1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Learning as an adult vs learning as a young person.

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

  1. JayLaughlin


    Sep 15, 2016
    I find that I have more time as an adult than my daughter does.

    But to answer the original question, based on my experience I think adults and kids find different things easy when learning an instrument. I struggled with reading sheet music but when the teacher introduced it to my daughter she picked it up very quickly. Far faster than I did. And she is much better at hearing a phrase and, after learning the start of the phrase, figuring out how the rest of it goes on her own. However, when it came to good left and right hand technique (especially with a bow on the double bass) I was the "better student" so to speak. Of course, this could all be attributed to individual differences across age ranges rather than specifically differences in our ages.
  2. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Teaching approaches and methods need to vary somewhat with the age of the students IMO. You can introduce frameworks and theory earlier with an older student than you can with younger ones based on my own experiences teaching things.

    For example, teaching languages via the currently popular “immersion” method tends to be more effective with younger learners than giving them vocabulary lists and teaching them grammar does. But many adult learners have major challenges with that approach and benefit greatly by also being given formal grammar lessons and vocabulary drills for the language they’re studying.

    When I taught IT related topics I generally found teaching older students (college age and older) was slightly easier (for me - not necessarily them) because I could beneficially introduce key theory and frameworks (e.g. finite state machine models, Von Neumann architecture, network protocols, etc.) in a formal manner without causing undue confusion.

    With younger learners with mostly limited “real world” experience I had to take more of a “just enough theory” mindset and focus primarily on providing the students with more of a “hands on” learning experience.

    That said neither age was all that much easier or harder to teach. You just had vary how you presented and reinforced the subject matter. And (so far) I’ve never encountered anyone who was completely “unteachable.”
    project_c likes this.
  3. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    This says more about that teacher than it does about learning ability at different ages. Specifically, that teacher is full of it and not someone who should be even trying to teach adults.
    JRA likes this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    the single most important variable in learning a skill is IQ. couple that with the limitations of 'personality set' and you can predict who will learn faster (and more 'thoroughly') compared to any 'average' at any age.

    the teacher who made the "unteachable comment" obviously isn't that bright in the first place ( :D ) --- but he/she did, at least, give some view into the personality set that would make such a comment! (guitar player? :laugh: )

    most of the comments about youth vs. aged are generally true barring disease/organic issues.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is 100% a mindset that's as accurate or inaccurate as you want it to be provided your mind is still relatively healthy and not suffering from something like Alzheimer's or dementia.
    Tad and orange joe like this.
  6. onestring


    Aug 25, 2009
    Richmond, CA
    The hardest part about learning as an adult is getting over yourself.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    SOOOOOOO very true! That is entirely sig worthy!
    onestring likes this.
  8. In my (very personal and limited) experience, the most important difference between learning as a kid vs learning as an adult, is how much time you can dedicate to practice. I learned computer programming by myself when I was around 11; learned to play drums by myself when I was around 14; learned advanced computer graphics techniques at 19; learned how to compose and record my own music at 22-23.

    All of those activities required long hours of practice, trial and error, making dozens of small things until I was confident enough to show my stuff in public. But I was in school (from elementary to master's degree) and had lots of free time, and while my parents' financial situation wasn't easy, they always supported these activities. I started programming early because we had computers at school (Commodore 64s) and won my first computer (a Commodore 16) in a contest. I started late with music because we didn't have money for instruments or lessons, until my mom took great efforts to buy me a cheap drum kit (didn't have any cymbals back then).

    Now I'm 43 and money is not an issue. I'm trying to learn to play bass, but between work and family, I can only practice for 30 or so minutes each day. It's even harder to find friends to play with. Most of my friends who play some instrument are either drowned in work, or have less understanding wives that won't let them buy gear or spend time in a band.
    PlatoFunFactory, Bass Jones and John6 like this.
  9. John6


    Jul 9, 2019
    Central Ohio
    I think the mind learns easier while we are younger, due to while we are younger we are in a learning mode.
    Some of us never stop learning, for some thinking gives them a head ache so they stop.
    My problem is theory, music theory or electrical theory, my brain just refuses to find it interesting.
  10. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Desire. At least in my case. When I was 21 I decided I wanted to play the flute. Played lots of gigs for 25 years. Picked up a bass when I was 52, and have been gigging for 15 years. I would say that most kids that are 'forced' to take lessons soon quit, and never come back.
    Alfonso Alba likes this.
  11. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Of all my students I find 10-28 yrs to be the easiest to teach but I don't think anyone is unteachable. Now the willingness to be taught and the drive to learn is more the issue. Kids have nothing but time to soak these things up while older people have more on their plate in general where something like music falls to the side when you're figuring out how to pay your bills.
  12. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Admittedly in need of adult supervision... Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    The answer with regard to learning is: Yes, it is easier to learn as a young person. This is not subjective, it is a matter of neurological changes that occur in the brain and how it processes sound/language when people hit the “critical age barrier”, typically at some point in the teen years. I don’t have time to explain this any further right now, but I will post additional info when I have time.
    John6, 4 Strings Good and arbiterusa like this.
  13. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    The way human brains develop dictate that children have an advantage learning, as they can more easily build neural pathways. Not to say motivated adults can't learn new skills or become excellent, but the youngsters have a distinct neurological advantage. However, age can bring wisdom and complimentary skillsets, including emotional maturity that is important to all art forms. You can find all sorts of child prodigy types on YouTube, but few are creating new music with emotional impact. How much work and heart you put in, as well as base aptitude, are the biggest factors.
    Whippet likes this.
  14. Bass Jones

    Bass Jones Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2018
    Austin, Texas
    I picked up guitar when I was 16 (and later bass) and at first didn't practice a whole lot. But there seemed to come a milestone where I gained enough facility to make it fun to play whether I was practicing or just fooling around. I would play for hours because I had hours to spend. Now I don't have nearly as much time but I'm a little more disciplined and focussed when I do try to learn something new.

    It also helps to have something to avoid which I had more of as a kid. "What? I should be working on that term paper due tomorrow? Let me just put Quadrophenia on while I write. Boy, that sure is a cool bass line, I wonder what he's playing there. Let me just try to figure that out real quick...3 hours later..."
  15. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Admittedly in need of adult supervision... Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    This is a very simplistic explanation, by analogy, of the “critical age barrier” concept (also referred to as the “Critical Period Hypothesis”) , as it is presented in the linguistics context:

    • Children learn languages (and for purposes of this discussion, I consider music to be a form of language) by direct absorption. In other words, when an elementary school aged child who is a native English speaker learns Spanish, they internalize the words and grammatical structures directly (i.e., like a sponge absorbing water), without having to subconsciously translate or filter what they are learning through English.
    • At a certain age (sometimes as young as 9-10 years old, sometimes not until the late teens or early 20’s) what is referred to as the “critical age barrier” kicks in and changes how the brain processes linguistic information in a way that forces learning new language to filter through their knowledge of English. From that point on, the learning process is essentially one of translating the new information through the construct of the existing knowledge of English imbedded in the brain. This is slower and less natural or organic learning.
    • One of the ways this is evidenced is in dreams. Children learning a new language will begin to have dreams in that language very quickly. When an adult learns a new language, it will take a long time (if it ever happens at all) to reach a point where they dream in that language because thoughts don’t occur directly in that language due to the critical age barrier filter.
    • There are rare exceptions where people don’t hit the critical age barrier until much later in life, or ever. That is why you run into people that are fluent in a half dozen languages or more and seem to learn new ones effortlessly.
    Disclaimer: This is a very crude layman’s explanation of something I studied briefly 35 years ago. I do not have any real expertise in this area and have undoubtedly oversimplified or misapplied aspects of the concept, but I think I’ve conveyed the general idea in a broad but reasonably accurate way. However, a lot has been learned about how the brain works since then, and some of this may be outdated, and not all scholars agree that the Critical Period Hypothesis is valid and there is disagreement about the extent to which the ability to pick up a new language is biologically linked to age.

    Also, please note that I am only addressing one aspect of the question posed in the OP, and the many comments about other aspects of what may make it easier or harder to learn at a particular age (e.g., IQ, maturity, focus, commitment of time, life experience, etc.) are clearly valid and may be more significant than the critical age barrier for any particular individual.
  16. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    I started playing at age 8. Recently, starting about three years ago, I've been playing with an adult student band that includes one teenager. We have a pro drummer, guitarist and bassist (me) as the backing band. My answers to your questions, in order:

    1. Young person
    2. Young person
    3. Adults - most of them - can learn how to play music, but they are not going to be very good at it.

    This is not to say adults shouldn't do it, on the contrary, it beats sitting around playing Farmville on Facebook, or binge-watching Netflix. But they're not going to be able to knock out an album or go out and play gigs at the local bars.

    I will also add that there is always an exception, but they are extremely rare.
  17. B-Mac

    B-Mac Sorting Things Out Supporting Member

    Absolutely as a young person.
  18. BOOG

    BOOG Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    With “all due respect”, your local “teacher” is a JACKASS.
    Other terms come to mind but I’ll just provide the link...
    Choice names for ...
    John6 likes this.
  19. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    I'm retired in my second childhood. My first childhood I did not have the patience or desire to learn to read or the fundamentals of music. I was a bad student but played pretty good by ear. Now I have taught myself to read notation and time signatures. I'm moving along pretty good with music theory. I spend around three hours a day studying and practicing this stuff. I NEVER would have devoted the time to this when I was young. Too busy hanging out and chasing girls.
    John6 likes this.
  20. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    music ed books for adults use less repetition ... having started piano lessons back in the 60's , there were only books for young people at that time ...

    i've read a recent brain study info saying folks can learn new things up to age 97 ..!!??!!

    i think someone's age is meaningless ..!! the only that really matters is - if said person wants to learn or not ..!!

    people that wanna learn will practice all that boring crap it takes to get started ...! those who want to improve = practice ...

    effective practice is another issue ... screwing around is OK , but it's not really ' practicing ' ...

    and Yes ... i've met and tried to teach folks that couldn't carry a tune in a bucket ... or count to 4 .. !!??!! some folks have lousy pattern recognition skills ..! some folks will never ' feel ' or be able to convey ' feel ' via music ... ! they can play the notes , but play like a 1980's robot ..
    BOOG likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.