What it’s like taking adult guitar lessons.
An important ingredient in life’s recipe: Music
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to pursue music lessons or any other extracurricular learning as an adult? Well, grab that coffee or glass of wine and keep scrolling because I’m about to share my experience in hopes it will help you better understand what it was like and maybe help you decide.
Imagine, if you will, a small room with a mixture of elementary-school aged children, pre-teens, and moms. The kids all have various types of guitars in their arms or in a carrier. Some of the guitar cases are bigger than the small humans sitting in the seats. It’s around 5:30 p.m. and most of the kids are sporting their school outfits from uniforms to Converse sneakers. Then there’s me, coming straight from my 9-5 with my pointed-toe flats and black blazer. “Excuse me, can I squeeze in right there?” I asked a kid with spiky hair. He gives me these eyes like, “Sure lady, but aren’t you too old to be here?” When the kids are called back I can hear the teachers’ first question, “How was school today?” I couldn’t help but shift a little in my seat. It felt pretty awkward waiting for my first lesson. I just kept asking myself why I couldn’t have learned from the billions of YouTube videos out there. Still, I waited until my instructor came out to the waiting area and called me back. I’m really grateful he didn’t ask me, “So, how was work today?”
I’ve become so much more confident sitting in the waiting area with kids. I’ve even noticed a few adult learners waiting with me recently. This is my first point about adult guitar lessons (or learning anything new), you have to get over the initial fear of jumping in and learning. Deciding to take the leap to learn and actually showing up for lessons is the hardest, and most important part.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably see my guitar in the background of a few photos or in my stories here and there when I’m having a late night jam session. After a few months of weekly lessons I really started to get the hang of playing and now it is such an awesome, important part of my life. I play almost every day and enjoy it so much.
The decision to take lessons came after spending months of trying to watch online videos and learn on my own. I found myself asking the YouTube instructor, “Wait, how do you get your fingers to do that?” and “What does THAT mean?” a lot. I would go down the Google rabbit hole trying to understand the pieces of each different online video. Plus, I had to admit to myself that I’m truly a hands-on learner. I get a concept of something best when I can be shown how, then try it out for myself. It was the same learning curve when my grandmother taught me to make biscuits. She didn’t just tell me, or write it down. She had to actually show me then let me try it out for myself. After many oddly-shaped biscuits, too-dry, and too-salty, I finally nailed it down over the years.
I remember originally feeling slightly embarrassed when I would tell my colleagues, clients, and fellow professionals that I was taking guitar lessons. I was always surprised and delighted, however, when they would say, “that’s so great!” and “I would love to do that!” It was also an adjustment taking time away from going out with my colleagues after work or cutting my friend time a little earlier than I normally would because I would go home and practice. The difference in taking guitar lessons as an adult is that I actually WANT to practice and play. It’s a really great feeling when you are learning something new that’s not associated with a required job training or another conference workshop. The benefits are pure joy and entertainment, not money or obligation. It’s honestly amazing. It feels so good to take your own personal growth and development into your hands to make it happen.
So where did my desire for adult guitar lessons begin? Well, let me give a bit of background. I’m no stranger to musical learning. My mother is a great piano player and taught me for years. Since I was also highly involved in sports and other school activities, I let piano take the back seat and drifted away from playing. Yet, even while I was learning piano, I would dream about playing the guitar. When I would listen to music I’d single-out the guitar playing and just be so fascinated. As middle school flew by then high school and graduation, I never had the time to take guitar lessons. Then I thought I could take guitar lessons as an extracurricular class in college but I noticed most classes required some background knowledge already established, and I had none. Fast-forward to me in the workforce. Many of my husband’s friends play guitar and when they get together they all jam out. I would be so incredibly jealous and mesmerized by the fun they were having. Once I established a routine around my typically 9-5 career, I knew when I would have time to learn, to practice, and to play for fun.
Another thing that helped tremendously was that my boss was taking lessons as well at the time and referred me to my instructor. I couldn’t believe that she was taking adult guitar lessons even as busy as she was; she still made the time. This inspired me so much that I knew if she could carve out the time, so could I.
Today, I tote my guitar around with me on most of my road trips. For someone with high anxiety, playing guitar really allows me to get out of my head and mindfully enjoy life. It’s fun because now that I know all the chords if I want to play and sing a song I’m really into or I know my company will enjoy, all I have to do is look up the chords (or tabs) and play it! I learned to play mainly by reading chords and tabs because I wanted to just carry the melody for singing.
Currently (three years later), I’m back in guitar lessons and loving it once more. After a few years of playing chords on an acoustic, I’m ready to play individual notes and eventually rock out on my new semi-hollow electric guitar. Again, I would watch YouTube videos and try my hand at developing my playing skills by myself but just didn’t get it the same way as I would learn in a one on one session. So, I contacted my teacher who was luckily still instructing at the same guitar shop, and booked my month of weekly lessons. I’m happy to report that I’m making my way to playing those individual notes and riffs much better.
In summary, taking adult guitar lessons has been the key in my musical development and I really couldn’t imagine my life without playing the guitar now! If you’ve ever considered taking adult guitar lessons or any other type of skill, here are my bits of advice and lessons learned -
Do your research on an instructor. I was lucky because my boss referred me to her teacher, but I still did my research online by reading reviews first and then decided to book the lessons. My instructor teaches both kids and adults, but I was sure to share all my concerns and goals with him before we had our first lesson over email exchange to make sure he was the right fit. This brings up my second point...
Know your end-goal of taking lessons. You could technically learn and develop a skill forever. Before starting lessons, have an end-goal or learning mark you’d like to hit before starting. I knew that I wanted to learn chords and be able to simply play most songs by looking them up. Once I reached that level of playing, I tapered off lessons, but continued playing on my own. Now, I have a different playing goal I’d like to hit. It helps if you can share some of your favorite songs, styles, and examples of playing in music that you’d like to do with your instructor.
Proudly talk about it. Seriously, no one will make fun of you for pursuing something you’ve always wanted to learn. Talk about it with pride and confidence, “I’m taking guitar lessons and learning how to play all my favorite songs on my own”. People will respect that you’re disciplined and following a dream.
Dedicate practice time and take it seriously. Unless you just enjoy wasting time and money, put in the time to practice what you learn. What good are taking the lessons and talking about it if you don’t put in the work to actually getting better and learning how to play? Schedule out practice time just as you do a big project or the gym. I personally take an hour either right before or right after dinner to play.
Get comfortable practicing your new skill around people. If you’ve told your friends, family, and colleagues that you’re taking lessons and putting in the time to learning, they’ll probably be curious about seeing what you can do. Start with very small, casual settings at home to play or show off what you’re learning. If you mess up, chances are they won’t notice but instead will be admiring how awesome it is that you’ve taken up a new skill.
The fall season can feel as shiny and full of opportunity as the start of a new year. As cold weather slowly descends, it’s a great time of year to think about learning a new skill. I started guitar lessons in the fall and it worked out perfectly because I was so occupied when winter came. Instead, I was entranced with learning and playing the guitar. It was especially fun when Christmas rolled around and I could play the classics for everyone to sing along with!
Have you ever thought about taking guitar lessons, learning a language, or something else as an adult? Comment below and share your challenges, wins, or your story!
Here’s to continued learning and development as an adult AND to playing the guitar, because it’s simply magical…. Cheers!