In no particular order, these are the top five advantages that adults have over children when learning an instrument. Please feel free to add others in the comments.
1. Nobody ever tells me what to do. Yes, there are always things I should do or need to do, but it’s always at my discretion. I’ve never been forced to practice, forced to play at a recital, or forced to go to lessons that were making me unhappy. Everything I do is my choice, which makes the learning process far more joyous.
2. I get to make all the decisions about my cello. There are a number of decisions that surround learning an instrument, and children have most of them made for them. I, on the other hand, got to decide that I was going to rent a step-up model, not a beat-up student model returned to the shop from the school system. Even though I couldn’t have known it then, that decision has benefited my learning more than any other single decision I’ve made.
3. Learning to play the cello benefits my brain more than it does a child’s. Learning an instrument is always good for the brain, regardless of age. However, for an adult, it’s far more of a challenge to learn something completely new and thus is a greater benefit to the brain. I feel sharper than I have in years and far happier too. This motivates me to practice more, which results in faster and greater learning, which makes my brain happier, which causes me to want to practice more, and so on.
4. Adults are more self aware. I have observed a number of my teacher’s younger students and I’ve noticed that they have very little awareness of what their bodies are doing. It must be pointed out to them so that they can correct it. Adults, on the other hand, tend to know exactly what their bodies are doing. We tend to voice our awareness through criticisms such as “I’m bowing too far from the bridge” or “My thumb is too tense every time I play that passage.” We may be doing things incorrectly, but our awareness allows us to work with our problems more easily.
5. We actually like the music we’re playing. No, I don’t like everything I play. For example, I really don’t like Schumann, and it’s driving me crazy working on two different pieces by him. However, I really love the Rameau piece that I’m working on. I find it inspiring and motivating. My teacher’s younger students, however, tend to hate pretty much anything from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern periods. This tends to get in the way of their learning because they aren’t motivated to practice songs they don’t like. Adults, on the other hand, tend to like more than just pop music. When they play songs they already love, they learn quickly and have fun in the process.