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5 Musical Instruments for Older People to Learn

• Written by Josh


Did you ever want to be a famous musician when you were a child?  Perhaps you dreamed of selling out concert halls or filling stadiums across the globe.  As we get older, it's easy to feel like we've missed out on some chances in life.  Not all of us were lucky enough to have music lessons as children.  However, you will be pleased to know that it's never too late to take up a new hobby!  It's important for older people in particular to engage in hobbies in order to stay mentally, physically and socially active.  Musical instruments are a perfect example.

In general, keeping your brain active is hugely helpful in the fight against dementia.  But finding an instrument to learn at 50 or later will also help to improve your time management and organisational skills.

Today's we'll be sharing five popular musical instruments for adults to learn.  If you're looking for more ideas, why not check out our in-depth guide to hobbies?

Benefits of Learning Musical Instruments

Brain Function

There are so many benefits to learning a musical instrument in later life.  Firstly, it can boost your brain power.  By picking up a new instrument, you stand to improve not only your memory and motor skills, but also your reaction times and multitasking ability.

Stress Reliever

Listening to music is a relaxing pastime for many of us, but did you know that playing music yourself can have the same effect?  What's more, decreasing stress comes with the double benefits of reducing high blood pressure and heart rate.  It's a win for both mind and body.

Sense of Accomplishment

While learning an instrument requires some discipline, the rewards are more than worth it.  With a combination of hard work and patience, you will see a boost to your confidence and a wonderful sense of achievement.

The 5 Best Instruments For Adults To Learn

Let's take a look at the best and easiest instruments for older adults to learn.  Here are our top 5:

1. Piano


The piano is one of the most popular musical instruments that people often try to master.  It's very versatile, allowing you to play songs in a wide range of styles.  This instrument will help your co-ordination, since you'll often need to play different melodies with each hand.  But worry not - remember, if you're able to type on a computer keyboard, you're already halfway there!

Given the piano's popularity, there are bound to be a few teachers in your local area.  However, if you don't have the time or budget to book one-to-one lessons, do not despair.  The internet is a wonderful resource for video lessons, tutorials, and sheet music.  Many of the all-time greats are self-taught, such as Prince and David Bowie.  You don't even need to read sheet music.  Many YouTube tutorials can teach you songs by sight, showing which keys to press in which order.

Besides the health benefits we have already discussed, learning to play piano will also expand your cultural knowledge as you discover new pieces of music to play.  A standard upright piano will probably cost you a few hundred pounds.  For those on a tighter budget, you can pick up a digital keyboard for as little as £40.

2. Guitar


The guitar is often considered to be the "coolest" musical instrument to learn.  There are plenty of options available too: from electric to acoustic, classical to bass, all provide different sounds and styles.

Most people can master basic chords and scales fairly quickly.  Thereafter, you can turn your hand to the other skills you'll need in order to truly master this instrument.  Eventually though you'll be able to play a whole range of songs.  Be sure to check out websites like Ultimate Guitar to find tabs (a popular alternative to traditional sheet music) for all your favourite tunes.  If you get the hang of playing guitar then your social life could also improve.  Opportunities may arise for you to join a band or to play in local cafes and pubs. You could even play your own little gigs for your loved ones.  If you're looking for an instrument to bring people together, then the guitar could be the one for you.

In addition, the guitar will boost your attention span and sharpen your memory.  You'll also become a great multitasker, as Liberty Park Music explains, you'll be able to:

  • Read guitar tabs and scores.
  • Create the right chord shape with your hands.
  • Concentrate on playing the notes accurately.
  • Read ahead for upcoming notes.
  • Keep time.

Some basic acoustic guitars are available for around £40-50, but a top of the range model could set you back thousands.  Remember, there is no need to shell out for an expensive guitar to begin with, but there is nothing stopping you from treating yourself once you've got the hang of it!

3. Ukulele


If the guitar isn't your thing, then perhaps the ukulele will suit you better.  This smaller instrument is generally considered to be one of the easiest to learn, as well as being an inexpensive and portable option.

The ukulele has four strings (usually made from a soft nylon-like material) compared to the guitar's six.  It's considerably smaller with a thinner neck, making it ideal for those with smaller hands.  It's also easy to find ukuleles in bright colours and patterns if you're looking to express your personality.  As for the instrument itself, the ukulele has a bright and cheerful sound.  Most people grasp the essential ukulele chords within a few short weeks, and doing so puts you in a perfect place to play more complex songs or advance to guitar or violin.

Other benefits of choosing the ukulele include:

  • Small and easy to carry around.
  • Lightweight.
  • Affordable.
  • Fewer strings means chords are easy to memorise.

What's more, a quality ukulele will generally cost less than many basic guitars, while you can pick up a basic ukulele for less than £20.  This instrument is a great option for anybody on a budget.

4. Harmonica

The harmonica is altogether a less common choice than the other musical instruments on our list.  Nevertheless, we think it's a great choice for beginners.  This little instrument is as affordable as it is portable.

It's often said that it is hard to sound bad whilst playing the harmonica, as any note you play will be in key. In addition, by learning harmonica you will increase your lung capacity and breath control.  Some hospitals in the USA are even starting their own harmonica bands to help patients with reduced lung capacity and other respiratory issues.  Furthermore, playing the harmonica can also form part of recovery treatments for survivors of strokes, as it strengthens facial muscles and co-ordination.

The harmonica is perfect for fans of blues, folk, and country music in particular.  You can pick one up for under £10 and most models will fit in your pocket, so you can go anywhere to practice or perform.

5. Drums


If you're looking to unleash your inner rock star, look no further than the drums. Of all the musical instruments out there, it's the drums which let you be as loud and expressive as you want to be.

The drums aren't too difficult to learn, but most people do recommend that you learn with an experienced teacher. It can take a few months of practice on the drums to be able to produce solid, steady beats. Here are some key benefits of learning to play the drums:

  • Playing is a great way of relieving of stress.
  • They will give you a confidence boost - it takes guts to play loud!
  • Drums can boost your maths skills - counting out beats can help you with fractions.
  • They're a great workout for body and brain - you'll be using all four limbs and working hard to co-ordinate them.

The only real drawback with the drums is the cost of buying your own kit and the space they take up.  Electronic drum kits can be slightly more compact and affordable, plus they give you the option of plugging in headphones to avoid angering the neighbours!

Other Musical Instruments

All in all, we would recommend picking up any musical instrument you like, be it a cello, a banjo or even something as seemingly simple as a triangle! If it seems like something you'd enjoy, be sure to give it a go. These days, musical instruments are more affordable than ever, particularly if you buy online. Alternatively, you can get in touch with your local music shop (many of whom will let you try an instrument before you buy) to get expert advice.  We think the benefits to your health, fitness, and wellbeing will speak for themselves, but don't forget about all the great fun you could have by picking up a musical instrument!

If you're looking for more inspiration, why not read our in-depth guide to the top 15 hobbies for older people?

Staying Safe At Home

We recommend taking up new hobbies and learning new skills because, here at Lifeline24, we don't believe that getting older should mean giving up your independence.  For the same reason, we also recommend that you consider getting a Lifeline personal alarm.  Our life-saving service gives you and your loved ones peace of mind, reassuring you that help is always available.

To find out more about how we can help you, read our quick guide to pendant alarms.  You can also call 0800 999 0400 to speak to our friendly Customer Service team, who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.  Alternatively, you can order your alarm online today.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 21 May 2020 to reflect current information.

Previously updated 21/01/20.  Originally published 08/06/18.

11 Thoughts On This Blog
23/08/2019 at 6:38

Great. What about the trumpet?

Penny Wolf says:
01/05/2020 at 12:39

What about the flute? I’ve always loved it. But you don’t mention this as a good choice for oldsters. Is it more difficult?

Aimee says:
05/05/2020 at 2:14

Hello Penny, The flute is also a great choice. It involves correct breathing techniques, which can be a difficult element to learning but once achieved is especially beneficial for the elderly. Thanks, Lifeline24

Lynette Burkey says:
17/07/2020 at 1:58

I’ve never played an instrument. I’d rather not learn one requiring strength of lungs. Unfortunately and sadly. Guitar sounds like fun I think. I just don’t know. I’m scared my mind won’t allow me to remember notes or chords or whatever you call them. I’m afraid I can’t learn anymore. Can you imaging how that must feel? See my dilemma? I want this bad but I’m afraid. Can you help me figure something out? I’m 62 YO and worked as a paralegal.

Rebecca L says:
21/07/2020 at 10:04

Hello Lynette, It can be challenging to learn an instrument for the first time. A guitar sounds like a great choice. If you dedicate some time each week to learning and improving then you will be able to slowly master and remember a few basic chords. There are lots of great guides for beginners to help you get started. Although it is daunting, the rewards will be worth it. Best wishes, Lifeline24

Christiana says:
12/12/2020 at 10:27

I am a younger person and have played many instruments, but I was limited by hand pain. I think ukulele is a better choice than guitar if you have chronic pain. The smaller size and lighter strings are great if you don’t have a lot of grip strength. I’ve been playing ukulele for a few years and my hands are starting to get strong enough to handle playing on a guitar. I have also heard that electric guitar is a better choice than acoustic if you have hand or wrist pain.

James Dotson says:
17/09/2021 at 9:28

Cello string instrument I would like to know how to play one and how to obtain one

Brennan Devine says:
30/09/2021 at 10:32

Hiya James, Thank you for commenting- Gear4music has a wide selection of instruments including cello’s. I have also found a tutorial on youtube to help you learn how to play. Kind regards, Lifeline24

Kathleen W. says:
01/10/2021 at 10:59

Hi: My mother taught me how to play a guitar when I was a teenager,then after I got grown I saved money /got a piano,so I bought some books to learn how to read music,I also taught my daughter how to read music,it’s a very good hobby,I enjoy playing my piano.

Brennan Devine says:
05/10/2021 at 11:09

Hi again Kathleen, Thank-you for your continuous comments- I must say you’re starting to sound like a very impressive person! I hope you and your daughter had a great time learning how to play the guitar. Kind regards, Lifeline24

Norma Little says:
24/06/2022 at 10:09

I have tried to learn to play the keyboard, but I just really struggle to read music which really puts me off. I have had some lessons but find to have someone there while I learn puts me off so I gave up. Hopefully I might have more time to learn now. Regards Norma

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