One of the most commonly asked questions when referring to the guitar is, “how long does it take to learn guitar?”
As youngsters, we tend to idolize iconic guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer, and more. Our goal is to reach their levels as quick as we possibly can.
And even though learning some chords and a few songs are relatively doable in a short time, unfortunately, getting to the level of heroes is not as easy. It can take years of hard work, practice, and dedication, a sentiment that can be difficult to swallow at first.
As for how long it will take you, it truly depends on YOU.
In this article, we’re going to dive in to try and answer this question more in-depth, while providing you with some helpful tips along the way.
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The 10,000 Hour Rule
When I started my musical journey, one of the first things that I learned about was the
The idea is that it takes 10,000 hours of structured investment in any craft to become an expert. Now obviously the 10,000 hour rule isn’t exact. You won’t be practicing at 9,999 hours, hit 10,000, and all the sudden be shredding like Steve Vai.
The point is that someone who spends a significant amount of time practicing their craft is more than likely to become an expert.
If you can practice guitar for 20 hours per week, you are more likely to become an expert compared to the guy that practices 5 hours per week.
Learning On an Acoustic Guitar Vs. An Electric Guitar
When it comes to beginners, we highly recommend they learn electric guitar first, unless of course, you want to play classical.
Acoustic guitars are much harder to learn on. The strings are heavier, and the action is typically higher than your standard electric.
Eventually, you will grow calluses, which will make playing less painful, though it can sometimes take months of practice before that happens. If you do start playing on an acoustic guitar, see if you can get lighter-gauge strings from your local music shop.
The pros of learning on an acoustic guitar are that there is more space between the strings. This will make getting your fingering for chords much more manageable.
Electric guitars utilize lighter-gauge strings and have lower action, making them more comfortable to play. They’re far more portable too. One of the main issues that arise with electric guitars is the fact that the strings are very close together, which can make fingering chords a bit more difficult.
Of course, there are other factors to take into account, such as setting up your instrument properly and getting the right accessories, though if we had to pick a winner for “easiest to play,” we’d lean far towards the electric guitar.
Speeding Up the Learning Process
It may seem like the most obvious answer, though the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
We get it; you’re busy. You have work, school, and relationships to attend to. Trying to section out an hour of your day can be difficult.
This is why we recommend practicing at least 30 minutes per day. The most important thing is that you practice EVERY DAY. The more days you miss, the easier it is to get out of the habit of practicing.
Regardless of how long you choose to practice, make sure to have fun with it. Of course, you should practice your scales, chord inversions, etc., but don’t forget the reason you decided to pick up the guitar. It’s fun!
Set aside some time in your practice routine to play your favorite songs and learn some cool riffs. This will help keep your routines interesting.
Set Smaller Goals
The idea of learning guitar can seem overwhelming. That’s why we find that it is best to set small goals that you can achieve in shorter amounts of time.
Example: Let’s say that you want to learn how to play your favorite song, but you know that the parts are too hard for you to master in a day.
Instead, try and learn the first 30 seconds of the song.
Are the first 30 seconds too difficult? Maybe try learning the chord progression instead.
Is that too difficult? Maybe try learning one of the chords and practice that for the day until it feels like second nature.
See what we’re doing here?
Big goals can be broken down easily, motivating you far more. You’ll be happy you achieved something rather than frustrated because you weren’t able to meet your goal.
How To Practice Better
Take It Slow
Ironically enough, the best way to learn fast is to take it slow. Instead of learning your favorite song at the original tempo, slow it down a little bit. Playing a new song at a slow speed can get you comfortable with that song. You can gradually increase speed as it becomes more comfortable to play, which brings us to our next point.
Use a Metronome
Set a metronome for yourself when you start learning a new song. If the song is at 120 BPM, set your metronome at 80. It might sound gravely slow, though you’ll be able to analyze every note you hit while staying in rhythm. Having rhythm is the great separator of pro guitarists and amateur guitarists.
Tune your guitar. Seriously, this is one of the most important skills that a guitarist can have. If you play with a guitar that is out of tune, you won’t sound good, and other people will despise your playing. Get yourself a good guitar tuner or download a tuning app.
Football teams will record their games and practice sessions to watch back at a later time so they can analyze themselves. As a guitarist, you can take a play from that book and record yourself playing too. This way, you can listen to yourself practicing the next day and analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
Learning In-Person Vs. Online
With the advent of the Internet, many prospective guitarists start out learning how to play online. This is especially true for people who don’t have time for in-person lessons or those who can’t afford or don’t have access to in-person lessons.
The big question is: “What’s better?”
When we talk about learning online, we truly mean learning by yourself. Whether learning online means downloading MP3s, watching videos on YouTube, or using different software and apps, learning guitar online provides a far more convenient and pace-conscious way for you to learn.
- There are thousands of available resources, each with different styles and methods
- You can choose exactly what you want to learn
- You can take a lesson at any time that is convenient for you
- It is more cost-effective for low-budget guitarists
- Nobody is around to correct your form or bad technique
- Practicing can become less motivating without an instructor
- You may not choose to learn what you need to learn
We’ve discovered that while learning online can be convenient and cost-effective, the progress is usually much slower.
There are a few different ways to learn in-person. You can either take the one-on-one approach or the group-lesson approach.
With one-on-one lessons, you’ll get more attention, though it can be pretty expensive. With group lessons, you can learn along with a bunch of others, which can be quite motivating, though you won’t get the same personal touch.
- You can practice with a professional who has years of knowledge and experience to share
- You can set your own pace with the instructor
- Well-ordered and disciplined lessons will expedite the process
- One-on-one lessons are expensive
- You’ll have to consider your instructor’s schedule
If we had to choose between the two of these in terms of the fastest progress, one-on-one lessons are incomparable.
A Timeline of Playing
While there is no certainty in how long it will take an individual to reach certain thresholds, here is what you can expect to accomplish with at least 30 minutes of practice per day.
- 1-4 Months – Learning basic chord shapes, single-string melodies, simple chord arpeggios. You may be able to learn very easy guitar songs at this point.
- 4-11 Months – Learning more difficult guitar techniques like hammer-ons and pull-offs. Calluses should be formed, and the guitar should feel easier to play. More technical songs will be in your repertoire.
- 1 Year – By this point, you should be able to play songs at an intermediate level. You should have a repertoire filled with popular songs, a few good riffs, some blues melodies, etc. Barre chords should also feel pretty solid at this point.
- 2 Years – With 30 minutes a day, you should feel very confident in playing most songs by this point. Most of your technical elements should feel like second nature.
- 2-5 Years – This is where you will most likely start digging deeper into theory, learning different modes, scales, etc. You may also take this time to explore other genres than you started with, such as jazz, metal, bluegrass, funk, etc. By this time, learning songs and improvising should feel much more comfortable.
- 5+ Years – You are now an advanced guitarist. You should be able to pick up tunes easily, play live comfortably, and explore deeper facets of the instrument.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Am I Too Old To Start Playing Guitar?
Nobody is ever too old to start on their guitar playing journey. Even if you’ve heard time and time again that your favorite iconic guitarists began learning guitar at very young ages, it shouldn’t discourage you from picking one up and acquiring a wonderful new hobby.
Look at Wes Montgomery, one of the greatest guitarists of all
2. What Are Calluses and Do The Hurt?
One of the most notorious side effects of playing guitar is calluses. These are thickened parts of the skin that are caused by friction, and almost every beginner guitarist gets them at one point.
As you continue to play, these little blisters will eventually go away, and playing will become much easier.
Anyone Can Play Guitar
Learning guitar takes a mix of practice, passion, and discipline. Without these three things, you will never find the progress that you are looking for.
Remember, anyone can learn to play guitar. It’s all about loving the instrument and wanting to know more.
We hope that our article helped answer your question.
Time to bust out that guitar and get to practicing!