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.

15 responses »

  1. Pingback: Post #2: Regret « The Adult Beginner

  2. I have recently decided to take up playing the cello. I am 25, and needed a bit of a challenge in life. I am really enjoying it far more than the piano lessons I was forced to take as a kid. I actually look forward to lessons and practice every chance I get. I think the biggest advantage is that I could choose the instrument I wanted to play, I love the sound! It was well worth the wait!

    • Yes, choosing an instrument you want to play makes all the difference. I had to play the clarinet for 2 years in elementary school, which was nearly impossible with my asthma! When I decided on cello it was because I love the sound of it more than any other instrument and it made all the difference!

  3. I am a 49 yr old took up the cello almost 2 yrs ago started from zero no previous instrumental music in my life… I LOVE IT ,,,but have found it hard to find more “ME’s” in my neck of the woods that would like to get together and play… Got any good advice to finding a group of newbies!

    • Where is your neck of the woods? i’m a 52 year old beginner and would also love interacting, learning and having fun with another.

      LaPlata, Maryland

    • I am 46 and just picking up the cello! I have played guitar and I sing, but this is all new to me. I just fell in love with the sound. Thanks for your blog and hello fellow newbs!

  4. Jody.. I hope the best for you and keep us up on the progress.. Jody this adventure is the greatest enjoy yourself.

    Karen

  5. I took up cello at age 56,I have been playing about a year and a half. I took lessons my first year from students in a master cello class at SMU. I am now trying to self instruct myself. I am learning but it is a long process. I miss the interaction of the instructor and also just someone to pat you on the back when something comes out right. I played guitar for a long time, so I’m my worst critic. I have always loved the cello, but life has a way of getting in the way sometimes. My hope is to make some heartfelt music with other people someday. Not sure how to make that happen. This is the first time I blogged so forgive me if I went overboard.

  6. Sarah my neck of the woods id Kansas city Mo.. a tad far from Maryland 😦 ! @Steve man keep up the paractice find another teacher.. today I started learning chords.. wow how dang exciting and a completely different way of thinking!

  7. It’s never too late to learn the cello. I’m 46 and took it up about 2 years ago. I would STRONGLY discourage people from trying to self-teach however. There’s just too many things that require the direct attention of an instructor to learn well. Figuring out how to hold the bow correctly, shift correctly, vibrato correctly, play in the upper registers correctly, have correct intonation, and perform the various bow strokes are all not intuitive. You have to be shown by an expert. Alone, you’ll teach yourself bad habits that will take a long time to undo.

    As for finding playing partners, you can always try craigslist in your area. Obviously be smart about meeting someone you don’t know for the first time, until you feel comfortable with them (i.e. meet in a third-party location with a friend along, etc). However, I don’t think “amateur cellist looking for playing partner” is really a method bad people use to attract victims very often.

    Once you obtain some proficiency on the instrument, almost every town of any size has volunteer community orchestras. Additionally, if you attend church, a lot of churches, especially small churches, would do backflips to have a cellist on the worship team.

    Finally, don’t limit your thinking to classical music. A cello can be a great addition to almost any musical style. I don’t think I’ve heard many songs in my life that wouldn’t benefit from a well-written cello part. Whether it be rock, jazz, blues, folk, country or any number of other styles, you can bet there’s a way for the cello to fit in.

  8. Wade you have great ideas… about finding a partner to play with. I am currently in a small group of muscians learning our way through the ropes of playing as a group. It is a great adventure so far… I totally agree about forming good habits in techinques to create the best sound possible. Thanks for your insight.
    Karen

  9. Great to hear of so many adults taking up the cello. Pity you’re not all in Newcastle uk…I run a group of cellists of all standards, we play for fun and for free, classical, tangos, apocalyptica. sometimes I rearrange the parts to make them easier for beginners. I liked the list of why it’s better as an adult…but why are you bothering with Schumann if you don’t like him??? As a child I had a lot of different teachers and they all told me something different – usually the new one said the last had told me all wrong, this was so discouraging along with pieces that were always advancing therefor I never seemed to be just Playing.

  10. Well if anyone is in the Kansas City Mo area I’d love to gather and play together.. Penny maybe you can network your amazing passion for newbies with others or better yet let’s plan a big weekend and have Penny come to the middle of the US so we can all gather and meet each other and have fun playing…. I’s help organize it!

    karen

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