The question lots of people ask me when they start thinking about learning to play guitar is, "How long will it take me?"
Well, it depends on several things, not just how talented you are. Sure, having a talent for music and a good ear will help you achieve results, but in the long run, the guitarist that practices diligently and in the correct way will win over the lazier, yet more "talented" musician. Why?
Playing the guitar will mean learning totally new hand and finger movements, almost like learning to walk. You will need to strengthen hand muscles that you didn't even know existed, and on top of that, you'll have to learn very precise, coordinated finger movements as well. The only way to learn these movement, improve your hand muscle memory, and really progress at playing the guitar, is to practice regularly.
But lets get back to the original question of how long it will take to learn the guitar. Given that you practice regularly, you can reach these stages within the given amount of time:
- 1-2 months: Play easy guitar songs (strumming a couple of chords, single string plucking songs with not much string jumping, chord arpeggios)
- 3-6 months: Play a bit more difficult songs, which require more technical elements. For example, songs requiring easier hammer-ons, pull-offs and other easier lead guitar techniques.
- 1 year: Play intermediate level songs, including many very popular guitar songs, riffs, blues, and so on. You will probably start getting a more definitive feel for barre chords at around this time as well.
- 2 years: If you practice enough, you could be playing most songs in 2 years. Of course, you'll need to practice them before you can actually play them, but learning a song at this stage is very quick, as you'll have mastered most technical elements already.
- 2-3 years: If you learned guitar theory during your guitar journey, you'll be able to improvise on the guitar as well.
- 5-6 years: You can call yourself an advanced guitarist, you'll be able to play anything you want.
- 10 years: You'll realize how much you don't know yet, and want to learn even more. Your guitar collection will reach a yearly average of 7-12 guitars.
- 20+ years: You'll be playing and entertaining others all the time. Out of your 20 guitars, you only play 3, your favorite ones.
The moral of the story is that learning to play the guitar is a never ending process, but getting to an acceptable level, where you will actually start enjoying your music (and won't drive others crazy ), can be reached after about 6 months of regular practice.
I would like to emphasize the word REGULAR. Many beginners pick up their guitar for a couple days, than stop for a week, pick it up again, than give it a rest, and so on. This is usually caused by the fact that learning the guitar won't happen overnight, it takes weeks of practice before you even start getting a hang of how to change chords. It's all part of the learning curve, but unfortunately, many beginners lose their enthusiasm after a very short time. This has always been like this, and always will be.
If you ever get discouraged or stuck at any given point, just remember that even the best guitar players were beginners at one time, everyone went through the learning curve. If you endure, you'll be left with a wonderful hobby that will be yours to keep for life, bringing you, your family and friends countless hours of joy.
A pretty good trade off in my opinion!
Oh, and if you're a beginner guitarist, check out our step-by-step Beginner's guide to learning guitar. It's not only awesome, it's free