The best instrument to learn at 50 years of age is a subject for some debate. In this guide, we’ve explored many of the best instrument options for learning at 50 years old, plus, the benefits of learning an instrument once you reach a later stage in your life.
Naturally, the best instrument is likely to be whichever one you have fallen in love with. If you’re desperate to play the guitar then go for it! If you’ve always dreamed of playing the piano, don’t let anything hold you back. However, if you are on the fence, and unsure which instrument is the ideal choice for you, our guide to the best instrument to learn at 50 can help.
Is 50 Too Old To Learn an Instrument?
Whatever age people are, they worry that they are too old to take up a new hobby! Hundreds of people each month are searching google to see if 20 or 30 years of age is too late to take up an instrument. The answer is “no!”
Of course, there is some element of being realistic. If you start playing the piano at 50 years old, you won’t be playing in massive concert halls within a few months with audiences of adoring fans. However, most people want to play an instrument as a hobby, to enhance their lives, and to build new skills, and you can never be too old for this.
If someone wanted to start learning an instrument at 80 years of age, it would be encouraged, so the idea that 50 is too old is definitely one to get out of your head.
In fact, it has been shown that there are so many benefits to knowing and playing an instrument as we get older. National Geographic has covered this in their article “Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You’ve Taken Music Lessons“. Now, we know that 50 is not exactly old, but it will put you in good stead as you age.
What are some of the benefits of music lessons as you age?
- It can improve your cognitive function.
- Exercising the brain by playing an instrument can help your memory.
- Playing an instrument can lower the effects of Alzheimers.
- Soundscaping Source have stated that “playing music can increase levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.” It is generally accepted that music makes us all that bit happier.
So, surely your decision is now made on whether it is time to learn an instrument or not at this later stage in life. So, which instruments should you consider learning, and what are some of the considerations behind the learning process?
What is The Best Instrument to Learn at 50?
We run down some of the options for 50-year-olds to consider. What are the specific instruments that can be best for people who are 50? Why should you consider them? Do some instruments have more benefits for older people than if you were to learn aged 5, 10, or even 20?
Piano or Keyboard
Learning how to play the piano or keyboard is popular at virtually any age. It has some definite benefits for pretty much anyone, no matter whether you’re 8 or 88!
For a start, there are so many songs that you can learn on the piano. If you learn how to play the trumpet or something more specialist, you might have to consider the fact that most of the songs you learn need to be specifically composed for your instrument. With piano, there are versions of so many different songs, allowing you to learn the melody, or chords, or both, to thousands of pieces of music.
A keyboard or piano is also relatively easy to get access to. If you have a piano at home, or know someone who does, this can be beneficial, but actually, you can get started relatively cheaply. You can get a digital piano or a keyboard for a hundred or two hundred dollars and this may be all you need. Plus, it has the added benefit of being portable, whereas a traditional grand piano or upright piano cannot be transported easily.
Another reason why the piano is such a great instrument for those just getting started is the fact that it is relatively simple to start playing some songs and melodies. You don’t have to mess around too much with hand positions or build up finger strength like you would for some stringed instruments. Most people can get started and be playing a melody of some description in hours, or even minutes of their first lesson. Check out our academy to see just how quick it is to go through lessons based on specific pieces of music.
Because the piano is quite a mainstream instrument, there is plenty of learning material out there, too. This is another reason why it is arguably the best instrument to learn at 50 (or older).
This instrument might be a little bit of a surprise for some people to see on the list, but it is actually a fantastic option for any beginner to learn, whether you are 50 years old or not. If you are a hobbyist and just want to be able to play an instrument for a bit of fun, then the ukulele ticks so many boxes.
For a start, a ukulele is pretty affordable. They can be picked up for around $50 and still sound pretty decent. They are great for those who are on a budget.
Because of the fact that ukes have grown in popularity over recent years, there are also a lot of different learning methods and materials out there including ukulele courses and video lessons. Some manufacturers like Kala even offer their own lessons that come free when you buy their instruments.
The ukulele doesn’t require fingers to be particularly strong. The nylon strings are easy on your hands, and while some instruments that have steel strings such as the guitar will give you calluses and can cause a fair amount of pain while your hands and fingers adjust. This doesn’t tend to be a problem with uke, so if you have sensitive fingers then you might opt for this small, but effective instrument.
There are downsides to the ukulele. While a lot of guitar and piano based songs can be played on the ukulele effectively, they might not sound quite as good. It has a bit of a “thin” sound. Some songs sound amazing on uke, but some others might sound a little uninspiring. The tuning of a ukulele is unusual, too. This isn’t a problem if it is the only string instrument you plan to play, but a lot of people try the uke as a precursor to playing the guitar. Keep in mind the fact that the strings are tuned differently, and chord shapes will be different as a result.
Other than piano, the guitar is probably the most popular instrument out there, but is it the best instrument to learn at 50? Perhaps you have grown up listening to Hendrix and want to try your hand at becoming a guitar virtuoso?
The guitar is definitely one of the more difficult instruments to get to grips with, especially at the start. The tabs can feel like an alien language, and getting your fingers used to moving around the fretboard can be a big challenge. You might even have to build up your finger strength to play effectively.
The best thing about the guitar is that there are a lot of affordable options out there that can be purchased. You don’t have to invest in the Fender Jaguar you have always dreamed of playing to start with, and a budget alternative might be enough to get you underway on your learning journey. Once you improve you can always invest in a more pricey guitar.
Likewise, there is quite a lot of learning material out there, and lots of courses and books that can help you. When you buy a songbook of one of your favorite artists, the chances are it includes the sheet music to allow you to play on the piano, but also tabs for guitar.
Though we don’t have the statistics, I would imagine that the guitar is probably the instrument that is “most quit” in the world. Though a lot of people dream of playing, there are so many hurdles to overcome. Though you might be patient as you have got older, you might still struggle with some of the reasons why most people seem to give up on playing this instrument.
At the elite level, all of the instruments we’ve mentioned pose a lot of challenges. No instrument is truly that easy, but if we are just talking about getting to grips with the basics then it could be that the guitar poses more challenges than the others. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the best instrument to learn at 50. If you’ve always wanted to play the guitar then you might find more motivation to stick with it. Be warned, though, that it could be difficult and frustrating to start with.
Harmonica – Best Instrument to Learn at 50 for Simplicity
You’re 50, and you want to learn an instrument as a hobby. The chances are, you aren’t looking for a career or to start a band, you just want a mental challenge and a rewarding hobby. Playing harmonica might be ideal for you!
Ok, so the harmonica is a pretty unique instrument. It isn’t the most versatile out there and you’re not likely to be able to replicate all of your favorite songs, but for jamming along with some blues, it’s great fun.
The good thing about learning a harmonica is that it is very hard to make it sound bad. These instruments come in key, and wherever you blow on it, the notes are likely to sound good together. This means that you can create something that sounds at least passable very quickly, and without gaining tons of knowledge.
Instruments to (Potentially) Avoid at 50+
We’re not looking to tell people what to do, instead, we want to provide advice on the best instrument to learn at 50. So, if you suddenly decide you want to learn the sitar or waterphone, you have the full support of us at the Pianu team! However, there are certain instruments we’d struggle to recommend to people who are 50 or older, for a variety of different reasons.
Usually, these instruments have one of the following downsides:
- Prohibitive in terms of cost. It might be that you don’t want to spend a lot on your instrument, which might rule out learning how to play the harp!
- Are physically challenging. This might be exactly what you want to go for, of course. It’s up to you whether you want to learn a difficult instrument or not and if you want to learn something that is going to give you a workout, too. Keep in mind that as you get older, some instruments that take it out of you physically might not be easy to keep up with.
- Size. Some of the instruments are huge and you might not have space for it. Church organs won’t fit in the spare room!
- Not enough learning material. You might not want to get lessons in person, so this means you can learn with online lessons. This is fine for a lot of instruments, and our piano lessons online are even designed to give you an interactive learning experience, but for more specialist instruments this is simply not an option.
With this in mind, what are some of the instruments that might be a bit more of a challenge for people who are 50 or over?
We don’t want to generalize and say that if you are 50 you won’t be fit enough, you probably are, and the drums can be a good way to stay in shape. Some amazing drummers have continued into their 70s, 80s and beyond. However, drums are large, heavy, and physically demanding at times. Think about this before you take the plunge and try to learn how to play.
Now, as if to prove us wrong, you can watch the video below to see that if you love drums, the fact they’re more difficult shouldn’t stop you.
French horns are difficult even by the standard of brass instruments, which tend to be pretty tricky. The placement of your lips on the instrument can be difficult to master. On top of that, there’s a huge length to blow the air through and this can take its toll.
The french horn isn’t the most mainstream instrument in the world, but it is tricky to learn how to play, with both the mouth and finger techniques being really tough. It’s also heavy, and finding the right learning equipment or teachers can be tough.
Violin, Viola and Other String Instruments
These instruments aren’t completely unrealistic, especially due to the fact that there are some affordable models now available, and you can usually find lessons in your local area. However, the violin, viola, and a lot of the string instruments out there require an extra level of skill. They don’t have frets to guide you, so you will need to learn the exact hand positions.
None of this is unattainable. If you want to learn violin, don’t let the extra step put you off. However, it is important to weigh up whether or not something different might give you an easier route to success.
Let’s face it, there’s something really cool about rare and exotic instruments. Check out this list of rare instruments. Some of them might surprise you. For example, there is quite a lot of information online teaching you how to play the kalimba, but this is because it’s pretty simple and the instrument is so small and affordable. If you opt for an instrument like the hurdy-gurdy, you’re going to have a tough time learning for all sorts of reasons!
How Will You learn?
Knowing how you will learn can also influence what the best instrument to learn at 50 is for you.
What do we mean by “how”? Well, there are so many different ways to approach learning an instrument. These days, you can use our interactive lessons to learn piano, an app to learn ukulele or a tutor to teach you how to play the drums. It’s really up to you. The internet, and the fact most of us carry around smart devices, means that it is simple to learn in a way that suits you.
If you want to go down the “self taught” route, then you will need to check that there is a lot of material available. Courses, YouTube videos and books. The brilliant thing about this is that you can be learning all the time, even on your commute to work.
Alternatively, if you want to get a teacher, check that there is one available and nearby. If you live in a small town or city, and you buy a french horn hoping someone will be able to give you lessons, you might be out of luck. It sounds obvious, but the more specialist an instrument is, the harder it is going to be for you to learn, and this is true at any age.
For a more mature learner, whether an aspiring pianist or a wannabe Rolling Stones member, it is worth taking a little time to work out your learning style, too. This will play a part in how you absorb the information needed. What do we mean by learning style?
There are four main types of learning style. You might be a visual learner, or you might learn more by doing. This impacts whether you should dive in and try playing or whether you might watch hours of videos first.
This guide can help you to establish which type of learner you are, and you can make a plan for the best instrument to learn at 50, and how you are going to approach it.
The Best Instrument to Learn at 50? Trust Your Gut Feeling
It’s a really good idea to take on all of the information above and consider it carefully when you are looking into the best instrument to learn at 50. However, as we’ve already stressed in this article, you should go for the instrument that stands out to you, and that you find appealing. The piano and the guitar are both great options for the versatility. There are just so many different songs you can play on these instruments, but that doesn’t mean they are your only options.
If you’ve always wanted to play the violin or the drums, it might be a little more tricky to get to grips with the basics. You might spend more, and you might have to devote more time to practice, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it if you love those instruments.
If you’ve got a gut feeling on an instrument, you might well go for it. For most people who don’t have an instrument in mind, though, a more logical approach and even a pros and cons list might help you to decide.
Summary – How to Choose The Best Instrument to Learn at 50
For those who are just looking for a hobby, and who want to have loads of songs to choose from when learning, we would always recommend the piano. However, the guitar or ukulele have a lot of charm, and still have plenty of songs to play. You just have to overcome the initial challenges of getting used to the finger positions.
Many people really value the versatility and flexibility of playing a mainstream instrument, but there are hundreds out there.
Of course, some instruments are far easier than others to learn, and to find the learning resources you need, but a person turning 50 today has more choice than any other 50 year old in history! More instrument learning resources and tools are being created every day. Want to learn the instrument you’ve always adored? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and at 50, you aren’t over the hill just yet!