In late 2015 I sent an email to three music teachers in my area. I said to them that as an adult I wanted to learn music theory. I said that I didn't know anything about music but I was enthusiastic. 

I got no reply whatsoever. All three music teachers never replied to my email. So that got me thinking. Why? One lack of a reply well OK maybe my email went to their spam bucket, too busy etc, but THREE? 

After awhile I started to wonder about if adults weren't wanted. Maybe these teachers, in spite of saying on their websites that they were prepared to teach anybody, didn't want people of my age [ I said my real age in the email] .

Age discrimination? Anyone else had a similar experience?  

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  • I started to take guitar lessons at the age of 58, because I was studying for conservatory exams. I can tell you that the instructor was happy to have an adult. Most music instructors teach a steady stream of kids who try for a year or two, then quit because it's hard.

    It didn't work out, unfortunately. He didn't know what to do with me, as I had been playing guitar for 40+ years, and I really needed to learn more advanced theory and ear training, and sight reading, and how to apply it to my playing. Most music teachers, while they know that stuff, rarely teach it. They're used to teaching very basic knowledge.

    So, they are either heavily booked already, or are not quite sure what it is they would teach you. Age discrimination? I doubt it very much.
  • Thanks for the replies! Since the tide of the thread has turned this way I should say my broad intent. 

    My music is 100% electronic in FL Studio. But when I say that people might conclude that I am some beat bopping guy. In fact I like to do piano compositions. I don't have a midi keyboard. I compose in Finale and import into FL Studio. I would like to make what I call "atmosphere piano experimental music" with some added synths, samples etc. I want to do this properly. I don't want to throw sound together. It seems already from my embryonic attempts that I've published on this site that I have sensibilities for minimalist/modern approaches to piano playing and piano composing. 

    I have Auralia, Musition and "Understand Music Theory" by Margaret Richer which is great because it comes with a CD of exercises. I also got a book of piano music so that I can learn the things that people have already done: John Thompson's Adult Piano Course. 

    I am trying to get a balance between theory and actually playing. My learning style is to DO stuff rather than learn about it. So far I believe in all 100% honesty that I do have ability at music. In Musition I'm getting the hardest aural exercises 100% right - ones that depend on some music theory that I do not know such as symbols that are Klingon to me. Yet I get them right when I have to move notes around to get it right. In other words I have to show some musicianship. How much ability I don't know. I think that it is worth my time and hard work to find out.I'll read the Shoenberg book - thanks! 

    So in the end I am teaching myself and that is working. No body wanted to teach me in my area and that is OK. I still think that my age had something to do with that. The only learning tool that failed for me was the theory course on Lynda: I couldn't get that at all so I turned to Musition etc instead. By the way I have good ears still; I can tell chords apart that are very, very close together. I have taken good care of my hearing. I have never, ever, listened to music in headphones. 

    Again, thanks for the help. My aim by the end of 2016 is to put an album onto Soundcloud. 



  • As a music instructor of music theory and composition I know I dont age discriminate. Many of my students are much older than me. Nor have my professors, I have had classes with people well into their 50s. 

    As for your case, it might be that they specialize specifically in young children or are part of a university system but you can really know. I wouldn't jump into age discrimination right away because their might be a lot of factors for why your emails were not responded too. 

  • Hello, Andrew,


    Your situation is not entirely dissimilar to mine, in terms of interest, music genre, previous training and age.  I don't think you suffered "age discrimination," as such.  I think it was when you said this, that a prospective teacher might have lost interest: 


    "I said to them that as an adult I wanted to learn music theory. I said that I didn't know anything about music but I was enthusiastic." 


    For those instructors, that may have been perceived as too vague to lead them to reply to you.   If you had said all that you said above, under your description of your "broad intent," you might have fared differently, but I say, "no loss."  You may want to count yourself as lucky in not having received certain types of formal training.   If you have the opportunity, you might want to go to Paris, or another European City where the kind of music you are interested is taught.  Or to Michigan, or certain states where there are Universities that teach electronic methods.   I have felt for the last six years sufficiently inspired to work on my own, without formal instruction, with no lack of subjects or types of approaches to consider, and no lack of materials to help me learn.  I have strongly recommended this particular book, by James L. McHard, for a number of people with interests similar to yours, and some here have found it useful.




    The Future of Modern Music:  A Philosophical Exploration of Modernist Music in

    the 20th Century and Beyond



    [That's a link to most of the text online, but you can purchase a full and totally complete copy at amazon, if you like].


    For me this book was TOTALLY INDISPENSABLE, AND TOTALLY INSPIRING. It was a veritable revelation to me, unlike anything else I have ever read or studied in connection with music, musicology or music education.  It's not for everyone, perhaps.  What it may lack in the actual teaching of technique is amply compensated for in the provision of philosophical, metaphysical and even broad spiritual postulates for anyone who wants an impetus to go deeply into composing.   The subject matter comes from broad and incisive analyses of these particular composers (roughly, in chronological order): 


    [I mark in bold, those composers who have the most directly to do with contemporary innovations in acoustic effects, and in electronic, synthesized or other artificial means of sound production (as far as instrumentation is concerned).]


    Leos Janacek

    Claude Debussy

    Gustav Mahler

    Maurice Ravel

    Gian-Francesco Malipiero

    Paul Hindemith

    Igor Stravinsky

    Béla Bartok

    Arnold Schonberg

    Alban Berg

    Anton Webern

    Edgard Varèse

    Charles Ives

    Carl Ruggles

    Darius Milhaud

    Olivier Messiaen

    Pierre Boulez

    John Cage

    Iannis Xenakis

    Luigi Nono


    Giacinto Scelsi

    Julio Estrada


    There is a lot more to the book, also, in the way of instruction and description of many more über modern and contemporary avant-garde composers, and including electronic and highly experimental ones, at that, like Gordon Mumma.


    I hope these suggestions are somewhat useful.


  • Most of the age discrimination I faced was by people who didn't actually know much about music. Peers of mine, my family and so on. I'm only 25, but when you have kids picking up instruments as early as 2 years old, you start thinking that even 25 is impossible. "Your fingers will never be flexible enough!" or "Your brain won't pick up theory as quickly." Stuff like that.

    Still, I'm so glad that I found my teacher (I'd really hate if I had to move out of town and lose her!). She took me on immediately and treats me with respect. I told her my fears and what I'd heard people say and she told me she has students into their 60s who play beautifully and to not believe what other people say.

    And speaking from my own experience, she's right! I've seen a lot of adult learners on forums, facebook groups and such and they're all great. The general consensus, that I agree with as well, is adults are more passionate about it. They learn fast because they're doing it of their own free will because they want to. Children can be forced into it with little to no interest.

    In short: I've heard more stories about adults who were taught music as kids who - as soon as they could - put down their instrument and never looked back, than I have of adult learners who have done poorly.

    So keep at it! Go adult learners! :D

  • Yes, Michael.

    And you can also get Schoenberg's Fundamentals of Musical Composition, a copy of an old edition for free, on the same monoskop site:

    It has excellent and detailed sections on the composition of melodies and motives.

    Michael Sayers said:

    Arnold Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony is here:

    Bob Porter said:

    There are many excellent books out there on theory.
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