Listen. Listening well is a skill, and therefore as with any skill it can be developed through practice. A person new to birding may know only a few bird songs – perhaps not even a few. (Hollywood directors frequently – almost ubiquitously – place Blue Jay calls into film settings where no Blue Jay has ever flown; those same directors dub in hawk cries when the birds are eagles.) But with practice, anyone can learn to recognize dozens of bird calls and songs – a skill that seems almost magical at first. Similarly, as a young fly-fisherman I remember an older mentor directing my attention to the sound of bluegills feeding among lily pads along a calm lakeshore. The gentle popping-kissing sound was unmistakable, and my ears became trained to listen for it when I’m on a springtime or summertime lake where these sunfish might be patrolling the shoreline.
With just 153 hours of practice under my belt since January 1, I cannot yet answer the question, Is it even possible for someone in their 60’s to learn to play the guitar with any meaningful degree of proficiency? But what I can say is that after even a few hours of focused practice, you will probably notice that you are hearing notes and music in a new way. Familiar songs on your iPod or Spotify playlists will suddenly sound new as chords, riffs and even lyrics that have always been there suddenly seem to leap out of the speakers. And on your own guitar you’ll probably begin to notice when strings are even slightly out of tune.
Regardless of what you play, listen carefully, for as you practice, so you will learn and eventually so you will play. Make certain your instrument is always in tune. Sound notes with care so that they ring true. Test the chords you’re learning by playing each string individually. Train your ear to expect beautiful tones.