Many famous musicians started playing their instruments at a very young age. This allowed them to put in as much practice time as possible, becoming masters over many years of hard work.

But if you’re not planning on becoming a professional musician, learning to play an instrument late in life can make for an enjoyable pastime.

It will prove to be even more enjoyable if you treat the experience of learning an instrument as a hobby rather than hard work.

The internet has made it easier than ever before to learn an instrument without spending any additional money on lessons or instruction books.

And once you become comfortable with your instrument, you can even start recording some music of your own.

So let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should learn an instrument, as well as some of the challenges that might arise and how to overcome them.

If you’re planning on learning by yourself (i.e. without a teacher), take a look at our suggestions for what instruments may be best for you.

Why It’s a Great Idea

Let’s start off by talking about the major advantages of learning an instrument, regardless of your age and skill level.

A Fruitful Hobby

Playing music is an incredibly satisfying hobby. After all, there’s a good reason human beings have been building and playing instruments for literally thousands and thousands of years.

Learning to play some of your favorite songs or write music of your own is rewarding and can even boost your mood.

It also serves as an effective creative outlet that can help you channel your emotions in a healthy way, whether they’re positive or negative.

Mental Stimulation

Playing an instrument often requires you to think on your feet or improvise. This is especially true when first learning an instrument.

musical instruments

Even if you’re not going to learn musical notation, there will be a fair bit of memorization involved.

And that’s a good thing. It’s challenging while not being overly challenging, making it a great source of exercise for your mind.

It may also help you stimulate parts of your brain that you don’t use often during the course of your daily routine.

Jamming with Friends

Once you can play a few songs on your chosen instrument, you may want to ask your friends whether they play any instruments.

Even if they’re more experienced than you are, it can still be a lot of fun to jam with friends and put together some basic songs.

The most important thing to remember here is that you don’t need to feel embarrassed for still only being a beginner.

Everyone starts out in a similar position, and if you play with others on a regular basis, you’ll likely pick up on some tricks and techniques you might not have found otherwise.

Having a jam session with your friends is easily one of the most enjoyable ways to practice your instrument.

The Challenges

There are definitely challenges that can arise when learning to play an instrument, especially if you’re not starting out at a young age.

The Learning Curve

Learning to play music is a bit like learning a language. You may have heard before that if you don’t learn a language before a certain age, that language will never be one of your native tongues.

This is caused by the way the brain absorbs lingual information during childhood development.

And unfortunately, it also applies to learning an instrument, although to a much lesser degree. For example, there’s a reason the term prodigy only applies to children.

Learning to Play an Instrument Late in Life

But if you’re looking to play music for fun, then this doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. You can still master an instrument, even when starting out as an adult.

It’s also important to note that the first few weeks spent learning an instrument tend to be the most grueling.

At first, everything will seem very complicated and difficult. And what you play probably won’t sound very much like the music you hear on the radio.

But if you commit yourself to the task at hand and practice regularly, you’ll quickly start to see improvement.

Finding the Time

Another significant challenge of learning an instrument as an adult is simply finding sufficient time to practice.

Life can be busy, and instruments do require a serious amount of practice before they become truly rewarding.

Now of course if, for example, you only practice about 20 minutes every week, you will still progress, just at a much slower rate.

So what’s the solution? Well, if your schedule is completely unyielding, you could practice very little at a time. But for most people, there’s at least a little bit of wiggle room in their schedule.

You can cut down on other hobbies and activities and dedicate some of that time to practicing.

Maybe you watch two hours of TV every day. Setting aside 30 minutes of that time to practice will help you learn your instrument much more quickly.

Instruments to Try

So which instrument should you learn? Well, your guiding light on the matter should be finding an instrument you really want to play, most likely an instrument you’ve been wanting to play for a long time.

But beyond that, we have a few recommendations that are cost-effective and have a significant online community that can provide learning resources.

You may also want to check out this list of inexpensive and uncommon instruments as well.


While real grand pianos are expensive and take up a lot of space, keyboards can be much less expensive and highly portable.

Piano-playing skills can be transferred to many different sounds and instruments, including the accordion, the keytar, synthesizers, and midi controllers as well.

Learning to Play an Instrument Late in Life


Guitars are extremely popular and there are many to choose from, including some budget-friendly options that still sound great.

Best of all, the online resources for learning guitar are robust and impressive. From instructional videos to song-specific tutorials and tablature, you won’t have to spend any extra money on learning materials.


The saxophone isn’t just a classic band instrument, it’s also a versatile sound that works across many different genres.

Online resources for learning saxophone aren’t quite as numerous as those for piano and guitar, but once you understand the basics of improvisation, you’ll be able to play without sheet music of any kind.