Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can you be Too Old for Music Lessons?

Interesting insights about never being "too old" to take music lessons

In this video, Robert explains the difference between younger and older music learners and how it is never too late to start learning music.

Released on July 17, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin. Today's question is: can you be too old to start music lessons? This is a great question, and I'm going to explore and try to give you the ins and outs. Well, in a nutshell, you can start music at any age and have a degree of success. Now, I must say that there are elements of the development of the brain that occur in people who study music from a young age. So, for example, if you've never even been exposed to classical music, let's say, in your life you've never even heard it, and then you try to become an accomplished violinist, let's say, in your 20s or 30s, it's extremely unlikely that you could develop a concert career. The coordination, the understanding of the whole musical language would be lacking.

However, a lot of times people start music later in life and have a lot of success. Why? Because maybe they've always been exposed to the sound of music, and if you listen to music, you're developing the ability to understand the language. Better yet is, if you study one instrument, being able to shift to another instrument is much easier. So somebody who grew up, for example, playing the piano and later wanted to switch to the clarinet is going to have a much easier time of playing the clarinet. Even if they've never played it before they might become very proficient, even starting as an adult.

So certain instruments probably are best to start young, like stringed instruments and piano, but I've seen people do remarkable things with determination, and everybody has got different capabilities, as well as expectations. And as long as your expectations are in alignment with your abilities and your life situation I think you'll be fine. Just like I wouldn't expect to be professional basketball player, right? No matter how much I might love it?

I could still play basketball and enjoy it, although I avoid basketball, honestly, because I don't want to hurt my fingers, but that just gives you one example of what's possible. And I wouldn't not play an instrument because you're a certain age. If you enjoy it, who's to say it's bad? After all, there's no endgame in this. It's a lifelong enjoyment and a pursuit of growth in music. So enjoy it at any age. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin. I'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Nguyen Ngoc Bich on June 21, 2015 @6:48 pm PST
Oh, Thank you, Mr Robert , your Video tips are very helful to me, in my learning piano, in spite of my 62 y.old, I had a dream since my childhood to play pian, but had no conditions, until one beautiful day of 2009, when I was 56 yrs. o., my eldest son gave me a Birthday 's gift a piano, so I started learning it by myself thru many documents, and until now, I'm very enjoyingmuch with playing Waltzes, tangos, and a few other classical musics, I don't want to live with Alzheimer in my olden age !
Your explain about " learning pianoat any age " is encouraging me much more, piano music, : more I explore it, more I find out so many wonderful things to learn , etc..., Thank you also for all of the others comments here that are very useful to me , I use all my free times , even some little, and like to spend hours with playing it , as my great hobby. Bravo for your good encouragement !
Homero * VSM MEMBER * on June 16, 2015 @2:26 pm PST
Thank you Robert for your insight.
A keyboard teacher told me, three years ago, that I was too old for the piano and that I should stick to the keyboard (much more easy to play).
Nevertheless, I started with piano lessons.
Today, I'm 75 and enjoy the piano very much. Besides that, as they say, "Music is inner life and those who have inner life will never suffer from loneliness.
Olga Risseeuw * VSM MEMBER * on June 11, 2015 @3:24 am PST
thank you Robert, I started playing a flute just before I was 50 years of age I all my life have wanted to do that and then I had the time for it. It was not easy, but I have absolutely loved to practice all the years and now I can play. Play for the people in our little hospital, play now and then in the workplace for the special people, who need to learn work experience and may play in the church. I will be 70 this year and still absolutely love to play my flute.
Thank you for all the advices, they are many times the same of what I have experienced in the past years. And other times I still learn of what you are saying. And Florences flutter tongue lessons.
Thanks Florence. So I enjoy your both videos. Good quality and easy to follow, even for me a non native English speaking woman.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on June 10, 2015 @10:16 am PST
Very encouraging, thank you! I started piano at age 2 (mother was a teacher), and I was doing well for several years. Then life happens! and I spent most of it with horses neglecting the piano, and damaging my hands with barn work! Now at 70, I am back at the keyboard, and I don't mind spending a couple of hours a day with the books of Czerny! I find it amazing that my fingers "remember" some fairly difficult pieces I was playing as a teenager, while I am having a hard time learning by heart new pieces even if they are rather elementary.
Robert - host, on June 22, 2015 @12:44 pm PST
Here is an article and video on how to memorize music. Start with a simple piece and take small sections. You will need to play sections over many more times than you expect, but you will make progress if you use this system. Good luck!
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on June 22, 2015 @5:39 pm PST
Thank you! I looked at the video. My first mistake is trying to learn the whole piece at once. My second mistake is not being consistent with fingering when learning a new piece.
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on June 10, 2015 @6:33 am PST
Well said, although unnecessary to we geriatrics whoo started learning later in life. I appreciate my limitations, have a competent and sympathetic tutor and am thoroughly enjoying learning to play the clarinet at 76 (2 years).
Peter * VSM MEMBER * on June 10, 2015 @6:11 am PST
Start piano at 52 and have been enjoying it for 2 years now.
What would you say is the greatest area of challenge to starting piano at an older age, and what specific exercises would help address the issues?
Robert Estrin on June 11, 2015 @11:24 am PST
Like learning a language at an older age, total immersion is ideal. Surround yourself with music and musicians. Experience live and recorded music everywhere you can. And spend as much time as you have exploring your instrument in a variety of ways. When you are not with your instrument, sing music - this will help you develop your ear for music.

As for what specific exercises, anything and everything you play will help you develop strength, facility and comfort connecting you to your instrument. Above all else - enjoy!
Russ Barlow on June 10, 2015 @5:08 am PST
I started playing the alto sax when I was 52, I'm now 55 and managed to get my grade 3. Despite the fact I have manual dexterity issues with my left hand and I am very profoundly deaf and can't hear a dicky bird with my hearing aids!
Robert Estrin on June 11, 2015 @11:26 am PST
Like my Hebrew School teacher said years ago, "When there's a vill, there's a vay."!
Russ Barlow on June 11, 2015 @1:50 pm PST
So true Robert,I'd always wanted to be able play an instrument, but everyone said, ' your deaf as well as tone deaf, you can't play an instrument!'. So Dec 2011 I made the resolution to prove everyone wrong and played Happy Birthday to my wife at her 50th party.
Everyone was so gobsmacked, they forgot to sing along!! Hahaha
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on June 11, 2014 @4:26 pm PST
I started clarinet 6 months ago at 75. I have a considerate teacher and can only say 'I love it'. As Robert says, accept your limitations, be they physical, mental or both ; ), and enjoy it.
Laura Chaskes on January 1, 2014 @5:34 am PST
I started cello lessons at 65. I'm now 73. It's been a struggle because I have physical limitations, but I've enjoyed the journey. I thought 65 was old until I saw that easmith started at 79!
maria josé on September 28, 2013 @7:39 pm PST
I play the piano since I was 11.Now I am 85 and I am very happy having the company of Bach,Beethpven and all pf the others musicians.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on June 10, 2015 @10:20 am PST
My mother who was a pianist, once said to be the greatest truth I ever heard: In this life you can lose everything and everybody, but nothing can take music away from you!
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