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Learning as an adult vs learning as a young person.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by orange joe, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. orange joe

    orange joe I am serious and don't call me Shirley

    Sep 7, 2012
    Albany NY
    Greetings fellow talkbassers. For your consideration is the following question. Is it easier to be trained in musical education as an adult or as a young person? Alternatively is it easier to teach an adult or a young person? I was having a discussion with a local teacher who has expressed issues with teaching adults going so far as to say that people of a certain age are unteachable. Please share your thoughts.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2019
    John6 likes this.
  2. What age? I might already be there.

    Not as easy to learn new things at 60 as it was at 6 or 16. That's a fact.
  3. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    Kids brain are developing so music education can probably "stick" better. Also, kids spend years doing the basics.
    Adults have expectations and are, many times, impatient and really don't want to put in the work.
  4. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Some people are unteachable, but it has little or nothing to do with age.
    At least until they get so old that they have disability issues.
    MVE, Dabndug, Justinian and 5 others like this.
  5. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I'm no neurologist so I can't comment on age and brain capacity. I have taught a lot of guitar and bass lessons though. IME the biggest barrier to learning as an adult is the multiple commitments in someone's life. Work, house, family, and other factors of adulting make it significantly harder to devote time to practice.
  6. Fred Pucci

    Fred Pucci

    May 2, 2019
    While from a “scientific” POV, it is probably true that a younger person is easier to train than an older person who is more likely to be set in their ways, as previous posters have mentioned, however—— I believe there is another side to the coin.
    With age comes wisdom, and an older person may be more coachable and willing to be trained. We “know what we don’t know”, vs a younger person who may think they know it all. Older folks also know exactly what they want, vs younger folks who may still be testing the waters to find their passion. So, I think the only right answer to your Q, is that it depends on the person.
    Tad, MVE, Dabndug and 6 others like this.
  7. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Kids pick it up quicker than an older person, however, older people can be taught. Kids do not have to worry about putting bread on the table and older people do. As mentioned earlier this gets in the way of practicing. Kids have the time, older people have to carve out time from their schedule.

    Main thing is commitment. Kids wake up in a new world each day, and I have found that most just do not practice. An older person wants his money's worth so will practice, but work, family and every day stress do enter the picture.

    Be interesting to know the drop out rate from both groups.

    basslifter and ObsessiveArcher like this.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Agreed...BUT...what about the adult who is retired, his family is reared, and has plenty of time on his/her hands ? :thumbsdown:
    eJake and Reedt2000 like this.
  9. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    I'd say it's more a challenge of maintaining energy and motivation rather than mental capacity for learning.
  10. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Time is probably the largest factor to learning an instrument. If you can set aside (and be disciplined enough to use effectively) an hour or so every day I'd expect you to be able to be successful. That DOES NOT mean you'll be playing at a virtuosic level in a few weeks, that takes long stretches of time no matter how disciplined you are.

    If your just starting out take some lesson from a pro. They'll help you avoid developing bad habits and poor technique. Be patient, be determined, and get to work :)

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    I'm thinking of learning to play the upright after the age of 40. First I need an upright though..
  12. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    IMO, each has it's advantage - and not just about music.

    Young people tend to be sponges and can - with the slightest effort - retain information presented to them. But, at least for me, they don't really know how to study yet - because they don't really understand why they are doing it.

    Us older folks have to work a lot harder to retain the information. But, we (again at least for me) have a much better understanding of how to study and how to practice properly - we use experience to make up for mental agility. I don't know how many times I've made comments about wishing I understood "practice" as a youth the way I did when I picked bass. (I was an above average horn player as a young adult- who knows how good I could have been if I just really got the difference between practicing as little as possible to get my parts down and practicing to learn skills!)

    I would probably have different curriculum for teaching young people vs mature adults - but both groups are equally capable of picking up new tricks.
  13. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I started learning bass at the age of 20 - a little old, but I learned pretty fast. Many years later, after a long "career" with little actual practice, and after a decade off from wrist issues, I started learning the bass (again) at age 52 - I really sucked after that much time off, and I had to learn how to do everything over again. Now, at 61, I'm a much better learner than I was at 20 - if I had the discipline when I was 20 that I do today, I'd have been awesome. I'm a much better musician now than I ever was in my 20's, 30's, or 40's - life lessons applied to what I'm doing, and a much better practice regimen more than make up for being a bit older.

    You can learn at any age. You do have to realize that what you're trying to do is hard, it takes a lot of time to be good, and you have to (using words from my parent's generation) "apply yourself".
  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I taught as many as 32 bass students in the early 2000s. Some little kids, some adults, and lots of teenagers.

    It's a double-edged sword in my view. Kids learn MUCH more easily than adults do. But adults are MUCH more motivated. So it's a wash as far as progression speed.
    Tad, basslifter, Dabndug and 3 others like this.
  15. BassBrass


    Jul 6, 2009
    Boston MA
    Children in school ensembles have a much better chance than adults without the enforced labor camps of concert band rehearsal. I'm only talking about trumpet here.
  16. lavmonga

    lavmonga Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    New York, NY
    I’ve tried to pick up new instruments as I age, but when I was a kid I had way more time on my hands to practice. Also when I was younger, it was easier to find bands to join or I’d just sit in my room and play along to my favorite albums. Much less time as an adult.
    PlatoFunFactory and B-Lo like this.
  17. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I started at 50. Had a great teacher, a HS kid who liked the same '70s rock I grew up with.
  18. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    There comes a time when, if you organize your life and delete a few non essential things (obviously, if you have kids, you gotta launch them first), you can find MORE time as an (older) adult.
  19. There's an orthogonal discussion related to this. Learning difficult things as an older person-- especially things that exercise both physical and mental elasticity, such as music-- is actually super beneficial to maintaining mental elasticity, memory, cognition, etc. One way to look at this is that it need not be a question of whether you learn better or well enough, but a simple fact that it is totally worth it for other reasons. Even if you don't learn it very well or ever, it will help with other parts of your life.

    I realize that's not really the point of the original question, but just a consideration.
  20. This right here is my main reason for picking up the bass. Exercising my brain and my fingers.
    BooDoggie likes this.

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