Whether you’re learning flute for the very first time or relearning after a long break (decades anyone?), it’s never too late to start.
Adult learners enjoy tremendous success in learning a musical instrument, with progress at a rate that often leaves younger students in their dust.
And that’s despite having the additional time demands and responsibilities that adult life brings.
So how do they do it??
Based on my own experiences and those of fellow adult learners, I’ve listed 12 reasons why learning flute later in life can put you in the fast lane and have you realising your goals sooner than you think…
You actually like to practice...
For me as a high school student, an hour of practice seemed like an eternity! These days, an hour of playing flies. I get lost in my musical world and laser focused on nailing something that’s been challenging me. I’ve finally connected the dots that practise = progress.
Challenges don't defeat you.
As a teenager you may have just skipped over trouble-spots and hoped you got away with it. But with some life experience under your belt, your problem-solving skills have matured and you can pick apart a problem phrase to slowly work on each element (fingering, articulation, dynamics, where to breath etc) and patiently piece it back together again. The satisfaction of finally playing it through and moving forward is actually kind of addictive!
You can research and buy your own flute.
This is a big one. A good quality flute will mean you no longer have to ‘make do’ with the school’s rental flute that’s been ‘well loved’ or a cheap hand me down from an older sibling due to family budgets. Treating yourself to a well-made flute made from quality materials will mean you no longer need to fight to play beautifully. This flute will allow you to grow into its capabilities, not frustrate and hold you back from your full playing potential.
The internet was invented.
Mind. Blown. The opportunities to learn and play are now almost endless. You can watch flute tutorials and listen to performances from the world’s best flute players anytime and anywhere in the world. Or search for almost any kind of sheet music thinkable and have it delivered instantly to your inbox. Or join online flute player communities and share and learn with players you would never have the chance to interact with otherwise… It’s never been EASIER to learn flute!
You know what kind of music you like.
A lifetime of music has opened your ears to music from other cultures, time periods, genres and composers. Actively listening to a variety of music helps to make you a better player by exposing you to rhythm, tuning, tone, use of articulation, dynamics and vibrato. By hearing them as an audience member, you start to gain an appreciation for all the elements that create an unforgettable performance. And on the simplest level, it prevents boredom!
You want to play, you're not made to play.
The weighty expectations of parents and teachers are largely lifted off your shoulders. Also, most adult learners know the ‘why’ behind their playing. They’re passionate about very specific dreams and goals (some which have been simmering below the surface for decades) which are incredibly exciting and motivating.
You've got freedom to learn the things you want.
Whether you’re learning online or with a teacher, you’re actually free to have fun. You’re not limited to one tired old exercise book or set pieces for examinations. Tell your teacher your flute playing goals and what you want to play - and they'll equip you to get there.
You're not afraid to ask for help.
You’ve realised that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!
It's good for your mental and physical health.
Research shows that musical training actually grows your brain, stimulating new neural connections which act as a defence against memory loss, cognitive decline and diminished auditory function. Your brain gets a work out every time you play, and just like training at the gym - the more you play, the greater and longer lasting the benefits.
You can set goals and manage your time.
Skills honed through running a family or your career mean you know how to get things DONE. (An important skill set to have when the busyness of life can mean your practice time is limited).
It sets a great example for your kids.
It’s amazing to think that your flute playing can positively impact the next generation. Your bravery in trying something new, and the fruits that practice and perseverance brings can inspire your kids both in music and other areas of life, and has the chance to exponentially influence others.
Good job. Excellent analysis and put together nicely.
I started learning flute in an adult beginner band. But didn’t get any teaching on how to play my instrument.
I am participating in an on line lesson series, which is logical and stepwise, but am not progressing as quickly as I would like. I struggle at different times and on different pieces or even notes within a piece with tone, especially when going over octaves and fingerings, not moving fast enough or not remembering the correct ones.
That’s why I was trolling the internet looking for some additional tips or strategies.
I’m hoping I may just find that something that will move the road block.
I do agree with you when you said that learning how to play the flute as an adult is good since adults are more patient and will work hard to figure out where they are going wrong and work on them. That is why I do think it is not too late to learn music despite already having graduated college. I am interested in learning to play the flute, for now, then later I will study the piano. Thank you for the encouraging post.
I love the point you made about how you can choose your own flute based on research you have done if you decide to play as an adult. I played the trumpet in middle school, and I remember having sticky keys and not being very fond of my instrument. As an adult, I think I would rather learn the flute than take up the trumpet again, and being able to choose my own will be a positive change.
Love this article! I am 69 and started to learn flute online just a few years ago. I really like all the extra tips that I can find online, through Youtube etc. And I so agree with all the points you have made here. I was totally unfocussed when I was at school, and wouldn’t stick at anything. How I wish now that I had learnt when I was young. However, I doubt whether it would have given me any more enjoyment than it does now.
This is all,So encouraging! I am 48, I loved the flute but did not practice, At 8yrs old, so my rental flute went back…. I grieved!! and have been dreaming of being a flutist, blowing over empty bottle tops, like a Fog Horn for 40 years. I bought a decent Yammaha 15 yrs ago. It was one of the last things my Dad and I did together, Even though the Rugby was due on… He made time. I am so glad I invested in this instrument. I never appretiated the diversity and fun you can have with the Flute. Somebody once said to me “If you ever get a chance to have a second childhood.. Take It.” A few weeks ago I saw an add for a orchestra starting, I signed up and now my Flute is a dream coming alive, But Its so hard, I am not that computer savey, I live in a terraced house so to try to play the high octaves, That my “Embouchier” see! Lets just say MOUTH.. DIDN’T learn. Today I took myself to a brook with all of Bristols traffic driving overhead to practice, and all I heard was my Flute, that sounded better at least, and the running water.Yet I get home.. I am so squashed in a two up two down 180year old terraced house, I just cant play for the inhibition it causes.
I have five weeks of this project left, I dont want to ever go back to dreaming of this and Music is in my family and this is doing so much to heal bereavement, Music is in everybody and this does so much for communication and forging friendship across the globe, I am finding it hard though…The remembering finger work and where to go, and trying to read the treble Clef for real. Thank You!
Hi Kirstie, Your comment made me smile! I’m so glad you re-discovered the flute and are FINALLY making your dream of playing a reality! I hope I can help you along the way 🙂 If you haven’t already, join my Facebook group for beginner players. Search for “The Beginner Flute Practice Room” and you’ll find us. It’s such a friendly group filled with folks learning to play from all across the world. We share what we are working on, problems we are struggling with and support and encourage one another. As you say, music is best shared with others. All the best!!
Thank you so much, this is great. I used to play flute when I was young and I was good. Then I quit for many years and about a year ago I decided to go back to practicing, I am 57 years old and I feel I don’t have enough air, at least not the way I used to, I’ve got sad and worried and I googled: Playing flute when you are older. and I found this. It’s very sweet and encouraging. Will I get my air back? Is it just a matter of practicing or should I get used to this very little air to play?
Thank you again
Hi Christie. Thanks for this article.
I’m 40 this year and I just started my flute journey less then half a year ago. I was able to find a teacher (locally, not online), dedicate some time for lessons and practice… having no prior music experience means the path is rocky and not easy but I think I might do something good…
There’s one clean disadvantage, at least where I live. And that’s band or orchestra performances. I really wish there was some amateur orchestra… where people could try to play together. In Poland, where I live, I don’t believe there are any.
There are choirs for amateurs (my Dad is a member of such and they have regular rehearsals, they perform in churches, all that jazz), but nothing for instrumentalists:(
And I believe the full potential of a flute could be unleashed in a group.
And this is one clear disadvantage for me, not meaning I’m to stop learning, but surely taking away some of the motivation.
Hi there Pawel 🙂 I totally agree with you here (and can feel your frustration!) Playing in a group is so valuable (not just technically but socially as well). Playing flute just naturally lends itself to being shared with others, and being part of a playing group is a reward in itself for achieving a certain playing ability. And with any hobby that you’re pursuing, if there’s no way to showcase what you’ve learned or apply the skills you’ve worked so hard to master, it’s easy to be left with this feeling of “well why am I even DOING this??” This can be a real danger for online learners too – the isolation from other players and the potential for de-motivation. In fact, it’s the most IMPORTANT reason I started my FB group for beginner players by the way…) I just want to encourage you to stick with it. I’m cheering from the sidelines here in Australia 🙂 If you haven’t already, join our FB group to get involved in our online flute community for starters … and maybe the balls in your court. No local group? Could YOU be the person to start one??? Keep me updated. You GOT THIS!!
An extremely good analysis and very well put. I am now starting to learn from zero knowledge and am at my 60.
I am encountering all issues mentioned but taking them in line.
The only thing that is a bit saddening for me is what was mentioned about lack of local band/orchestra friends to play with.
Now this is a great apportunity for someone to start a startup that allows a few people from different places in the world to play together simuntausly seeing and hearing each other as in a band , only this time, via computer or iPhone .
The FB group is excellent but I need ( and it seems that others as well) a band/group to play together .
Why not be the first developer Christie?😊😊
Dorit, it’s funny you mentioned this – a year ago I found an online orchestra project that sounded really cool! I googled them and its on again this year! Here’s the link https://onlineorchestra.ameb.edu.au/entries/. I’ll post it in the FB group as well to see if there’s any interested people too. This isn’t playing live together, BUT still could be a fun project to be a part of!
I turn 67 tomorrow and am returning to the flute after a LONG absence. I now play keyboards as part of a dinner-music duo and have wanted to be able to play simple solos on the flute to add some variety to our sound. Your list is extremely encouraging to me, and I thank you!
Hi Gordon! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad the article gave you a ‘boost’! Don’t be a stranger, let me know how your return to flute is going – Christie
Yup- studied with a symphony flute teacher in the mid 90’s for 1.5 years. Prior to that was a band kid from middle through high school in the late 60’s- 70’s, played the drums. Have also studied classical guitar for 30+ years. Re-learning flute now for a year. My previous flute teacher worked on tone, used the Rubank/Wye books, and some of the Moyse studies. This first exposure to flute wasn’t easy, but I wanted a perspective on playing a wind instrument versus plucking strings. Now on my own have been using Wye warmups, Pares scale book, Gariboldi etudes, Moyse 18 exercises, and playing through the old Music for Millions Guitar and Flute Duets book. Will later tackle a Bach cello suite since I’ve already been playing it on guitar for years. Looked at the Karg-Elert studies but they’re beyond my abilities for now.
As a re-learner scales, embrochure adjustment, and etudes make a lot more sense now. Recently upgraded from a Yamaha 222 to a 571 model after a year and what a difference in tone, ease of playing. Also tried a Miyazawa flute in Japan- wow, the Brogger key system is amazing and the flute just about plays itself. A far cry from the old Gemeinhardts and Artleys I saw in high school band back in the day…
I have a good experience here. I am a Flute Teacher and many students are senior citizens. They enjoyed the Flute Playing as it was a great experience as well as improved the health aspects. Like, good control over fingers which were shaking , and could sign now , which was not possible earlier. Improved blood pressure fluctuations . Etc.
Even child becomes calm and concentrate on studies after Flute Learnings .
So this really makes sense.
Glad you agree!
I am nearly 67. I used to play the flute in my youth. Is it too late to re-start? Will my mouth muscles be able to sustain an embouchure in all registers?
Hi Andrew. Most of the folks who join are part of our studio are just like you! Former players coming back to flute years and decades after school. One of the things we get asked the most about… you guessed it…. embouchure/ sound/ tone quality across the range of the flute. So you’re in good company 🙂 I’ll be honest, you’ll need to spend a little time reforming your embouchure to focus that air with the correct speed and direction for the clearest, richest sound. But there’s absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that some embouchure flexibility exercises/ long tones/ harmonics will have you sounding great again, relatively quickly. Let us know if you need a little help with that to kick start your return to playing. (My embouchure boot camp is a freebie that I think will really help >> https://www.theflutecoach.com/flute-embouchure-boot-camp/
I am an 85 year old novice, first lesson a few years ago with a good teacher. Mostly on my own now. I love playing my Miramatsu GXIII.
I would like to be in your group but I do not do Facebook. Is FB required?
Hi Mack. Glad you found me 🙂 My Facebook group does require each person to have their own facebook account. But you can always be part of my email community! If you like I can add you and we can keep in touch that way! Christie
All this staying at home really makes us want to try a new hobby. Thanks for discussing how playing the flute can be a way for how my children to be brave and try something new. I might just try searching for instruction videos online so that I can try learning how to play.
Excited to hear that new passion has been sparked for flute. Please drop in for a trial lesson to help you get started and save the second guessing when it comes to what to play (and what to play next!) Thanks for taking the time to write Claire
Hi Christie, Very, very nice article! I played flute in 7th grade. It was my Instrument of choice and was told I did not have enough air. Were they being truthful??? They transferred me to the Violin and Orchestra. Secretly, I believe the band department did not have enough flutes to go around and we had a violin at home. I hated it! I wanted to play the flute and march in the band!!! So at 66 I read music well and want to again try playing the flute! It would give me joy each day just to try playing and practice. I was a professional pianist, played violin for nine years and a performing vocalist for many. Depending on your advise I will try the flute again. Just call me “airless!”
Hi Kathryn – thanks so much for taking the time to write. I really hope I’ve been an encouragement and you can FINALLY get back to flute!! Please keep in touch and don’t hesitate to pop in for a trial lesson and we can work on that air 🙂