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I'm about six months into my first retirement...walking the dogs, watching Law & Order reruns and playing World of Warcraft are starting to get a bit old and I thought I might shake things up a bit. Warning: I ramble.

Back in college in the early eighties, I bought a cheap guitar with the hopes of learning to play it...but then I met my first true love and the guitar was long forgotten. I don't remember what I paid for the guitar, but knowing my budget back then, it must have been less than a hundred bucks at a band instrument store. I remember the salesman took mercy on me and threw in a well worn hard case, an extra set of Martin strings (still in the case to this day) and a bag of picks.

So, nearly three decades later, I pull it off of the shelf in the closet where it's resided for at least the last two decades. After a lot of prowling on the internet, I found that not only could I learn to play online (yeah right), the state of electronics has really changed. In college, I tuned the guitar against a piano. Well, I don't own a piano and you can't tune to a trumpet very well. I did find some mp3's online to tune against, but electronic tuners are so inexpensive I had one delivered from Amazon for under fifteen dollars.

With my newly tuned guitar, I was ready to learn. Unfortunately, I couldn't hold down the first string at the first fret without cutting through my finger. A little more internet prowling, and I find that my setup is completely out of whack. I don't know if it's from age, from laying on it's back in a closet for decades, or has always been that way, but the action is wildly high. At the first fret, it's almost 3/32" above the fret, and at the 12th, it's over a half inch.

It seems my options are to pay to have my lousy old guitar setup, destroy it by doing it myself, or buy a new guitar. I'm leaning towards the new guitar. I'm pretty sure my current one is a piece of junk since I can't even find a reference to it on the internet. It's a Leeder 265. I only know that because there's an adhesive label on the front that says Leeder and a little foil label on the back between the tuning keys with the number 265. My guess is it's an unbranded Asian import that the distributor slapped labels on and sent out to music stores. It may have a hundred other names....but the only Leeder I've found that has anything to do with musical instruments makes cases.

If I invest in a new guitar, I figure I had might as well do things right and get some real instruction as well. The internet is a great place to shop for CD's, but I'm not convinced it's the best place to learn to play the guitar. Fortunately, there's a very nice guitar/banjo store about a half hour from me with very reasonable rates for lessons.

All of that leads me to my question. Can an old timer learn to play, or is it a near impossible waste of time for anyone but a kid? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not hoping to be another Tommy Emmanuel. I just want to sit on the back porch with my wife and dogs, plink around a bit and watch the trees change colors.

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JS,
Go with the lessons. The value lies in the progress you make on a weekly basis. They are not too expensive, usually running $20-$30 a 1/2 hour. It gives you structure in your quest and sets out clearly defined goals. A weekly lesson will keep you playing. The instructor will be able to help with posture, finger positioning and some of the finer details that need to be worked out. I have played for more than 20 years and I still take a weekly lesson. This makes me practice. There is nothing worse than going to your lesson and not having your homework finished. I work on my lesson every day for 30 mins or so and then work on stuff that I want to work on for fun or performances. I would like to see you post a video of your playing now and after a year of lessons post another video of you playing. You will amaze yourself.
As far as the guitar I would go for a new one. You can get a very nice Seagull, that comes already set up, for under $500. They are excellent guitars for the money. I love mine. If you have a nice, pretty, shiny, new guitar you might pick it up more often. That should give you decent justification when trying to talk your wife into a new guitar.
Can you teach an old dog to do tricks, since when is being older a way to not learn something, absolutely never to old to learn to play guitar.Will you end up becoming a rock star, maybe not but then your grandkids might think so.Ship
Thanks to the both of you. Seagull is definitely on the shortlist Spot. They're readily available locally, and I like that they're manufactured in North America. They also have a nice variety in the price range I'll be looking in. If I'm going to invest in a new guitar, classes are a foregone conclusion.

Ship, as I type this I have an old dog's head resting on my knee trying to convince me that dinner time is really 2:30 and not 3:00. She learns new tricks regularly...I guess I probably can too.
NO...its not too late to learn to play...its never to late! Like yourself I too am retired and also like yourself I too have had the desire to pick up the guitar and to learn to play! I have had a lot of encouragement from the good folks here on this forum and they have also shared with my some great tips and some excellent advice as well.
All I can say is to try to keep on keeping on!!
You can do it. We can do it! We will do it (together!)
Best to you!
Tom
Hi, I've got a few suggestions in my blogs about finding a good teacher on my page. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll be happy to help. I think you should do it; we're all going to get old anyway, might as well be playing guitar!

Susan Palmer
Seattle University Guitar Instructor
Author of "The Guitar Lesson Companion"
Free Lessons & More: www.leadcatpress.com
Tom and Tom, thank you both. That makes me feel a lot better. I didn't start snow skiing until I was forty, and went through much the same thing. I didn't want to take group classes with a median age of nine! I got over myself, and ended up having a great time, and I continue to have a great time.

Susan, I read your Blogspot page start to finish. Very good stuff. Truth be told, I never even thought of interviewing potential instructors. I assumed I'd go to the store, they would assign me someone, I'd pull out the Visa, and we'd hammer out a schedule. Your curriculum ideas are very similar to the way I learned to play brass instruments (primarily trumpet) in my childhood.

I'm curious about something you wrote though. You recommend electric over acoustic for rank beginners. In looking around, people seem about evenly split. I have to admit, my eyes glaze over a little every time I see a hollow body guitar. I love the noise they make, the finish, all of the shiny brass and chrome....just everything about them. Plus, a great many of my favorite performers use them. Of course, a great many of my favorite performers use acoustic guitars too. My "vision" of playing guitar myself has always been acoustic. Never really gave much thought as to why. The pro electric camp seems to be of the opinion that the lower action and lighter weight makes it "easier" for the student while the pro acoustic camp cites that as the very reason to choose acoustic. My question here is does the simplicity of an acoustic weigh in at all? Electric guitars have switches, knobs, levers, cables, plugs, jacks, electricity and amplifiers to deal with. Is all of that inconsequential to the learning process?

Thanks again to everyone who's replied so far.
Women have smaller hands then men, and children have even smaller hands. Since I have a hand injury which forced me to give up performing and focus only on teaching, I take a person's hand health very, very seriously. (Check out the Female Guitarists Group I started here on AC.) If you are a strong guy with strong hands, you have a lot more options. Go for the guitar that you are attracted to, that is used in the music style that you wish to play and be aware of the playability of the instrument you choose. I encourage most players to learn on an electric because they are a little easier to play at first and the guitar is a hard enough instrument to learn. Why learn to drive on a semi-truck when you can learn on a VW Golf?

You hit the nail on the head with my curriculum. When I was first learning how to play, I was jealous of my band mates who knew more about note reading and theory than I did. My first guitar teacher was a surf boarder, and he didn't seem to know much about music. He sure was cool though. I guess.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Have you tried the free sample from my book? Let me know if you've got questions.

Susan Palmer
Guitar Instructor at Seattle University
Author of "The Guitar Lesson Companion"
Free Lessons & More: www.leadcatpress.com

JStevens said:
Tom and Tom, thank you both. That makes me feel a lot better. I didn't start snow skiing until I was forty, and went through much the same thing. I didn't want to take group classes with a median age of nine! I got over myself, and ended up having a great time, and I continue to have a great time.

Susan, I read your Blogspot page start to finish. Very good stuff. Truth be told, I never even thought of interviewing potential instructors. I assumed I'd go to the store, they would assign me someone, I'd pull out the Visa, and we'd hammer out a schedule. Your curriculum ideas are very similar to the way I learned to play brass instruments (primarily trumpet) in my childhood.

I'm curious about something you wrote though. You recommend electric over acoustic for rank beginners. In looking around, people seem about evenly split. I have to admit, my eyes glaze over a little every time I see a hollow body guitar. I love the noise they make, the finish, all of the shiny brass and chrome....just everything about them. Plus, a great many of my favorite performers use them. Of course, a great many of my favorite performers use acoustic guitars too. My "vision" of playing guitar myself has always been acoustic. Never really gave much thought as to why. The pro electric camp seems to be of the opinion that the lower action and lighter weight makes it "easier" for the student while the pro acoustic camp cites that as the very reason to choose acoustic. My question here is does the simplicity of an acoustic weigh in at all? Electric guitars have switches, knobs, levers, cables, plugs, jacks, electricity and amplifiers to deal with. Is all of that inconsequential to the learning process?

Thanks again to everyone who's replied so far.
Hey J,
I think acoustic is considered harder because acoustic playing is harder on the fingers because the strings are higher from the fretboard, to get a decent tone.with an acoustic you have to exert more pressure on the string (hence the sore fingers), and technique is more critical for sound quality than with an electric. Technique is everything with an acoustic
I'm 60 and started playing a year ago, on an acoustic. I'm doing pretty well and practice pretty much daily. I bought Susan Palmers book a month ago and it is a quality product that you will gain from well past a year of playing in my opinion. There's plenty of theory there as well, and important work on rhythm that i did not get much in my private lessons. I subscribed to guitar tricks.com from the beginning (< $15 a month) and learned a lot there. They have recently improved the site even further with backing tracks etc.
.
Ship of fools said:
Can you teach an old dog to do tricks, since when is being older a way to not learn something, absolutely never to old to learn to play guitar.Will you end up becoming a rock star, maybe not but then your grandkids might think so.Ship

Benji (remember Benji) was about 12 years-old and came from an Animal Shelter...
Are you smarter than Benji?

Personally I cannot afford Lessons (unemployed)... Do I get a half-hour of teaching, or a month's worth of internet? I am hoping that I could do better by spending my money for the internet.
Here are some Free internet video lessons. Ya may have to sign-up/sign-in, but no charge...

http://www.justinguitar.com/

http://www.totallyguitars.com/

These are just two that I have 'quick links' to on my toolbar. I think Justin, from Tasmania, has a hundred YouTube videos. But on the lesson site there are tabs and chords. A quick internet search will find others, and hundreds on YT. So don't be suckered into paying for just any-idiot's guitar course. With computer technology the way it is, I could start my own lesson site, and sell DVD's.
So take your time and pick-and-choose the right one for you.

And Yes... I would advise getting a teacher/tutor. Or at least find someone who plays better than you who can teach you some new tricks.
Good stuff there! There are a lot of lousy teachers and programs out there, and even though one might work for your best friend, it doesn't mean that it will work for you. Read reviews, try samples, talk to people who are using it or have used it, and definitely learn as much as you can for free.

Here are a couple of links to free samples from my book:

Free Sample Pages
Free Sample Jam Track
Free Lesson Video corresponding to these pages and MP3 track

The PDF file contains:
+ The Introduction to the notes E, F and G, along with some basic rhythms
+ A Note Identification Worksheet for you to fill out
+ One page of Rhythm Studies to be practiced with a metronome
+ The first Reading Study for the notes E, F, and G and the basic rhythms that you can play with the MP3 track

The rest of the first half of the book follows the same format, it just keeps building notes and rhythms in an extremely progressive manner. (The second half of the book covers chords, scales and theory.)

Try it and tell what you think, if you feel it.

Thanks,
Susan Palmer
Guitar Instructor at Seattle University
Author of "The Guitar Lesson Companion"
www.leadcatpress.com

Old Man Arthur said:
Ship of fools said:
Can you teach an old dog to do tricks, since when is being older a way to not learn something, absolutely never to old to learn to play guitar.Will you end up becoming a rock star, maybe not but then your grandkids might think so.Ship

Benji (remember Benji) was about 12 years-old and came from an Animal Shelter...
Are you smarter than Benji?

Personally I cannot afford Lessons (unemployed)... Do I get a half-hour of teaching, or a month's worth of internet? I am hoping that I could do better by spending my money for the internet.
Here are some Free internet video lessons. Ya may have to sign-up/sign-in, but no charge...

http://www.justinguitar.com/

http://www.totallyguitars.com/

These are just two that I have 'quick links' to on my toolbar. I think Justin, from Tasmania, has a hundred YouTube videos. But on the lesson site there are tabs and chords. A quick internet search will find others, and hundreds on YT. So don't be suckered into paying for just any-idiot's guitar course. With computer technology the way it is, I could start my own lesson site, and sell DVD's.
So take your time and pick-and-choose the right one for you.

And Yes... I would advise getting a teacher/tutor. Or at least find someone who plays better than you who can teach you some new tricks.
Yes, by all means. I started playing at 40 and, though I'll never play as well as many, I enjoy all of the time I get to play. The point for me isn't how good will I get, when will i master this or that song. My ex told me buying a guitar for me is a waste of money, as I have no musical ability. She didn't understand that it's not about becoming the next guitar wizard, it's about enjoying playing now. So go for it.

I'd suggest learning a few chords, learn how to read tab (easy - really) and then download the tab for songs you like and try to play them.

Peace,

dave
Sorry I haven't kept up. One of the drawbacks to rural living is rural cable internet access!

Arthur, those are some great links. Thanks! Speaking of Benji, did you know Higgins, the first Benji was the dog who played Dog on Petticoat Junction?

Susan, I took a quick look at the first video and the .pdf. It looks really well put together. One thing I realized I'll have to get past is that when I look at notes on a staff, I really don't see notes. I see trumpet fingerings! I actually had to think about what the notes were, even though I've been seeing them for virtually my whole life. Makes me wonder when that change occurred in my head.

Dr. F, you're right on the money when you say it's all about enjoying playing. I've played the trumpet for more than forty years and will always enjoy it....but no one ever asks you to play the trumpet at a party!

Rly...my fiance/soon to be wife doesn't much like me picking up babes. Plus I have the ultimate babe magnet...a golden retriever puppy....that's how I found her! Adult education classes out here are pretty limited..and the quality varies quite a bit. It's definitely worth looking into though.

Thanks again to you all.

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