Can Older Guitar Players learn new stuff?

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Guitar Players

Where to start? If you read my blog, you know that I have been playing the electric guitar now for 4 and a half years. I took up the electric guitar when I was almost 53 years old. I had and still have every intention of playing Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. My musical tunnel vision makes it easy for me to choose who to imitate.

I took classical lessons when I was a kid from about 11 years old to 14 years old. They were 1 hour lessons every week, with a recital every month. They say young minds pick up musical instruments easier than older people. I think, in retrospect, I was quite a phenom at the time I played classical guitar.

Anyway, the first time I heard Jimi Hendrix was the last time I played the classical guitar. In fact I never touched a guitar again until 4.5 years ago. I never even touched a guitar pick until then. Why did I give it up instead of going after the electric guitar when I was 14 years old? Cars, motorcycles and anything that moved. No regrets either, I love cool cars and motorcycles, I made a good living at repairing transmissions for over 30 years. But I wish that I took up the electric guitar when I was a kid.

After 4.5 years of studying material way over my head, I’m finding that number one, not too many people play Hendrix and SRV in the first place, and if they do, they don’t want to play with an intermediate player. I have jammed with certain people many times now over the last 2 years. It never seems to work out for long.

I had a Epiphany about it yesterday. The guys I have attempted to jam with have been playing the guitar since Hendrix first blew the world away. They learned at a young age when the muscle memory is more receptive to learning and we have more time to practice the guitar as kids. They learned the music they liked, rock and roll, rockabilly, country or whatever, you get the idea. By and large that is what they played and know their whole lives, the music they loved. And why not?

As a student I learned some Hendrix techniques that were exclusive to Jimi. It took years to make the notes and techniques sound like Jimi. These are hard to execute maneuvers and take lots of practice to master. And I’m not a master by any means. But I’m good at the maneuvers and know a few Hendrix songs.

When I have gone to Jam with most of the folks I have jammed with in the past, we play what they want to play, they are the experienced ones. You know what I found out was that most of them don’t play much Hendrix stuff other than some classics like “Hey Joe” and “Red House”, then they lose interest. Most of the folks I have jammed with don’t even want to learn from me how to execute a Jimi Hendrix maneuver anyway. They are stuck on their own old vibe, and don’t really care to learn from me.

These guitar players are really good players too, but they don’t have any desire to learn new tricks. Not a one of the guys could do some of the Jimi Hendrix maneuvers I can do. Think they were interested? Ha. Not the least.

Here I’m 56 years old, and working my butt of learning what they learned so well as youths when their minds were more pliable and there were days at a time that all they did was practice, eat, go to the bathroom and a get a bit of sleep.

So, what I see is a conflict of interests. Go jam with a guy my age and play what they want to play, or see ya later. No time to learn anything new or give me a few consistent lessons, I’m willing to learn new stuff. Too much trouble for other older guitar players to learn something new. I understand, learn to play our cover song list and you might be able to jam with us, but we ain’t interested in your shit, pal.

You ask Buck from Bucks Guitar modifications, he will tell you I’m a hard working passionate player, who has come a long way in 4.5 years, and says keep on practicing, you will be fine. I’ll keep practicing Buck, for dam sure! I wish he lived in Florida instead of Illinois.

I respect the other players for their skills and the songs they know so well, no problem, but I won’t go back to play the guitar with them. We can all be friends though, have a cook out or go to dinner or a concert. If the people still want to be my friend after reading this!

I don’t think I’m being disrespectful, I just want to bring up an interesting point when it comes to old dogs learning new tricks, I guess it is true for the most part. FYI: For a few months now I have been jamming, or more like learning a bunch of old Wilson Pickett songs, like Mustang Sally, in the Midnight Hour and a many more. A lot of songs that I recognize and enjoy, finding them etched in my mind from listening to them so much in the old days. Lon has been spending his time every Tuesday evening teaching me. I mean we have an hour and a half lesson on rhythm and right hand timing. Then we jam and BS with each other.

I’m learning like crazy from Lon, I see where Jimi Hendrix got his rhythm chops now. Of course Jimi was a genius and played Rhythm for the Isley Brothers and a few other well known acts at that time before he became the greatest guitar player and innovator ever.

I’m committed, I’ll learn anything Lon throws at me, he knows that it takes time and that I’ll play until my fingers bleed to learn what he gives me.

For those of you who really don’t have time to play the guitar with me, it’s your loss. I’ll make it, even if I don’t play on stage until I meet up with Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Next World. I’ll see all of the folks who could not find the time to play with me now too, except I’ll already be in a band. With Jimi Hendrix and SRV.

6 Responses to Can Older Guitar Players learn new stuff?

  1. People are entitled to like whatever music they like–but people who think they are better musicians than everyone else are worth playing with anyway. So, their loss for not wanting to play with YOU, Danny.

  2. pzychotropic

    In answer to the question you have posed… Yes,we old guitarists can learn new stuff – If we chose to.
    I think we all ,(guitarists), get too comfortable with the techniques we’ve become competent with and just repeat the same old stuff.
    My most enjoyable times are when I’ve had a good jam and spontaneously produce a lead run that I had no idea I could do 🙂 Chances are I’ll never repeat it, but I’ll wait for the next one to pop up from the ether.
    Good article – keep them coming.

  3. Hey take it easy on the old dogs there, and you keep practicing, be patient, and please don’t be rushin’ to join that jam band in the sky, they’ll wait.

  4. Here’s to us old dogs — but wiser than most! With you Danny!

  5. Of course older players can learn the guitar. What they usually have over younger players is that they have learned the virtue of patience and they don’t get discouraged as fast.

    If you want to see a cool video about a trick that will help you overcome some of the roadblocks, just go to my website…

  6. I think everyone is capable of learning anything, if they have the desire. I don’t believe in pushing my likes and dislikes on to others. To each, his own.

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