Is It Too Difficult to Learn to Play the Piano in Your 50’s?

One thing is clear at the outset: you are never too old to learn to play the piano. However, as an older beginner, you can expect to encounter a few extra challenges, like fingers that might not move as quickly as you would like, or that don’t quite reach the right keys because they need to be stretched through regular practice. The biggest challenge of all may be sharpening your hand-to-eye coordination. These abilities typically come more easily to younger students. But with practice, they will come nonetheless and you’ll find they have benefits beyond piano playing.

The Fundamentals:

Depending on your personality and budget, you have a few options:

1. You can find a teacher willing to teach older students. (Church pianists often are.)

2. You can access online tutorials at (Some are free. Some you must pay for.)

3. You can buy books and teach yourself. (This is the most challenging way, in my opinion.)

How To Begin:

If you use a teacher, you will likely have weekly lessons. You will start with beginner books showing basics like how to sit at the keyboard correctly and the proper placement for your hands. When playing a song you will be shown which finger will play each note (finger placement is very important and can change with each song.)

You will need to practice at least 20 minutes every day. As you do, remember that you are older and your hands are older too. Because of this, you will likely find it takes a while to get your fingers to always cooperate.

The Bottom Line

If you’re in your 50’s or older, you are not trying to become a concert pianist. You’re learning because you love listening to piano music and you have always wanted to learn to play the piano for personal enjoyment. Perhaps you want to play Christmas songs and “Auld Lang Syne” during the holidays, or “Happy Birthday” at birthday parties. Every goal and dream you ever had as an aspiring piano player is worth the time and effort that are required to learn to play the most amazing instrument on the planet!

Whether you work with a teacher, use YouTube tutorials, or teach yourself with books, you have a lot of work ahead of you. So give it all you’ve got and you can be sure you will get out of it whatever you put into it. Be true to yourself and become the pianist you want to be for yourself and nobody else.

Having the heart and determination to learn to play the piano in your later years, you can take pride in still being able to set – and achieve – positive goals that will change your life for the better. And who knows? You just might end up being a positive example and an inspiration to others who are thinking about making positive changes in their own lives, whatever their age!

Student Instruments: When You Should Rent, and When You Should Buy

Studying a stringed instrument like a violin, viola or cello can be pricey. The decision to rent or buy largely depends on the student’s age and commitment.

Adults who enjoy being musicians by and large were enthusiastic about studying their instrument as children. They may not stay with the instrument they started on – how many bassoonists started with the clarinet, or percussionists with the piano? – but for the most part it was exciting to start the process of learning how to play.

For every confirmed instrumentalist, however, there are a multiple of dropouts. This is a major reason why parents are hesitant to invest in a musical instrument, at least in the beginning stages of study. When it comes to violins that is even more the case because violins come in nine graduated sizes, starting with the 1/8 size for arms 16 inches long; the largest (adult) size, the 4/4, is for arms 23 inches in length. This is a practical necessity of playing, as the size of the instrument has to be easy and comfortable for the musician.

Still, even those student size violins can be costly. As with children’s clothing, they will outgrow it in a year or two. Cello, viola and violin rentals are usually available at most local violin shops, which also provide instrument sales for students and beginners.

If the beginning player is a child, it probably makes sense to rent, particularly if the violinist-to-be is not yet committed to the instrument. Rental violins are typically used instruments maintained by the local violin shop. Enlist a professional – either a local violinmaker or the child’s teacher – in choosing an instrument that will inspire the student to enjoy study, practice, and performing.

It’s important to note, however, that higher quality instruments – those crafted with higher quality wood and fitted with better accessories – sound better and are easier to play than cheaper instruments. For a young violinist, then, once his or her commitment to the violin is confirmed, it makes better sense to invest in a better sounding, higher quality violin.

Though some violin shops may encourage parents to “rent through the sizes,” it may not make financial sense to do so. In many cases the cost of purchasing can be at about at par with the cost of renting for about a year. Even smaller-than-full-sized violins hold their value and those parents that purchase smaller violins for their growing and developing player have the option of trading in smaller violins for larger violins, lesser quality violins for more fine instruments.

This is a time, after all, when a love for music and playing can be very strong for the student who has proven they have the discipline, talent, and heart for it. Therefore, it’s a time to get serious about committing to an instrument as well. It needn’t be a new instrument. In many cases, used instruments properly set up by the shop, can sound excellent and come with an excellent price tag.

Experts will tell you that there is a psychological advantage of purchasing an instrument for a child rather than renting one. A student who owns his or her own violin, viola or cello is more likely to practice and take lessons and commit to study long-term knowing the instrument is their very own.

Let us never forget, an instrument may take the player to college and beyond, or simply be the instrument they will cherish the rest of their lives in playing for special occasions, holidays, and friends. How much the instrumentalist and their family will or should pay for the instrument is a function of the degree of commitment and available resources. There is certainly a point when the price-value of a violin to the student becomes clearer.

The promising violinist may need to spend several thousands of dollars for the violin that matches his or her ability and ambitions. Before buying, do some talking: to teachers, to luthiers, and to other violinists. They may be able to offer good advice – and perhaps a lead on what you can afford or a violin financing plan that fits your budget.