How Aging Affects Your Ability to Write Music

In the classical music realm, there is a notion that composers at some point reach an age of maturity regarding their compositional abilities and style. It’s a bit of an odd term in the sense that it implies that the music they wrote up to that point might be “immature.” But there is a validity to the concept of being a “mature composer”, and it’s best not to overly scrutinize the use of the word.

It can take many years, perhaps a few decades, before a classical composer shows their best work. Most composers are considered to be writing at the top of their game somewhere in their 40s. But obviously that would depend on when they started and how much they’ve written.

Your best songwriting will happen when you understand the inner workings – the structure – of music. Take your songwriting to a new level of excellence right now, with “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle. Today’s deal: a FREE COPY of “Creative Chord Progressions.”

Of course, some composers will write their most influential music music later in life, so even if there is a tailing off of their musical output, we should not rush to the conclusion that a composer must necessarily fade into the background of their art. Beethoven wrote his “Große Fuge” string quartet near the end of his life, and it has since been viewed as one of his greatest compositions.

But what about songwriters? There are many who are still writing in their 70s and beyond. Are they able to write their greatest songs at that stage?

There does seem to be the notion that pop music (and all its related sub-genres) are about and for the young. To put it more succinctly, it might be a bit weird, misplaced, or even cringing to hear a 70-year-old singing about their love life. And love life and the social scene does seem to be a preoccupation with popular songwriters, no matter which era you look at.

But putting aside the question of what songwriters are (or should be) writing about, what about simple, basic creativity? As we less likely to write our best stuff when we enter midlife?

Aging and Creativity

Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, through an article for Scientific American magazine, addresses this question, and he makes the following points:

  1. “[Creative output] first increases in our mid-20s, climaxes around our late 30s or early 40s, and then undergoes a slow decline as we age.”
  2. “A person’s single best work tends to appear at roughly the same age as their output peaks.”
  3. “[One’s] expected creative productivity at 80 will still be about half of what it was at that high point.

You’ll notice that his summation of studies on creativity doesn’t address the aspect of quality. If you’re an aging songwriter, it doesn’t necessarily follow that your songwriting caliber must take a hit.

And just as with Beethoven, it is indeed possible to write your best music late in life.

Just as our bodies might take a bit of extra work to get them in shape when we’re in our 60s, say, than for those in their 20s, it might simply take a bit of extra attention to be sure that you’re writing and creating music of the same or better quality than when you were in your first decade as a songwriter.

Making Aging a Non-Issue

With that in mind, here are some tips that you might consider for staying resilient and productive as you age:

  1. Stay in constant touch with other songwriters, both young and old. This keeps ideas fresh, and your musical soul encouraged.
  2. Perform whenever and wherever you can. There’s nothing like feeling relevant!
  3. Challenge yourself to expand beyond your genre of choice. If you like country, try writing a folk song, or a string quartet, or a rock tune. Don’t get locked in to the point that you don’t feel creative anymore.
  4. Seek out new musical partnerships. As you age, you might find that collaborating with a younger songwriter will give you a fresh and new perspective on what you could be doing as a songwriter.
  5. Keep your performing chops strong. Take guitar, singing or piano lessons. The better you become as a performer, the more it will stimulate your creative powers and make you a better songwriter.
  6. Always perform a mix of old and new songs for your audiences. That’s your way of letting the world know that you’re still creating new music.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.


“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages explore 11 principles of songwriting, and will take your own music to a new level of excellence. Right now, download a FREE COPY of “Creative Chord Progressions” when you get the 10-ebook Bundle.Creative Chord Progressions

Posted in Miscellaneous, songwriting and tagged , , , , , .


  1. As good songwriters age, they become more knowledgeable in the skills and techniques that make good songs. However, raw, random creativity declines with age compared to one’s twenties (where the brain is still developing until about mid-late twenties for most people). One’s twenties are the perfect sweet spot for combining experience, skill, and creativity (example being Bob Dylan, The Beatles, etc.). However, that does not spell the end for one’s potential of creativity. The use of psychedelic drugs for enhancing creativity and problem-solving is gaining more research these days (as it also did in the 50s and early 60s before illogical politicians pre-maturely banned them and their promising research that also could treat depression, anxiety, OCD, end-of-life cancer treatment, PTSD, and countless of other debilitating conditions that out modern medicine has not been able to effectively treat).

    I am not advocating for people to just will-nilly take drugs. However, keep in mind that as the brain ages, it’s ability to create random solutions, free of judgement, ego, and the ability to think outside the box usually declines faster if one has a sub-optimal diet, exercise habit, doesn’t keep up to date with education, cognitive and thinking skills. Certain psychedelic substances have been shown to restore those abilities and enhance them under safe usage. They would be better to use during older adulthood as it isn’t recommend for younger people to use those kinds of drugs as their brains are still developing. As time goes on, research will suggest safe practices and one day we will have legal access to experiment with them, just as The Beatles, Beach Boys, and countless of other legends did before they created their masterpieces.

    But again keep in mind, raw creativity and drugs will not guarantee good songwriting. It still takes skill and practice to learn effective techniques

    • Hi Mark:

      Thanks very much for your comments on this. I don’t think I have the knowledge of the effects of drugs on the creative process to make a counter argument there. 3 years ago I wrote a short article on drugs and songwriting (“Do Drugs Make For More Creative Songwriting?” I made the comment, and I think it still stands, that little scholarly research has been done in this area; the evidence is mostly anecdotal, not scientific. The Time article you cite doesn’t really shed much light on that. I think it’s also important to distinguish between imagination and creativity. While LSD might affect the imagination, there is no evidence that it has a positive impact on the creative process.

      I’d also say that your comment that raw, random creativity declines with age is also anecdotal, and could be due to reasons other than a declining sense of creativity. It may, for example, be the result of a reaction to appearing to be less relevant to the younger audiences that are buying (and “buying into”) the songs. It may not be a lack of creativity at all. Certainly in the field of Classical music composition, a composer is said to have not reached full maturity as a writer until the age of 40 or so. It’s partly what made Mozart so astonishing: his ability to tap so powerfully into is creative brain at such a young age.

      I like your term “raw creativity” – I think I’m picking up from you that it’s another way of saying “artistic imagination”, but I like “raw creativity.” And I’d certainly agree with you that raw creativity will not guarantee good songs. There’s a much more complex formula in play.

      Thanks so much, Mark, for your great comments.

  2. Pingback: How Aging Affects Your Ability to Write Music - The Hit Songwriting Formula | The Hit Songwriting Formula

  3. Gary,
    Thank you for this post. Since I’m 47, this strikes close to home.

    Looking back at my life, I certainly experienced my greatest output – in terms of quantity – during my 20’s. But, I was also single and willing/able to burn the candle at both ends. I also didn’t put too much care into making much money either.

    Now, I have a wife and three children (and another on the way). Since music is only a small portion of my revenue, I rely on other work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

    Not sure if this kind of reality is factored into the analysis they’ve come up with, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience.

    As an aside, I fully agree about keeping up on practicing. I recently started practicing guitar again on a routine basis, and it’s been very rewarding!


    • Hi Craig:

      Thanks for those thoughts. You are definitely right that life does often get in the way, and even though we may still feel very creative and inspired to write, circumstances may make that difficult. That’s why we often see that people in their 50s dig out their old school band instrument, join choirs, and get back to doing the things they love to do… they finally have the time!

      The best advice I can give you is to work out a schedule for writing, perhaps a half hour per day, and then set up an alternate “just in case” time for later the same day. That way, you have the chance of keeping to a semi-regular schedule of writing, with an alternate time for later in the day, in case your half hour just doesn’t click with your family life.

      I wish you all the best, and here’s hoping a busy family life will still allow you the time to do the creative things you love to do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.