If you’re 55 plus, you may remember hearing the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That saying is based on the assumption that once you get to a certain age, your brain can no longer learn new skills.
If you’ve ever denied yourself the pleasure of learning something new because you’ve believed that dusty adage, you’ll be thrilled to know that it just isn’t true.
In fact, it hasn’t been true for quite some time now.
Back in 1999, Time magazine featured a groundbreaking article that revealed a bit of a bombshell. The article explained that the brain is not, as we had previously believed, rigidly fixed by the time we reach adulthood.
On the contrary, the brain is quite capable of continuing to form new neuropathways from new input well into old age. Scientists, psychologists, and doctors of all kinds began to realize the incredible implications of this discovery.
After two decades of exploration into the capabilities of the plastic brain, discoveries have shown that not only can we continue to form new neuropathways, but we can also actually rewire our brains by using our minds to learn new things!
Free to Be!
In light of this wonderful information, mid-lifers may gleefully add brain plasticity to the growing list of advantages that come with aging in the new millennium.
You may ask, “What other advantages are there to being older?”
AARP and other senior-focused publications have featured countless lists of the advantages to getting older. Some of these assets include increased confidence, compassion, and patience.
And once children have left the nest, now there is more time for personal pursuits.
When you’re older, you can also enjoy certain bragging rights, such as having grown up with the best music and having witnessed firsthand, the birth and development of the digital age.
So I’m not too old to learn piano?
The short answer is no. Given the brain’s ability to learn new things practically right up until you die, you’re never too old to learn to play piano.
However, there is a sticking point to be aware of that could possibly discourage you from trying.
Although the old-dog, new-tricks idea has been scientifically debunked, a person being set in their ways is still a very real part of getting older.
Make no mistake, continued learning is a conscious choice. One must shed outdated beliefs that they may be harboring about themselves.
In other words, you’ll never learn anything new if you believe you can’t learn anything new.
Here’s a great video answering this very question:
Clearing Old Beliefs
Along with believing you can’t learn anything new, if a cranky piano teacher told you in the third grade that you had no talent for piano and you believed them, there’s a strong possibility that you will still carry that belief with you.
Or it could have been anyone or anything that convinced you of your lack of musical talent an ability. It that’s the case, there’s a good chance you have limiting beliefs that have kept you from playing the piano even though you’ve always wanted to.
Limiting beliefs are something most people deal with. The problem with limiting beliefs is they limit your ability to do things you would have no problem doing if that belief wasn’t there.
But don’t be discouraged. There are numerous avenues to ridding oneself of those damaging inner voices that say, “you can’t” or “don’t bother trying” and replacing them with positive dialogue.
Some effective methods include meditation, daily affirmations, hypnosis, prayer, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Know that whichever method works best for you will take a serious commitment. Overcoming limited beliefs require determination and patience with yourself.
And because you’re an adult, you can make these changes on purpose, something that is more difficult when you’re young.
Further, once you’ve learned how to take the limits off your limiting beliefs, you can apply that approach to your piano-playing journey.
This is not to imply that you must clear all negative beliefs before you can begin your lessons. You can even use your piano practice as a method of ridding yourself of negative and limiting self-talk!
Make a Goal
A real motivator is having some attainable and measurable goal in mind. Maybe you want to play a carol at Christmas time, or learn a favorite song by your next birthday.
Or maybe you want to write a special song for your anniversary or other important event.
You might even want to play a classical piece of music in a year’s time.
The size of the goal doesn’t matter, only that it is manageable and has a realistic deadline.
Find a Teacher
As you begin to search for your piano instructor, bear in mind that there may be some teachers who may tell you that you’re too old to learn. If you come across one of these, keep looking! Not everybody, even teachers, are hip to the miracle of the plastic brain. You can choose to educate them about the decades-old discoveries, or you can just move on.
Don’t let naysayers deter you from achieving your dream of making music.
There are plenty of resources available to help you find just the right teacher. A quick online search will yield lots of options.
Alternately, if you’re an eager self-starter, YouTube and other platforms offer many paid and free online instructional videos. These can also be used in conjunction with in- person or virtual lessons with an instructor.
Find a Piano
Once you’ve found the perfect teacher, you’re going to need a keyboard to practice on. This shouldn’t be too difficult given the vast number of choices available in these modern days.
You can choose an electric keyboard or an acoustic upright. There are many full scale or partial scale options that range from 61 to 88 keys.
You can get a new instrument, or you can check out any number of local online sources like Craig’s list and Facebook marketplace. Just know that if you get a used piano, it might have to be tuned.
Take your time and enjoy the process of picking out your instrument. Bear in mind that you can always upgrade to a larger, fancier model as your skills and comfort level improves.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
If you find yourself getting frustrated for any reason—whether you feel you’re learning too slowly or it is more difficult than you first imagined—remember the reason why you started in the first place.
Your desire to learn is directly correlated with the success you will have in achieving your goal. So remind yourself why you’re doing it. It’s not really about achieving a short-term goal; it’s about the joy of learning to play the piano, something you’ve probably longed to do for a long time.
So savor the learning process and celebrate every little victory. It’s actually the enjoyment of the process—not the progress—that truly matters.
Now that you know you’ve got what it takes, what are you waiting for? These more mature years are the best ones of your life, so be brave and fill them with the wonderful music of your own piano playing!
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