A growing number of us are in or are entering our advanced years, at least regarding guitar playing. I am interested in hearing your comments on any, or all, of the following:
1. If you are an older player who has been playing for a while, what seems to go first? For me it's my left hand. I have a difficult time fretting accurately, I take a long time to
warm up, and I'm sure someone snuck in and cut off my little finger, exchanging
their useless little finger for my wonderfully trained little finger.
2. What do you have to do differently now as opposed to when you were younger? As I said, longer warm up time. Usually around 45 minutes or so. And I stretch before and after I play. My stretching includes my fingers, wrists, back, arms, as well as some
fretboard stretching exercises.
3. At what age did you notice "difficulties" creeping up on your playing? That could be
losing some ability or abilities, aches, pains, etc. For me it was around age 54. I first noticed I could not play as long. Some days I can only go about 20 seconds before burning pain in my left arm forces me to drop my arm to my side and shake my hand to relax. I'm 57 now. The pain is akin to any heavy exercise pain; that is, a burning muscle sensation mostly in the top of my forearm. You'd think it would go away after years of playing every day, but it doesn't. My M.D. says there is nothing wrong with me. Also, I cannot sit on a couch or on the porch and play guitar with my left arm elevated (blood traveling uphill). I get the same pain in just a few seconds. Maybe this is from poor
circulation but, again, my doctor says I'm OK. I think I'll start running again. This problem is not severe when playing blues and other music; it's most prominent with classical.
4. What one thing could you never do, no matter how much you practiced? Or, what one thing could you never understand, whether or not you could do it? For me it is the classical guitar concept of letting your left arm hang down so you can use its gravity to fret instead of hand and finger muscles. Maybe this is why I get the pain in my left arm. Of course, a good classical teacher would probably cure me of this, but there are none in my area (within 600 miles). While searching to see if someone had already posted this subject, I read a post that said to think of the classical guitar as a teeter-totter. That is, the right side needs to balance the left side. If not, the gravity of your left elbow will outweigh the right side and you will compensate by gripping too hard. That not only causes pain but also poor fretting. I will try this today... perhaps it will clear up not only the pain but also the fretting and little finger difficulties. I'm not sure I totally understand what is meant by letting gravity, not clamping force, do the work but perhaps I'll figure it out.
5. What seems to last the longest? That is, what is still working really good? For me it's my right hand and appreciation for music. Perhaps it's because I have been playing 5-string banjo for 30 years and I also spent almost one year doing nothing on the guitar
except the classical guitar 120 studies for right hand, but I don't worry about my right hand at all. It does whatever I want with very little correction or mistakes. Also, my
timing is more accurate and easier to keep accurate as I age. And my relative pitch is fantastic and perfect pitch is becoming a close realization. As for music appreciation, well, 'nuff said. I can improvise a lot better and I can figure out how something is played quite easily. I think this comes with fret board familiarity and a huge catalogue of music in my head. Finally, I can afford better guitars and I have learned a few luthier skills to set them up and keep them playing well.
6. What advice do you have for younger players? Beginners? Aged beginners? I hope to see a lot of comments on this one because we can learn from those who went before. One thing is do not fear getting older, but plan for it! There are advantages and disadvantages, as you can see. I would advise to find a good teacher, even if you can sit with them only once in a while. You need to learn to do it correctly as opposed to ingraining mistakes. Listen to a lot of music and learn the fretboard. Play a lot with others. Get the nicest guitar you can afford and learn to set it up and maintain it. Set aside a regular practice schedule and stick to it. Learn several types of music, not just one. Watch your timing. Even though you might not think you need to, get in the habit now of warming up with stretching exercises. I'm also fearful of Alzheimer's and other memory problems. To help stave this off, I keep learning new guitar stuff and I am also learning French - besides keeping my brain active, it's interesting and a lot of fun. And finally, if you feel like giving up, get more involved and if this doesn't work and you really want to give up, send you guitar to me - she'll have a very good home.
Thanks for your time and attention! As always, you folks are the best!