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 movements, improve your hand muscle memory, and really progress at playing the guitar, is to practice regularly.
But let's get back to the original question of how long it will take to learn the guitar?
Given that you practice regularly (1+ hours per day) and in the correct way, you can reach these stages within the given amount of time:
|Playing level||Time needed||Skills|
|Newbie||1-2 months||Play easy guitar songs (changing between and strumming of basic chords, single-string plucking songs with not much string jumping, chord arpeggios)|
|Beginner||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.|
|Almost intermediate||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.|
|Intermediate||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.|
|Intermediate plus||2-3 years||If you learned guitar theory during your guitar journey, you'll be able to improvise on the guitar as well.|
|Advanced||5-6 years||You can call yourself an advanced guitarist, you'll be able to play anything you want.|
|Rockstar||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.|
|Guitar deity||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," i.e., practicing the right things for at least 1 hour every day (or at least most days of the week).
Here is an insightful table on how the amount of practice you put into learning the guitar can shorten/lengthen the learning process based on Malcolm Gladwell's idea of 10,000 hours to mastery.
|Hours practiced per day|
|Playing level||0.5 hours||1 hour||2 hours||4 hours|
|Newbie - 40 hours||2.5 months||1.3 months||3 weeks||2 weeks|
|Beginner - 300 hours||20 months||10 months||5 months||2.5 months|
|Intermediate - 1,500 hours||8.2 years||4.1 years||2.1 years||1 years|
|Advanced - 5,000 hours||27.4 years||13.7 years||6.8 years||3.4 years|
|Rockstar - 10,000 hours||54.8 years||27.4 years||13.7 years||6.8 years|
Consider that Slash played guitar for up to 12 hours/day as a beginner, and you'll see the correlation between the amount of practice you get and what you can achieve.
Many beginners pick up their guitar for a couple of days, then stop for a week, pick it up again, then 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 the 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, remember this...
Once you start learning guitar, you'll find that a few things will seem overly difficult. If you ever get discouraged or stuck at any given point, remember:
Even the best guitar players were beginners at one time. Everyone went through the learning curve.
The masters who make it seem so easy, like Eric Clapton, Slash, BB King, Steve Vai, were all beginners at one point in time. Yes, they all had to learn the D major chord, and they all sucked at changing chords in the beginning. Who would have thought, right!?
Practice often, practice the right things, and 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 fun and joy.
A pretty good trade-off, in my opinion!
How to minimize the time it takes to learn guitar
I've been playing guitar for 20+ years now and have been teaching both private students and online for well over a decade. Over the years, I've talked with countless guitarists who have wasted so much time during their guitar journey.
Do you want to know what 95% of them were doing wrong?
They were either:
- Practicing the wrong things or
- not practicing enough.
The remaining 5% hadn't bought a guitar yet 😉
Now, solving problem #2 is "easy" as long as you don't have 3 kids and a dog named Vanilla. You just have to find the time to practice.
Solving problem #1 isn't hard either, but it isn't evident, especially nowadays.
Newbie guitarists are sucked into learning from random videos on YouTube, thus have absolutely no direction. Lots of people literally waste years trying to learn this and that, jumping from one video to the next.
Don't get me wrong, though.
There are some great videos on YouTube, but beginners need to have direction, structured lessons to learn guitar as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is key.
Now, if you're thinking about learning guitar:
- Check out these guitar books for beginners, or better yet,
- these 2 awesome video guitar lesson sites.
How about you?
If you're a guitarist, it would be great if you would leave a comment on how long it has taken you to learn guitar. It would be valuable info to others just starting out.
If you're a newbie and have a question about this, you can leave a comment below, and I'll answer it ASAP.