Middle-Aged Woman Learns to Play Guitar

Like many women, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding things that I’m not good at. I don’t like struggling (too much) or failing, so I naturally chose courses and majors where I excelled.

I was good at school, so I eventually earned a Ph.D. I studied communication and education and enjoyed a career teaching college. I’m also a writer who’s published non-fiction and crime fiction.

Despite a lifelong interest in music, I avoided learning a musical instrument after a less than successful attempt to learn the piano when I was young. Probably too young. It was my mother’s dream, not mine, and I was an undisciplined and unfocused eight-year-old. Gosh, I wasn’t even good at school yet.

My teacher, Mrs. Barber, was a wonderful woman, kind and patient. It was in no way her fault that I failed so miserably. It was mine. I told myself that music was something I could not do, but, fortunately, it turned out, much to my relief, I was good in other areas.

A couple summers ago I decided I wanted to learn to play the electric guitar. My teaching career was winding down, and I was at an age where I no longer cared if I was among the best at everything I did. One nice thing about getting older is shedding the burden of doing things without worrying about failure. I had the degrees, the teaching and writing awards, the published books. These were tangible things that no one could take away from me–even if I failed at learning the guitar.

So I was freed. My first guitar was a beginner’s one. The Fender Squire came with an amp, case, and other assorted accessories. It’s not considered a real guitar by musicians, but it’s perfect for $99.

Fender Squier

Fender Squier

les paul guitar

Epiphone LP-100


After six months I decided I wanted a better guitar. After some research, I decided on an Epiphone LP-100. I lust after other guitars, but for now it serves my purposes.

I took several lessons from Justin Sandercoe on http://justinguitar.com and highly recommend his site. I’ve also read many books on guitar playing, music theory, etc. The ones that resonated the most with me include Gary Marcus’ Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning and Anthony Pell’s Learning to Play the Guitar: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide. I’m also a huge fan of the PC video instructional game Rocksmith and will write more about that experience in future posts. I’ve also gotten tips, advice, and inspiration from my guitar-playing cousin Matt. My partner, too, has given me lots of help and encouragement. She has never had a lesson, hates Rocksmith, but can listen to a song and then effortlessly recreate it. It’s maddening. We learn in different ways, and that has been a learning experience in itself.

So where am I now? I try to practice at least an hour every day. I can play most of the common chords and have far more understanding of music theory, songwriting, and guitar technique than ever before. However, I am not excellent. I would rate myself as fair. I am sure a twelve-year-old could easily outplay me. I struggle to learn new material and often feel frustrated. There are many days I feel like a failure. But I enjoy playing the guitar and look forward to it every day. Fortunately, I’m at an age and in a position where I don’t have to be the best, and I have the luxury of doing things that make me happy and can say no to (most) activities that bring me little joy.

This is the first post for this blog, but I plan to post occasionally with reviews, insights, recommendations, experiences, etc. Check back to see where I’m at on the journey.

Meanwhile, go ahead and try something you think you’re not good at. Who knows? You might have some fun.

9 Responses to Middle-Aged Woman Learns to Play Guitar

  1. I concur, Lynn, on trying a new thing. Like my mother, I was never much interested in cooking. I prefer baking if I have to be in the kitchen at all. A few years ago, unemployed while husband worked away, it became my job to cook. What a challenge! Just reading and understanding the instructions was a chore. I managed and we’ve survived many an effort with our taste buds in tact. However, I must admit how happy I am that my husband resumed those duties and that I only occasionally venture near the pots and pans. Good luck on your guitar playing!

    • Lynn Kear says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rose. Sometimes we’re forced to learn something new, but, yes, it’s much less stressful when we choose it on our own. I’m sure you stepped up and did a great job!

  2. David says:

    I’m not sure I’ll put the time and discipline into it that you’ve given to your guitar study, but I’m planning to take a beginner’s art class at the age of 50-something. I think it’s important to remain open to new things, and certainly as writers almost anything we experience enriches our work.

    • Lynn Kear says:

      Thanks for your comment, David. I’m definitely using a different part of my brain for learning music than I do for writing, but I am finding that I now think about music at least as often as I do about plot, dialogue, etc. Enjoy your art lessons! By the way, I know I owe you an email. Maybe tomorrow–I’m finishing up Killing Rosa.

  3. Anthony Pell says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Glad to find that you found my book to be helpful in learning to play the guitar. Thought I’d also mention that my blog http://www.learningtoplaytheguitar.net has regular lesson updates and I am adding song lesson to my Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/learntoplayguitarnet on a regular basis too.

    If you’re practicing an hour a day you will continue to make progress. Some days will be better than others but overall your playing will improve!

    Anthony Pell.

  4. Philip says:

    Those who fail are those who never attempt. Keep up the playing.

  5. JD says:

    Well, your posts are coming from a position of relative strength; you’ve accomplished goals that make you appear successful, to yourself and others. What if EVERYTHING you tried failed, then you set out to learn guitar, as the very last thing you haven’t yet attempted, and have failed at that, as well?? Would you recommend finding strength in endless loss [or some such platitude]?? Or do people convince themselves that they’ve succeeded at something that is, in reality, a failure??

  6. Me sun sun says:

    Hello, I’m a post grad arts and going through a mid life crisis. I was googling around looking for other women who have felt the urge to play the electric guitar…lots about men..hehe. Like you I was told to buy a squier … Do you play with a band? Or did you form one? Any updates on where you are at right now with guitar playing? I live in a the burbs and am sure other people feel the same way as me…always wanted to play the guitar. What amp did you get when u started out ? Accessories?

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