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The 6 Best Instruments To Learn When You’re 50+

The 6 Best Instruments To Learn When You're 50+

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As you age you tend to think that you’re unable to do certain things because you’re “too old” to do them any longer.

One of the biggest misconceptions like the expression ‘teaching an old dog a new trick’ is that in your older years you are unable to learn a brand new instrument. Older adults still have the ability to learn, so don’t feel you need to give up on this.

Older adults actually benefit from taking on more hobbies and extracurriculars to keep the brain active and stimulated, so picking up a new instrument is a perfect way to do just that.

The added benefits of music learning include memory retention, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills, which are all important skills to work on no matter what your age. Here we will outline 6 instruments from the easier to the more difficult that you can learn while in your golden years.

It’s never too late to try something new, especially if you have a deep appreciation and love for music.

The Best Instruments to Learn When You’re Over 50 Years of Age:


The Ukelele

This is probably the easiest instrument to play, and it has an added bonus because it is incredibly inexpensive compared to many other instruments. Since it only has 4 strings and no need for a pick like with a guitar, so you can easily learn simple chords and be playing in no time. The instrument itself is very small which makes it easily portable, and lightweight. Most people can actually pick up chords from the uke in as little as a few weeks, so it also proves to be an instrument you can learn quickly, and possibly advance to another instrument from.

The Harmonica

Another simple instrument to pick up, the harmonica also airs on the side of being extremely portable and lightweight, like the ukelele. But the harmonica’s basic requirement is good breathing and breath support since you only need to have a decent lung capacity to master it. It’s difficult to sound bad playing the harmonica because anything you play will be in key. It’s a great choice for anyone who loves folk, blues or country music. There are even studies that have shown that playing this instrument helps with facial paralysis and can protect older adults from the dangers of a stroke.

The Piano

A classical instrument – the piano, although it may seem difficult, can actually be an easy instrument to learn on when starting out. The basic principals of the piano are simple to grasp for most people.  All of the keys are right in front of you, and once you can get a handle on basic music theory it is as simple as playing chords if you want to be as basic as that. Yes, you do have to practice some hand-eye coordination since your goal would be to play chords and progressions with both hands, but there are numerous instructors and practice books out there to help build upon those skills as you go since the piano is a very popular instrument for learning.


The Guitar

Like the piano, the guitar is a widely used and known instrument for beginners, even though chord progressions on this are more difficult to get the hang of. You can most likely master chords within just a few months of practicing to allow yourself to go more advanced in your learning. But even just learning a few basic chords (3, to be exact) you are able to strum out many simple songs because many of them use just a few.

There are many options for a guitar as well, you can choose to have an electric, acoustic, or even a bass guitar. There is also the option to teach yourself since many people who play this instrument are self-taught, so you can learn at your own pace and in your own way, making it easier for you to grasp.

The Recorder/Tin Whistle

These affordable introduction-to-wind instruments are a great choice for older adults. If you’ve always admired the sound of a clarinet or a flute you should definitely pick up one of these to learn. The recorder is one of the oldest instruments there is, and one of the great things about playing is that you can play if you are right or left-handed. It can be played on its own, or with an ensemble if you so desire. This also has the added advantage of being an easily portable instrument for practicing and taking anywhere.

The Tin Whistle is another instrument like the recorder, and there are many beginner books that are easy to follow when learning, even though it is a more challenging instrument to grasp. Just make sure you have a tin whistle tuned in the key of D, (your tin whistle should have the letter D written on it), so it is tuned correctly. With both instruments the technique of “tonguing” and proper breath support is necessary.

The Bongos/Drums

Lastly, the Bongos or Drums are a great percussion instrument to learn. Though not as easy as the others here listed, there are simple ways you can learn. The bongos, in particular, are a favorite because they are conjoined and more portable than a drum set. But either instrument allows you to express yourself in beats, learning timing and rhythm. These instruments would be good to go to an experienced teacher to master since it would be more difficult to self-teach. You can be loud, relieve stress, and really just let loose and have some fun banging away.

Learn about our local NYC drum lessons!

There are some really powerful benefits to taking up a musical instrument at any age. You boost self-esteem, become more social and learn to make friends more easily, and utilize your brainpower.

Learning an instrument after 50 can seem daunting, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t add a little bit of music within your lifestyle, and squash the idea that it is too hard to learn an instrument in your older years.

Try to find a musical event or activity within your community where you don’t see happiness. So go ahead and pick up a new instrument – you will feel much more fulfilled and find joy in life!

13 Responses

  1. The recorder is much easier than the piano. I took piano lessons as a child, and yeah it starts out easy, and then gets hard. I have fooled around on a drum set, and haven’t ever properly studied it, but it is fun to just jam on a drum set. Let me put it this way, if a high school rock band is competing in a battle of the bands and needs an emergency drummer, anyone can just climb back there and sound passable.

  2. I have a key bound ,I use to play on the organ with top keys and cords on the bottom, I used Pinter system or easy play. I am 76 now and what to try again. I had a learning problem in school so I don’t knew if I could learn the way you teach. I want to learn to play the organ,but all I have is a keyboard someone gave me. Please help

  3. Hi Vincent,
    Thanks for your great suggestions.
    I am finding that many of my older (60+ yo) students are having great fun with their saxophones.
    The fingering is, as you know, the same as the recorder, but the saxophone is waaaaaay cooler and much more fun.
    Saxophones have been in famous bands for decades and so many older and retired students just want to play their favourite songs and the songs that they grew up with.
    Have Fun. Play Saxophone. Be Awesome. Repeat.

    Matthew from

  4. I liked it when you said that one of the biggest misconceptions like the expression ‘teaching an old dog a new trick’ is that in your older years you are unable to learn a brand new instrument. My daughter loves music so much. Bow she is in a music school taking voice lessons. I will share this post for her to have an idea on where to find musical instruments in case when will explore other instruments.

  5. I played the clarinet in grade school. At about age 60, I started learning the violin. It’s a much harder instrument of course, but I love it.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement. I am 84 and not to great at balance but I still have my ears!

  7. I used to play the harmonica by ear as a teen, but stopped playing it for a long time until I reached my late 30s and started playing it by ear just like when I was younger. I can play almost anything in that’s possible in ‘c’ on my Honner, but the funny thing is because nobody taught me how to play it, I apparently hold it the wrong way around. I wonder if I can ever unlearn that and learn to play the harmonica properly and as fast as I can now.

  8. I have been learning to play the harp for the last six or seven years and love playing it using chords and singing worship songs! It’s good for the soul!

  9. I took up playing tenor saxophone aged 50. 12 years on I’ve had so much fun, have taken grade 5 sax, play with 2 bands and made new friends. Never too late to start.

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