If you are interested in learning about music, there's plenty on offer for all musical tastes. Whether you want to find out about how to sing, play a musical instrument, read music or start songwriting, there are lots of opportunities around the UK to do so.
Studying about music
Even if you don’t know what specific kind of music you like, there are many ways to delve deeper into the subject, whether you want to understand how to listen to it, to explore its history or to go really deep into the theory of how it was composed. Here are just a few of the ways you can formally study music at colleges and universities around the world.
From your chair, you can study at some of the most prestigious educational organisations in the world through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The hardest task might be deciding what to study and where.
Search on Open Culture or Coursera to find courses from Introduction to Music at Yale to How Music Can Change Your Life at Melbourne University. And if you ever wanted to study at Juilliard School in New York, then here is your chance to watch masterclasses and take online courses. Most of them are free, but to access the full range of learning resources and to get a certificate when you complete, you will need to pay.
If you'd like to dabble a bit before you commit to more formal online courses, we've found some resources to get you started:
Classes and continuing education
For a more social experience, you might prefer taking classes or continuing education courses. The University of the Third Age (U3A) offers a national network of groups that set up adult educational projects, some of which may include lectures about music. Just go to the regional website page to find the U3A resources in your area.
Councils often organise adult education courses, so find out from your local one what they offer, either at your library, by phoning your council or by searching online for "adult music education."
If you prefer to learn in more mixed classes, City Lit in London runs lots of courses in music—ranging from practical lessons for beginners (and up!) to songwriting and music theory. They offer discounts to seniors. Also located in London, Morley College runs a comprehensive range of music courses to suit every style and level of accomplishment.
Increasingly, different venues are providing resources for adults, which can offer a good way to meet people and get involved in the local community. For example, some culture centres offer adult music classes for all kinds of instruments as well as singing classes.
Taking music lessons
However, if you prefer to do more than just watch and listen, you can study at your own pace with a music teacher or even learn online.
You may not get to be Yehudi Menuhin, Dave Brubeck or Barbra Streisand, but you might discover how to play your favourite pieces and enjoy the process. Pianist James Rhodes goes as far as to make the bold claim that anyone can learn Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major on the piano in six weeks, for example, even if they’ve never played the piano before, and his website offers some video lessons.
Many people find music lessons or a music teacher through word of mouth. However, if you haven't heard of any teachers near you, there are a range of websites that provide details of music teachers throughout the UK.
We would advise you to check out how the websites vet teachers or do the vetting yourself by asking for their credentials, references or DBS checks.
- The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM): Register of Professional Private Music Teachers
- Music Lessons Plus
- Registry of guitar tutors
- The Tutor Pages
- UK Piano: Piano Teachers
Of course the physical challenges of holding a new instrument and of listening to sound objectively are massive, but there are some psychological benefits—like patience and determination—that can come with learning at a more advanced age. This article in the Washington Post explores how "More older adults learn it's never too late to pick up a musical instrument."
If you need inspiration, remember that Albert Einstein was a keen amateur violinist. He once said: "I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin." And proving that age is no obstacle, bear in mind that three of the greatest Jewish musicians alive today are violinists Ivry Gitlis (95) and Ida Haendel (89) and pianist Menahem Pressler (94).
Just remember, it’s never too late to learn!