Updated: Jun 28, 2022
Something that happens a large number of times is, when I'm setting up lessons for a child, Mum/Dad might say "I used to play when I was a kid but I gave it up. I really regret it now” or “I wish I’d learned to play when I was younger. It's too late now.”
My stock response to all of these is some variation of “Well, START then!”
As some of you know I have my own book: "THE EVERYTHING GUIDE TO LEARNING GUITAR", and one of the first things I suggest is, if your child is going to learn to play guitar then you (Mum/Dad) should learn with them.
I'm very pleased to say that I have several *ahem* mature students having guitar lessons. It's lovely and very encouraging. It's really brilliant that they've taken the plunge to attempt to fit something new into their day-to-day lives. And it got me thinking, how many of us have things we "wish we'd done" whilst simultaneously doing nothing about it? Just leaving these things in the "I regret that.." box in our brains?
Without wishing to head off down some anti-ageism post it is very easy to slip into the thought of 'you-can't-do-such-and-such-when-you've-passed-this-age'. A year or two ago I mentioned to a bandmate that my 'music dream' is to play the Royal Albert Hall within the next ten years. He snorted and remarked, "You'll be 50 in ten years' time!" As if that was some great anchor dragging me down. I only have one thing to say about that really: IT'S UTTER CRAP! Age is only an anchor if you let it.
We've all heard sayings such as "age is just a number..." "You're as young as you feel..." "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything...." "Life's too short...." "There's nothing worse than regret!" And my personal favourite (and one of the sayings that I live my life by) is: "It's now how old you are, it's HOW you are old."
In other words: do it! If there's something that you've always wanted to try your hand at then DO. IT. What's stopping you...really?
The big comeback for us 'grown up' people is "Oh, I don't have enough free time." Well, I have to concede to that one....to a point. Yes, we're all busy. Yes, we've got a thousand things to do. We all know the nightmare of the school run, the food shopping trip, the washing that needs doing, the ironing pile that would make Sir Edmund Hilary fearful, the grass needs mowing, the car needs washing, etc, etc, etc...
Actually, if I'm going to be brutally honest, the "I haven't had time for practice..." argument gets heard a lot from kids too. They're busy as well. Parents seem to want to push their children into more and more activities these days. I can't complain about this. After all, I provide one of those activities! And anything that keeps children away from their wretched computer games is fine by me.
So, yeah. Busyness. I get it. I really do. After all, I live it!
But, and this is where the "Oh, I don't have time" argument fails, I'm pretty certain there's one thing that the vast majority do come tea time: I'm willing to bet that you sit down on the sofa and watch TV. For about three hours. And why shouldn't you? You're busy. You're knackered. You deserve it. But...
But what if you could find just a few minutes in your TV watching schedule? Could you use that spare few minutes - like maybe ten/fifteen minutes - to do something that you've "always wanted to do?" Like maybe learning to play the guitar...or any instrument? Squeezing in ten minutes of guitar practice is the easiest thing in the world. It really is. Especially if you're watching TV in the evening. When can you squeeze it in? One word: ADVERTS. Who wants to watch them? What do you do? Check your phone? A bit of Facebooking? Make a cup of tea maybe? Do some guitar practice? I'm willing to bet it's not that last one.
I usually recommend that a student practices a minimum of 10/15 minutes every day. Doesn't sound like a lot does it? Let's say that the average ad break is 4/5 minutes long - yes I did Google that. Well, is it within the realms of possibility that you could have a couple of minutes of guitar practice whilst the adverts are playing? If you watch TV for three hours an evening with, say, four advert slots in an hour, that's around 20 minutes of practice time just in that one hour...BOOM! That still leaves plenty of time for phone checking and Facebooking. But now you'll be able to share your guitar playing progress on Facebook as well! Win, win!
We all have so many occasions where we waste time that we don't necessarily realize that we've got. If you take an objective look at your day and take stock of how much time you waste doing nothing, without even realizing it, I think you'd be amazed. Another example? Sure. How many people say they'd love to learn another language, read that famous novel, listen to an interesting podcast.... but "don't have the time." How many of those same people spend an hour or so commuting to work listening to Radio "Generic Crap" every single day? Could they possibly 'do' a language course instead? Or audiobook that novel they've "always wanted to read." Or listen to that podcast that they "don't have time to listen to...."?
I DO have to concede that, no matter how hard we may try, this thing we call 'life' does intrude. The dog still needs walking. The shopping still needs doing. The kids need taking to ballet class...There will be those evenings where you're genuinely knackered. And so you might not progress as much as you might if you'd learned when you were younger. That is just one of those things. But you could give yourself that little kick up the bum to do 'a bit'. Surely it's better than nothing? Surely being able to play a few songs is better than "I wish I'd done that...." Surely it's better to say "I had a go..." than regret not even trying at all? No, you might never attain the dizzying heights of being the next Eddie Van Halen....but you MIGHT.
Do you know what will happen if you don't even try?
And the fact that you're so busy, but you're trying anyway, makes that progress you make SO much more rewarding!
How do I know that it's possible to fit all this stuff into your day-to-day life? Because it's EXACTLY what I do. EVERY DAY.
I'm past 40. I'm right in the middle of 'doing the school run, going to work, taking kids to clubs, doing the washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning...' all that stuff that I detailed above. I do it all! Every day. But I also get myself out of bed at 5 am and do an hour of work before the rest of the household gains consciousness. I don't spend the ten minutes between pupils checking Facebook and Instagram...(unless I'm updating my Guitar World page). I spend those precious little nuggets of time doing things like blogging, transcribing TABULATURE, recording a few parts to a backing track for the latest video that I'm doing....or editing that video that I recorded. Yes, I'm busy. But when I do sit down to watch TV I'm happy that I've got that little bit closer to my end goal.
But why am I doing this? I'm already a professional musician. I make my living (barely!) through music. So what am I doing all this extra work for?
Well, I'm trying to get to the point in my career where I'm able to make the move to being a Blogger, YouTuber, Influencer....whatever you want to call it. I've been teaching guitar for over 20 years. And I do love it. And I've gotten pretty darn good at it, yes it does sound pretty egomaniacal to say that. I always think I'll teach, one way or another. I love that interaction with a pupil who is working hard to better themselves. I love that buzz when I can see progress has happened: I've imparted knowledge. I love it when a pupil gets 'into' music and starts asking me little things like "what tempo is this song in...?" I love it when a pupil wants to buy their next guitar and goes on a little 'guitar specs' geek out with me. So many things I love about teaching.
I could just sit on my laurels: and continue to do all of the above.
But, now that I've passed 40, I'm looking for the next phase of my career. I'm self-employed so I'm not going to get that promotion. I need to create opportunities for myself. But, as I've got bills to pay like everyone else, I've got to continue my 'normal' work whilst carving out this new niche. And I'm fitting all this stuff into my day-to-day life. This blog that I'm writing RIGHT NOW, the kids are in the other room watching TV and I'm waiting for my other half to get ready for our day out. I've probably only got 15 mins. But, here I am. Typing my blog.
I'm hopeful that we're seeing some end to the 'I'm too old to do this...' opinions. With the increasing trend in online stores such as Etsy and real-life "artisan" art/craft/food/beer markets etc people are more and more able to take a little plunge into the things that they love to do that maybe they never thought they'd get the chance to. The vast majority of these people do these things 'on the side'. They might not make a million at it but you never know what might happen though. You have to TRY!
I'm going to round off this little motivational(?) speech with a little list of people that you may have heard of whose biggest impacts occurred late in life ...
Alan Rickman wasn't cast as Hans Gruber (his breakthrough role) till he was 42.
Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald's) was 59 when he opened his first McD's.
Charles Darwin published "Origin of the Species" at 50.
Henry Ford didn't make the first Model T Ford till he was 45.
Susan Boyle was 47 when she auditioned for Britain's Got Talent.
Stan Lee didn't write Fantastic Four (his first successful comic) till he was 39.
Patrick Stewart was 47 when he was cast as Captain Jean Luc Picard.
Seasick Steve was 55 when he made his breakthrough appearance on Later With Jools Holland.
Harrison Ford was 35 and working full time as a carpenter doing 'bit part' acting when he was cast as Han Solo.
Buster Merryfield was 57 and had been working for Natwest for 40 years when he was cast as Uncle Albert in Only Fools & Horses.
Leo Fender was 39 when he founded a guitar company.
Charles Rolls was 40 and an engineer when he gave it all up and founded Fever Tree Tonics.
Steve Fletcher uploaded his first YouTube video when he was 39 and didn't become a "professional" YouTuber till he was.....41!
Thanks for reading. Now, go and do it!
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