There is one question that gets asked above all the rest, one thing that everyone wants to know: can I still learn to sing at 20, 30, 40… and even beyond that?
At 24, is a professional singing career out of reach? Can you get as famous as Lady Gaga, or any other famous singer? For the hobbyists out there, is it even worth taking lessons at 52 years old… if you’ve always self-proclaimed yourself as “tone deaf”? Read on as voice teacher Douglas W. answers the commonly asked question.
Am I Too Old to Learn to Sing?
I’m very happy to tell you that the answer is that you are never too old to learn to sing!
Think about it: you’d never tell someone that they were too old to learn a language, or that it’s too late to get in better shape. We all have to start somewhere, and getting past the mental block of ‘I’m too old to do this’ opens up the door to so many different possibilities for you in life.
The Myths & The Truth
I had a 32-year-old student who constantly feared that she’d never be any good due to starting so late. We’d been working hard, and as I was packing up my stuff to leave, I started absentmindedly humming part of a song we’d been working on.
She was listening, picked up the tune, and absolutely slayed a part that had been giving her trouble for weeks! In that moment, the burden of years dropped away, and she was simply a person feeling the utmost joy in her musical agency. That’s the kind of thing that taking voice lessons can give you, at any age.
It’s a flat-out myth that you either ‘have it or you don’t,’ or can only do it if you start out young. While you certainly have more time to develop if you start out early, and some people are born with natural gifts that make it easy for them, dedication and hard work are what take you where you want to go.
Now, here come the excuses…
“I already took lessons and didn’t get much out of them, what’ll be different this time?
While I believe every student should absolutely set their sights high, we do have to be realistic about what our voices can and can’t do.
I can’t hit the same notes as someone like Mariah Carey, but I’ve definitely improved my comfortable singing range in both directions, and can absolutely help you do the same. Starting with a good, solid foundation can help you manage your expectations, so you can enjoy your successes more, small as they may seem!
I know that personally, when I started out at 17, I didn’t see results as fast as I thought I would, and I got frustrated because of it. I made things much harder for myself by not enjoying the process of learning and being overcritical of myself.
But this is what teachers are great for! Learning in a vacuum is difficult, but having someone there to encourage you, keep you on track, and hold you accountable will help ensure you’re progressing as fast as you can, and, most importantly, taking joy in each step of the way. Singing is not a competition or a race; it’s about developing your tools to express exactly what you feel in your heart in a way that can be heard in your voice.
“I don’t sound like Bruno Mars (or whoever your favorite singer is), who says I can now?”
The beautiful thing about singing is that everyone has their own voice. You don’t sound exactly like me, and vice versa. This seems like an obvious point, but it’s something to think about. Some of us get into music chasing our idols without remembering that we have our own unique stories and feelings. You might need help bringing out your voice, and that’s alright! That’s what a great instructor will help you do.
“It’s definitely too late to be noticed for my singing, isn’t it?”
This is patently false. Hard work will trump ‘natural talent’ any day of the week, for any age who might think to try! Bill Withers, he of ‘Lean on Me’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ fame, didn’t release his first album until he was 34 years old! Sheryl Crow didn’t release her debut album until she was 31, and many other singers have struggled before becoming famous.
The point is, if you have music in your spirit that needs to get out, it doesn’t matter how old you are. What you put into it will truly be what you get out of it. Enjoy the process of learning and creating, and you never truly lose.
Even if you don’t aspire to be famous, there are plenty of goals you can work toward. Some great ones to start out with are:
- Extending your range a bit
- Being more comfortable singing in front of other people
- Nailing your favorite song to sing along to
- Joining a choir
- Strengthening a specific part of your voice (e.g. head voice, mix voice)
It is never too late to better yourself or learn something new. Learning to sing is a great way to do that.
For a long time, the idea that I couldn’t learn as an adult kept me from trying things. If you’re at all interested in learning anything, be it singing, an instrument, or a language, I implore you to give it a try! There are so many amazing teachers here that the only limit to how far you can go will be your desire to learn.
And in every little success, every hurdle overcome, you’re working toward a passion you can enjoy your whole life, no matter when you start.
Readers, are you worried you’re too old to learn to sing? Leave a comment below and share your story with others!