How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar?
Let’s be honest.
Playing guitar is not that easy, and it takes time to get good at it. Especially in the beginning – there is a whole myriad of small things and details that are beyond us.
There are just so many unknowables.
If you are here, this means you curious about how long it might take you to learn guitar and you are probably a beginner or at least considering becoming one.
How long does it take to learn guitar? The short it will take at least 6 months of consistent and quality daily practice. The time to learn guitar will depend on what your goals are and how much time you spend practicing. As an average, you can expect to spend 6 months learning the basics and up to 10 years to master it.
This is not an exact science though, and of course, this is not all there is to it. There are tons of factors that influence how long it will take you to learn the guitar.
Keep in mind that everyone is unique and will learn at a different pace, so be sure to take these estimates with a grain of salt.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the various factors that will ultimately influence how long it takes to learn the guitar.
What You Should Expect
I remember how daunting it was when I first started practicing.
Everything was so hard, even the simple stuff, and I felt like I was learning how to use my fingers for the first time in my life.
However, with time, I got better, and that made me even more motivated – and the more motivated I was the faster I was learning.
Acquiring any skill in life takes time, and this is the first thing you need to be completely aware of – you have to invest the time to reap the benefits.
But how much time? Let me give you a rough idea of what you can expect in terms of how time frame relative to your progression.
1 to 2 Months
If you practice for 45 minutes a day for a month, you can expect to get pretty far.
At this point, you should start to have an understanding of the major scale, as all music revolves around this.
You should also know your major open chords and be able to switch between them with relative ease. This will allow you to start putting together common chord progressions that make up the majority of songs out there.
What you can expect for that short of a period is being able to play easy songs that don’t have too much string jumping, arpeggios, and other complex techniques.
3 to 12 Months
If you continue playing guitar consistently for the next several months, you will start developing some calluses, but you can expect at the end of the 6th month to be able to share your guitar skills with others without too much trouble.
During this period, you usually should be able to learn how to play more complicated songs. You should be more comfortable with chords and how to change between them in a reasonably smooth way.
You should also have added new chords and scales to your arsenal.
For example, you should understand the minor scale and how to switch between major and minor.
In addition, you should understand how to play barre chords. They may be difficult on your hands at this point in your guitar playing career, but they are essential because of how versatile they are.
Of course, we are talking about consistent, focused quality practice. If you practice one day a week, for example, it will not be enough.
After one year of consistent practicing, you should be entering the intermediate levels. This means more difficult songs and more advanced techniques.
At this stage in your guitar playing career, it gets a lot more fun because you’ll understand enough to start experimenting and putting things together.
With an understanding of how chords/notes work together and how songs are structured, you should be able to start developing your own riffs.
At this point, you’ll likely be good enough to start playing some iconic riffs and solos.
For example, one year into playing I was able to learn the guitar solo to Stairway to Heaven and Crazy Train. I could also play some famous riffs, such as the intro from Sweet Child ‘o Mine.
If you made it one year in, it’s likely that you’re in it for the long haul. By this point, you’ll be inspired to keep learning because you’ll understand just how much there is to learn out there.
2 to 3 Years
If your goal is to become an advanced player with the ability to efficiently read music, have good technique, play advanced pop or rock styles, and have great rhythm, it might take you about two to three years of consistent practice.
At this stage, you can expect to be able to play most of the songs after you give them some practice (usually a week or two), overall, should be able to learn them relatively quickly, too.
By this point, you’ll be able to pick up some of the more advanced techniques that are required to play specific genres of songs.
For example, if you’re into metal music, you’ll likely need to learn sweep picking, alternate picking, and legato.
If you’re interested in classical music, you’ll need to learn how to play fingerstyle.
Once you have been playing for 2 to 3 years, you’ll have all of the fundamentals masters.
From there, you’ll have a good idea of what type of music you want to play. The genre of music you play will dictate which areas you’ll need to specialize in and which techniques you’ll need to devote your time to learning.
4 to 6 Years
After practicing for 4 years, you should be able to do some of the more complicated and complex songs.
This is where you can consider yourself an advanced guitar player.
At this point, you should pretty much be able to play any song with a little practice.
Once you’re an advanced player, it’ll be less about learning new scales or techniques you’ve never heard of before, but rather improving your execution.
At advanced levels of play, it’s all about the details. These are nuances that separate a good player from a great player.
For example, just because someone can play the song Cliffs of Dover and technically hit all of the correct notes does not mean he will sound like Eric Johnson.
Playing a song with strong technique, feel, and timing can make a world of difference.
Once you’ve been playing for over 4 years, you’ll understand this.
Playing the guitar for 10 or more years with consistent and diligent practice is not something that most people achieve.
For example, I personally have been playing for more than 10 years. However, I would not consider myself a master of the instrument because I have not spent this entire time diligently practicing and trying to improve.
I’ve had long periods of time where I just stopped practicing and only played songs that I felt like playing. There are some months where I just took a break from the guitar altogether.
This means that even though I’ve been playing for over 10 years, I haven’t accumulated enough hours in this time frame.
If you truly have been playing for over 10 years, consistently practicing every single day, then you should be a master of the instrument, yet understand that there is no ceiling when it comes to creativity.
You will be able to play almost anything, and you will realize that there is still room to grow.
This is the time it might take for a person to get really advanced.
You should be able to play any style, read music really proficiently, have more in-depth knowledge about advanced theory, have a lot of songs memorized, and most importantly have a fantastic technique.
At this point, you’ll also have developed your own style of playing.
Whenever you play a song, even if it’s a cover, people will know it’s you playing.
You’ll be able to put your own spin on any song to truly make it yours. This is what separates a great guitar player from someone who has mastered the instrument.
Factors that Influence How Long it Takes to Learn Guitar
Is just a question of months or years, though?
After all, the more time you spend in learning a particular skill, the better you become.
However, we could argue that it is not just about the months or years as this is not a precise measurement. There are a few important details:
The Amount Time You Spend Practicing
Take pilots, for example. Their experience is not measured in years, instead, it is about how many flight hours they have accumulated.
If you are learning the guitar, what really matters is the hours you spend on quality and mindful practice.
For some, the time to learn a skill might be just a month, while for others, it could be 6 months or even a year.
It takes time, and there are no shortcuts.
If somebody practices daily for an hour, they will be a lot better than somebody who practices three times a week for half an hour.
In the beginning, the more time and effort you put into learning and getting used to the basics like trying to play chords, melodies, scales – the better, as it all plays a significant role later on.
How You Practice
The way you spend your practice time is one of the major things that will determine your rate of learning.
Try to go through every aspect of playing the guitar and focus on improving your weakest spots. This will make you a more balanced guitarist.
If you have a specific song that you like and you are good at it constantly playing it will do you no good as you are not focusing on an aspect that you are weak at.
There is time for fun, and there is a time for learning and practicing.
Your Natural Ability to Learn
Some people might get very discouraged if they are not progressing with the same speed as their peers do. But it is a fact that some people learn faster while others will need more time.
I’ve worked with several people that I would best describe as slow burners. Their progress, in the beginning, was really slow but once they got the hang of it after 2-3 months, all of a sudden, they started crushing it.
There will be a noticeable difference between left brain and right brain dominated people.
- The more logical people will be able to read music and get the hang of theory much faster, while they might lag with their tuning, rhythm and letting loose and expressing their feelings
- The more creative orientated people might have an easier time tuning, and expressing their feelings but lag in terms of playing chords, for example.
How Often Should You Practice Playing Guitar?
One of the most frequently asked questions most people have is how often they should practice.
We are different, and because of that, how often you should practice and the ‘right’ amount of time for you will probably be different than the right amount of time for somebody else.
It would depend on various factors like:
- Level of ability.
- Your goals.
- Your interests.
- The time you can dedicate to practicing.
Don’t overdo it. In the beginning, people are usually very ambitious and very motivated – it is not a bad thing as this is what gets you started. Nonetheless, you need to learn how to control that motivation.
Dedicating more hours than you should lead to things like:
- Burning out.
- Injuring your hands.
- Hitting a plateau.
All of these will either stop you from playing the guitar for some time, losing motivation, or both.
Practice as often as you can, but try to be mindful if you are overdoing it.
How Many Hours Should You Spend Practicing?
The stuff you will hear can vary from 15 minutes a day to even several hours a day. But let me tell you, there is no right amount of time that will work for everyone every single time.
Don’t make the frequent mistake most beginners do – practicing for endless hours every day.
Even pros don’t play guitar every that much.
Balance is the key; you need to put in the work, but you need to do it in a proper way that will give you the best results.
Often if you are trying to practice for several hours a day, your technique will start to suffer and practicing with bad technique is not going to make you improve. This will hurt your progress in several ways:
- You will run into overuse injuries sooner or later
- Due to the fatigue, you will have a bad technique that can become a habit.
If you are focused and mindful while practicing, you won’t need more than an hour, an hour and a half of practicing every day. On the opposite side is mindless practice, which will do you no good as it will waste your time, and it is very tedious.
Is it Too Late to Start Learning Guitar?
It will all depend on one question – what is your goal. How good you want to become? Also, with time and the more things you learn your goals will change too.
That’s why it is a very vague topic, but generally speaking, it is never too late to start learning guitar.
One of the first things is to determine and define for yourself how good you want to be. Set realistic goals. For example, some people might want to get good at playing a particular song, or learn how to play some of the popular chord progressions and create some songs.
And while learning does take time, it doesn’t take that much time.
If you are an older person, say 40 – 50 years old, it is not too late to start learning the guitar. What matters is your focus and how you work towards reaching that goal.
7 Tips for Learning Guitar Faster
There are a lot of small things that combined will ultimately lead to better and faster learning.
Quality Over Quantity.
When practicing quality is more important than just spending mindless hours playing on your guitar. You will see much greater progress and learn the guitar much faster if you have small mindful practice sessions spread over months or years than if you try to force yourself to play the guitar for endless hours on a daily basis.
Remove any distractions while practicing like computers, TVs, mobile phones, etc.
Take Care of Your Body
I am talking about the most important instrument that you have at your disposal– your hands. A damaged guitar can be changed, but a damaged hand cannot be replaced.
A lot of pros sooner or later face the tendon issues that sometimes accompany guitar players, and trust me; this is not something you want to experience.
An overuse injury like this can force you to stop practicing and playing the guitar anywhere from 2 weeks up to several months or even more, so:
- Take time to rest.
- Stretch and improve your flexibility and strength.
- Learn about ergonomics.
Seek out More Information
For some, it might seem obvious, but frequently, we overlook the things that are right in front of us.
Always try to find more information, you can:
- Get a good teacher
- Find some good guitar learning books
- You can find tons of useful info online
Master the Basics
This is huge, as building a good foundation based on the basics will allow you to advance a lot faster with time.
- Learn the parts of the guitar and how to hold it, how to sit, etc.
- Memorize and learn the strings.
- Train your ear.
- Know how to tune your guitar.
- Learn the most common musical terms.
- Learn how to read music.
- Dedicate a little time each day to learn the theory of scales.
- Learn the most commonly used cords and how to create them from scales.
- Study classical guitar methods.
Smart Goal Setting
When you are first learning to play guitar goal setting might be a two-edged sword as sometimes it might help, but often it can hurt your progress.
When there are so many unknowables, it is hard to set a good goal.
So when setting a goal, make it small enough and, most importantly, achievable. Start by reverse-engineering the skill you want to achieve. Look at your goal and try to break it down into smaller pieces. That way, you will have an easier time focusing on the most important things.
Learn to Self-Correct
Some of us can fall victim to the trap where we constantly try to gather more information and not practice.
Don’t use the information you have gathered as a way to procrastinate.
Start with simple guides and learn just enough so that you can actually practice and just self correct yourself.
You can advance fast by practicing, noticing your own mistakes, and correcting them as you go.
Acquire the Right Mentality
It is not about natural talent or ability.
If at some point you feel like you just don’t have it in you to be good guitarist is what is stopping you from progressing.
The biggest obstacle is conquering the emotional part of learning something new.
It is much better to put in the actual time than to be naturally talented but lacks determination. The reason for this is that putting in the actual work and reaping the rewards gives you two major advantages:
- It builds the work ethic that will move you forward.
- And it promotes a sense of accomplishment and a can-do attitude.
Only by deliberate practice, you will be able to move forward, and even if it takes you more time to do it, this can only make you more experienced and skillful in the end.
The 10,000 Hour Rule
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying – it takes 10,000 hours to learn something new and get good at it.
Just imagine it – 10,000 hours – this is like working full-time for five years! All that just to learn guitar and become good at it?
This may sound discouraging for most people. It’s a huge time investment, especially considering that guitar is just a hobby for most and not a full-time job.
However, there is more to it, and in fact, there are important details that are left unsaid here.
It Doesn’t Take 10,000 Hours to Get Good at a Guitar!
Remember that being good at guitar is completely relative.
You need to determine your specific goals as a player before you can define what “being good at guitar” means.
For example, if you’re primarily a singer and want to learn how to play guitar to accompany your singing, then you’ll likely only need to know a few chords. If you can achieve that goal, then I would consider you good at guitar.
Obviously, it will not take 10,000 hours to learn your basic chords and chord progressions. In this case, it’d likely only take about 6 months to get good at the guitar.
On the other hand, if your goal is to be able to play Dragonforce on the guitar, then you can bet it will take a lot longer.
You’ll need to master the instrument, which will definitely take 10,000 hours or more!
I hope this article gives you gauge how long it will take you to learn how to play the guitar.
While everyone is different and learns at their own pace, the important takeaway is that if you want to get good at the guitar, it will require goal setting, dedication and time.
As long as you keep your goals as a player in mind and are prepared to put in the work, you’ll see success!
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