beautiful bright tone.
The ukulele could be the perfect instrument for playing around the campfire, or learning your favorite songs in your bedroom.
As you reach your 50s, it is a good idea to make a conscious effort to make sure you’re still active, and doing something that gets the heart racing once in a while. You might not be as lively as you once were!
For those who want a workout from their instrument, drums can be a great choice.
We won’t lie and say that the drums are easy, but the benefits are clear. You can boost your coordination and fitness as well as being able to join a band, or play along with your favorite songs. Drummers are always in high demand.
If you’re worried about the fact that these instruments are loud, technology may be able to save the day. A lot of people now play electric drum sets due to the fact that they’re so much quieter than acoustic drums. The technique is very similar so there’s no real disadvantage to learning on an electric kit.
If you can cope with the physical demand, drums can be a good option for the over 50s.
Other percussion instruments are a little less demanding than a full drum set. The cajón is another instrument that has soared in popularity in recent years.
The cajón originates in South America. The instrument resembles a tiny shipping box or crate. Some people even think the first cajón was just somebody sitting on top of a container and hitting it like a drum.
You can slap it, hit it with your palm, brush it or use drumsticks and mallets to create loads of different sounds and rhythms. This instrument is a very good accompaniment to acoustic instruments so you may see a cajón player sitting with a busker.
This is a great instrument for those who want to start out learning percussion but are worried about the downsides that go with a drum kit. The cajón is not too loud, big, or expensive. In fact, you can buy models with carry cases at budget-friendly prices!
Learning to play the basics of this percussion instrument is very simple and straightforward. It’s easy to see why this quirky little box has started to become more mainstream.
Harmonica is a cheap and easy instrument to get started with. What’s more, it’s almost impossible to sound bad when you’re playing harmonica!
These little instruments come “keyed” which means all of the notes on them are within a certain key. You have to play a harmonica in the right key for the song you’re playing. The benefit of this is that even if you play a note that’s technically incorrect, it will still sound good in the context of a song.
Harmonicas can fit in your pocket, so they’re easy to take out and about with you. The harmonica is a great option for those who want to improvise, and you can even play it alongside the guitar if you really want to show off.
7. French Horn
Do you really want to challenge yourself? Not everyone is looking for an instrument at 50 just because they want a new hobby. Some people want to give themselves a real challenge, and the French Horn could be the perfect, grand old instrument to start with.
This is tough for a few reasons. It’s big and bulky, and hard to carry while you’re playing it. The technique to blow into the horn is quite hard to master, and you need to master playing the keep with your left hand.
If you can master it, this is an impressive brass instrument to play. It also gives you the option to join orchestras and bands. Our advice for this instrument is that you should definitely opt for music lessons in person. You can find some good online courses, but it is so easy to get your technique slightly wrong and not pick up on it.
8. Your Voice (Learning to Sing)
A lot of people convince themselves that they can’t sing. For some of us, that might be true. However, you can learn! There’s nothing to stop you from learning how to sing, even if you think you are totally tone-deaf. Usually, a good singing teacher can show you some basic techniques and find your vocal range, and you’ll be shocked at just how well you can actually stay in tune.
When you think about it, learning to sing may be better than any other physical instrument. You’ll never be without it, you don’t have to pay to maintain it, and it’s impressive to other people. Plus, it’s fun to practice.
You can learn to sing with or without a vocal coach or teacher. Because you don’t need much equipment, some people have even taken to online vocal lessons, which can be done via video calls.
It doesn’t matter if you’re already looking to learn one of the other instruments on the list, you can learn how to sing simultaneously. If you dream of performing then singing can be a brilliant and impressive skill to learn. You can stand up at karaoke and stun your friends.
For many people, it’s true that your voice deteriorates with age, but plenty of great singers can hit the right notes way past 50. It’s not too late to learn, and there aren’t many “instruments” you can practice while you drive to work!
Another instrument that is on the easier end of the spectrum is the recorder. It’s ideal if you’re looking for something that isn’t too much of a challenge, and that can get you started relatively quickly. On top of that, there are some other great benefits to learning the recorder.
This instrument requires you to use your lungs. You blow into it to generate the tone. This can help you to strengthen your lungs and improve your breathing. It also helps you to build your coordination.
To trigger different notes, you simply hold your fingers down over the holes of the instrument. It’s relatively simple, and pretty immediate. This is one of the reasons why the recorder instrument is taught within schools so regularly.
Recorders also fit the bill in terms of the benefits most people are looking for from a beginner instrument. It’s inexpensive, there is a lot of learning material out there to get you started, and it doesn’t require much maintenance.
If you’re in the market for a simple and easy new instrument to learn then the recorder is worth considering.
There are hundreds of instruments out there. If those we’ve already featured on this list aren’t ideal for you there is still bound to be an instrument that suits you.
- Double bass. If you love the rich and deep acoustic sound of a double bass, this is a fun and impressive instrument to learn. Just make sure you have plenty of space for it.
- Violin. The violin is quite demanding to start with, and it really helps if you have a good ear for pitch and tone. The violin is one of the most impressive solo instruments there is.
- Synthesizer. A synth can be a great option for those who love electronic music and weird and wonderful sounds. Just keep in mind the fact that you may need to learn how the sound itself is being generated as well as how to play notes and chords.
Is 50 Too Old to Learn an Instrument?
A lot of people wish they had started to learn an instrument when they were younger. It’s true that your brain is better at soaking up all that new information when you’re young, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up new skills as you get older. Plenty of 50 years olds have picked up an instrument for the first time and gone on to be established players.
If your goal is to headline concerts or play piano like a virtuoso then you’re better off learning earlier, but as a hobby, there is no reason why you can’t start in your 50s or even later.
Do I Need to Read Music?
Reading music is not easy. It’s the traditional way of learning how to play an instrument, but in the modern age it is nowhere near as important as it used to be. Hundreds of years ago when we didn’t have recordings, sheet music was how all of the details were shared. Now, we can listen to a recording and read the chords or “tabs” without having to learn to read music.
Certain instruments, such as the guitar, actually have more beginners who don’t bother learning to read music than ever before. Some really established musicians never learned to read music. If it’s good enough for Jimi Hendrix…
What Are The Benefits of Learning an Instrument Later in Life?
Learning an instrument later in life is fun. It’s a pastime that many people have always meant to get around to, so maybe now is the time. There are also some added benefits to learning an instrument that can help mind and body.
- Learning an instrument can improve your hand-to-eye coordination.
- It can provide a form of exercise, especially if you learn a more demanding instrument like the drums.
- You can get better at multitasking. Studies from the University of York have suggested that musicians are better at doing two things at once, presumably because of the demands of their instrument.
- You can meet like-minded people. Musical instruments can be a very sociable activity. You can seek out groups or even volunteer to teach others, boosting your social life in the process.
- You can boost your mental health. Numerous studies show that playing music can help with depression and stress. It “provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life” according to seminal study A Prescription for Music Lessons.
There are loads of instruments that are suitable for people to learn as they reach the age of 50, but it is vital that you make sure you choose one of the options you are passionate about.
If the idea of playing the recorder doesn’t excite you, go for the electric guitar, even if it might be a bit tougher to get to grips with. You are far more likely to stick with an instrument if you are passionate about it. Don’t try and force yourself to learn an instrument just because someone tells you that you should Some of the instruments mentioned above, such as the french horn or double bass, present a challenge, but it is worth the effort if this is the instrument you enjoy.
To give you the best and most relevant information, we’ve used external sources to substantiate the content in this article. Below, you can find references to all the sources that have been used
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University of York
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A Prescription for Music Lessons
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