The Benefits of Music Lessons Later in Life

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The Benefits of Music Lessons Later in Life

Like many people, I took music lessons in school.  Several years of clarinet, a few years of singing. I enjoyed it but my talent level determined that it certainly wasn’t going to be a career for me.  Once university began, music became something that I enjoyed listening to or singing along with in the car.

My secret desire was always to play piano.  But I felt I didn't have time for private lessons and we didn’t have a piano to practice on so it just wasn’t an option.  When my son began violin lessons a few years ago I decided that maybe it was time to try piano.  So I did.

Lessons today are affordable.  Instruments are available on a rent or rent-to-own basis, making it easy to try one or two options before you commit.  You can also trade in or upgrade your instrument as you improve.  And, with instruments like piano and drums, there are more compact, more portable options available than ever before.  And my family loves the fact that the new electric pianos have headphones available so that you can practice in private.


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Although I played an instrument as a youth, there is no pre-requisite to getting started.   Anyone can enjoy learning to play music at any stage in life.  Our neighbour was well into his sixties when he decided to take up piano several years ago, and he is currently working his way through the Royal Conservatory. 

One of the great things about choosing to take lessons later in life is that there are so many talented teachers to select from.  It’s important, and easy, to find a teacher that suits you.  As someone with a busy job and teenagers at home, I was looking for a teacher who would keep me moving forward but not nag me too much when I didn’t practice as much as I should.  If you don’t find the right fit the first time, change teachers.  Much like finding the right pair of jeans, it's a matter of what's most comfortable for you.

Playing an instrument also offers a multitude of health benefits.  Research demonstrates that playing an instrument can impact your physical health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and enhancing your immune system.  A recent study conducted by CHFA and Leger indicated that more than two thirds of Canadians say that their work causes them stress, so it’s great to have a  leisure activity that helps to reduce stress.

By engaging in music making throughout life, you’re also taking part in cognitive exercise and helping your brain stay healthy.  Research indicates that even as little as six months of lessons after the age of 60 have a positive impact on memory, information processing and planning abilities.  An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that musicians who play frequently are less likely to develop dementia.  So the sooner you start, the better, if you’re thinking about the impacts of aging.    

At a time when we’re all more aware of brain health, many of us are trying to keep mentally active by doing crossword puzzles and sudoku.  Music lessons are an engaging and fun alternative, not only challenging your mind, but adding a social component and providing a new leisure activity that you can do alone or with a friend.

Increasing cognitive ability through music training also has other impacts.  As you age it can be difficult to understand what someone is saying when there is a lot of background noise.  Recently researchers at Northwestern University reported that musical training can help you retain hearing abilities such as the ability to hear someone speak in a noisy environment.

Deciding to take lessons later in life makes it something that you want to do instead of something your mom decided was a good idea.  You get to select the instrument and the type of music that you want to learn.  And deciding when, and how often, you want to practice is up to you.  You can build it into your own schedule, pick the time and pace yourself. 

As an adult you can also determine how you’re going to learn.  Do you want to learn how to read music?  Or do you just want to learn a few chords and pick out a tune on your own?  Do you want to follow a structured program with specific levels of achievement?  Do you want to try classical music or just find your favourite songs and learn those?  It’s up to you.


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Most importantly, music is fun.  While I still wouldn’t describe myself as an accomplished pianist, I can play along to my own singing on a few popular songs, or pick out a tune for my own enjoyment.  I’m not quite ready to play for an audience but with a little more practice, I just might be.



After years of playing clarinet in school, Helen Long fulfilled a lifelong dream and started taking piano lessons at Long & McQuade almost three years ago.  In her spare time, she enjoys singing along while her much more musically talented husband plays guitar.

Keywords: music lessonspianolessonshealth benefitsbraincognitive

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