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Do Children Learn Instruments Quicker Than Adults

Do children learn instruments quicker than adults?

How often do parents praise their children's progress on an instrument with the words 'I could never do that'.  Is it true that children learn instruments quicker than adults?  There is surprisingly little research evidence to confirm or deny so opinion tends to be personal and anecdotal.

1. Neural connections.  We are told that as we age we lose brain cells and therefore neural connections.  Whilst it may be true that children have more neural connections than adults it is not just a question of how many connections there are in a brain but how well they are used.

2. Learning environment.  Children are in a constant state of learning and therefore perhaps more 'tuned in' to gaining new skills and understanding.  It is undoubtedly true that as we get older we can get into an environment where we are constantly repeating existing knowledge and experience rather than gaining new knowledge and experience.

3. Attitude.  If we create a learning environment we are more likely to absorb new ideas and information and be receptive to new learning. As with all new learning, wanting to learn is perhaps more important than simply finding the time to learn.

4. Natural aptitude.  It is always an interesting debate regarding nature and nurture.  Why do some people appear to excel in areas where others do not.  What does being 'musical' actually mean?  Are some children/people better at playing instruments or are they simply the ones who are more determined and practice for longer ?  There is a theory that 10,000 hours of practice as a child is needed to create a top class player so is it just about determination rather than so called 'musical' ability?

5. Distractions.  Adults tend to have lives that are well established in terms of filling up the day.  Things like going to work, cleaning the house, looking after children etc. create a timetable of activity that can leave little time for anything else without considerable self discipline to create that additional time.  Children can have a much better attitude to their time management and can be very single minded when it comes to setting aside time for what they consider to be important to them.

For what it is worth, my father starting learning the piano after he retired.  It is never too late and it always comes down to doing what you enjoy.

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