Are You Too Old to Start Learning Bass?

“If we were professional athletes, our careers would be over”

By Jon Liebman
Week of September 30, 2019

How old were you when you started playing bass? 

Maybe you were just a kid. Or perhaps you were in your teens or 20s. Getting a head start on learning an instrument is never a bad thing. Today, after all those years, or even decades with the instrument, you’re likely to have at least something to show for your efforts.

But what if someone doesn’t start on the bass until they’re in their 50s or 60s, or even older? Is it too late for them to learn something useful, and create an enjoyable experience for themselves?

Of course not!

The topic came up in my interview with Andrew Gouché, published this week. During the interview, Andrew (who just turned 60, by the way) had some very encouraging and inspiring things to say about latecomers to the bass.

“You gotta love it, he says. “That will help you when you get discouraged,” no matter how old you are when you begin.

“Everything is hard,” Andrew continues. “Everybody sucks when they first start out.” But the more you keep at it, he says, things will eventually become easier.

Think about it. A 50 or 60-year-old, presumably, has a lot more maturity and discipline than a 15-year-old. Anyone that picks up a bass for the first time at an older stage in life does so because he or she wants to learn and grow. People in this situation are likely take of a “let’s figure this out” approach. No pressure, just fulfillment and enjoyment.

Interestingly enough, an increasing number of the signups to our bass school here at FBPO are people – mostly men, but a fair number of ladies too – in their 50s and 60s, who have always wanted to learn to play the bass and now have the time to do it. I love the comments and feedback from my students, telling me how much they’re learning from our courses, and how much they’re enjoying their newfound ability to groove on the bass!

“If we were professional athletes, our careers would be over,” says Andrew. With the bass, though, it’s never too late to start. “You can 50 or 60 years old and start playing bass.”

How about you? Are you a late starter to the bass, or know of someone who is? Leave a comment below and let me know your story. 

In the meantime, check out my interview with Andrew here.

Comments on Are You Too Old to Start Learning Bass?

  1. Carlton Adams says:

    I’m a late re-starter at 58, and loving it! I played in HS & college, but got away from it. Now I have renewed perspective and energy, and I’m even trying my hand at upright!

  2. Mark Hopkins says:

    I started playing guitar at 15, switched to bass at 48. I should have switched much sooner. I’m 56 now and I adore playing bass!

  3. ALAN J SCHARRER says:

    I started playing when I was 13 and played in every possible style of music group I could find to supplement my income until I graduated college.(Being in Wisconsin at the time, polka was BY FAR the most lucrative). Life happened and my bas was stored until a recent health issue (at age 59) allowed my interest to return. Now I play daily to fufill that missing creative need. I am now 61 and loving every day…and every bass!

  4. nick sanchez says:

    As a kid, i learned to play a few chords on guitar. Beyond that, I had no musical experience. At 42 years old I had a desire to learn an instrument. I chose bass. At first I was self taught, later took private lessons, enrolled in theory and String Instrument classes at a local community college, played double bass in the community college orchestra, and now I have my own latin jazz/rock band. I am loving it!

    Nick Sanchez

  5. marcus davis says:

    I started playing Bass when I was 18 years old.You’re never too old to learn anything in my opinion.But yes you definetly have to love.

  6. Mike Strong says:

    When I was 8 or 9 years old there was a segment on The Today Show. They came back from a commercial break, with no introduction, there sat a very old man with a cello. He began to play a Bach Cello Suite, and it was beautiful. When he was finished playing the new girl, Jane Pauly rushed out to him applauding, saying, “You play so beautifully, you must have been practicing your whole life.”

    “Nope, just started studying music when I was 92, and I’m 95 now, so – only been playing the cello for three years.”

    “So how did you get so good, without a lifetime of study and practice”?

    “Well, I’ve learned a few things in my life, and I guess you could say, I’ve learned how to learn. Now I apply that knowledge to music and the cello.”

    As a little kid, I was really struck by that, and I announced to my family, “when I’m an old man I’m going to learn how to play the guitar”!

    I’m 58 years old now, and have been slowly making room in my life for the study of music and the electronic bass guitar.

    I really suck now, but I’m totally stoked about how good I’ll by the time I’m in my 80s !

  7. Steve Garneau says:

    I’m 58. I don’t know how that number got so big, so fast. Anyway, love the sound of the bass and the groove it brings to a song. I learn something everyday!

  8. FrankEds says:

    I started out on Ukulele and play at a uke club and in an off-shoot band.
    Our bass player left to pursue other things and I took up bass to fill in. Now I can’t stop and am now the regular bass player in the club and the band.
    At age 63, I agree you’re never too old to start. Just get going and the bass bug will not let you go!

  9. jdashiell says:

    I played at 15, 16 and was ok. I could play bits that I heard. I was raised on rock in the 60s and 70s and started then. But I got away from it for many years.
    College, marriage, kids, ….
    Now I’m 64 and have been restarted for the past couple of years. Encouraged by my father-in-law who is 94 and plays clarinet like Benny Goodman!
    We go to Tritone Jazz camp for the past 3 years now. What fun!
    It’s a struggle but sooo worth it. I enjoy playing bass. There is no better instrument!!

  10. Greta James says:

    Thank you so much for pointing out that trying any new thing will be difficult but starting an instrument later in life will allow you to have more discipline and maybe learn faster! About a week ago, I decided that I need a new hobby. I have always wanted to learn about the bass guitar: its components, how it works, and how to play it! I am excited to start this journey; I will have to look into the parts I will need to get a high-quality bass.

  11. Ted says:

    I started learning bass after a 45 yr layoff. At that time I was 66 yrs old. To be sure I was serious I rented a bass for 5 yrs.
    if after 5 yrs I am still practicing and taking lessons with an excellent teacher, I will invest in my own bass, which I did. I new the first thing I needed to do was to do lots of scales and arpeggios and read, read, read. I volunteered for several chamber groups and full orchestras. Today I
    continue that process but with more emphasis on solo rep.
    and lots of listening and using the metronome. In my youth
    I studied opera, oratorio & choral conducting at Westminster
    Choir College & Mannes College of Music. Today as an 84 yr
    old I’m having lots of fun. During this entire time I have been blessed with phenomenal teachers.

    Yours,
    tjw

  12. CeliaBradley says:

    At age 59 I suddenly started ‘hearing’ the bass in the music I listened to in the car, just because I got a car with some decent speakers. Then I really wanted to learn to play – I bought myself a bass guitar for my 60th birthday and some books with CD’s and began teaching myself. I quickly developed a passion for the bass and have played nearly every day for the past 18 months and I can say my experience of learning throughout my life has helped me make faster progress. I am totally amazed at the versatility of the bass guitar and I really can’t learn quickly enough – I love it! I’ve played acoustic guitar since I was 15 but now I realise I didn’t understand the chords or the music I was playing – I’m not just learning to play bass now, I’m becoming a musician and it’s really exciting.

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