Congratulations, you’ve picked an awesome instrument. But now you want to know: how long does it take to learn guitar?
Six months is how long it takes to reach a basic level of strumming chords to play a simple song. This is based on practicing 30 minutes a day (if you practice more it’ll be faster). But if you’re committed, anyone can achieve 30 minutes a day.
I’ve played guitar for over 25 years, have reached an advanced level, and have gone through many learning curves. In this article, the team at Guitar Mammoth has put our combined years of playing guitar together, as guitar teachers and players, and put in countless hours of research. We have covered traditional guitar teaching, as well as the science of learning to create the most definitive article on how long it takes to learn the guitar from begginer, and how you can speed up your progress using evidence-based techniques.
How long does it take to learn the guitar: The never-ending journey
What’s incredible about playing guitar is that the journey never ends. In my quarter-centry of playing (wow, now I feel old) I’m still learning and still finding joy in breaking new ground. Every week I have a new challenge to undertake. There’s no better feeling than setting out to play a guitar solo you love and finally nailing it.
I love how playing guitar connects me with other people, and is a gateway to friendships and incredible experiences on stages. I love how it gives me a deeper appreciation of music. And I love all the gear and geeking out on equipment and sound crafting – hence this website.
So you’ve made the right choice, but the most important question is…
What are your guitar goals?
This question defines everything. How do you want to play guitar? What level do you want to reach, and what style do you want to play?
If you want to jam with your friends in a noisy punk band, you can be ready to go in months. But if you want to write a jazz-fusion odyssey album, or play math-metal to sell out stadiums, then buckle up, cos you’re in for a long ride. While of course, punk rock can be taken to technical heights (take the playing of Mich Jones from The Clash) it’s typically a more simple style. Whereas other styles require complex chords or techniques, like sweep picking.
So what are the details, when we ask, how long does it take to learn guitar by yourself?
The guitar roadmap
Here’s what you can expect from the first three years of playing guitar if you commit to 30 minutes of focused practice a day.
|What to learn
|Tips to progress
|First three months
|Open chords and basic rhythm so you can strum simple songs.
|It’s going to hurt at first. Take breaks but stick with it as your fingers will toughen up and strengthen.
|Three months to a year
|Harder songs, more complex chords (like sus chords), and barre chords. Also, learn the major scale and pentatonic scale.
|Take the time to learn the major and pentatonic scales. They’ll be the foundation of everything.
|One to two years
|You should have barre chords down and be able to play simple lead and melody lines.
|Start writing your own music and join a band. There’s nothing better. Start learning concepts like CAGED and basic music theory.
|Beyond two years
|Your rhythm playing should be on point. You’re also capable of a decent level of lead guitar.
|Really study the great guitarists from the style you love as well as other styles. Play live either in a band or an open mic session.
Practice, practice, practice.
There’s one thing you can’t escape: hours of practice matter. With any guitar player, you get out what you put in. The more hours you practice the more you’ll improve. If you practice in the right way.
So to answer the question, how long does it take to learn guitar, we need to focus on hours.
The 10,000 hour rule
The famous 10,000-Hour Rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers states that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a true master of any skill. Gladwell says ‘Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.’
If we apply this theory to guitar playing, we get a table like this.
|You don’t completely suck! You can play most open chords and strum simple songs, although your timing is a bit out and there’s some bum notes.
|You hardly suck at all. You can play barre chords and the pentatonic scale. You can play the rhythm parts of your favorite songs, and can even play a few songs all the way through.
|You can impress your friends, and have fun in a band. Your rhythm and riff playing are solid and you can play simple lead parts.
|Wow, you’re good. You’re a great lead guitarist and could elevate most bands. You can write and record your own music. This is the level most of us can reasonably aspire to, and enough to find guitar joy.
|All hail. You rock. You’re at a professional level, and with luck could be in a famous band, or become a session guitarist. I kind of hate you and love you at the same time.
The argument against the 10,000-hour rule
The 10,000-hour rule has been challenged by some studies, claiming that natural talent, quality of instruction, motivation, continual feedback, deliberate focus on weaknesses, environmental factors, and the age of the learner also make a difference in terms of mastery.
And not all of us want to become a ‘master’ and devote our lives to an instrument. Some of us just want to jam with our friends. Or strum a Beatles song.
One thing that’s obvious, the more you practice, the better you will get. And the better you get, the more rewarding the guitar will be. And plenty of famous and great guitarists are not virtuosos. They just have a unique way of approaching how to play guitar.
Quantity vs quality
So the quantity of practice matters. But from our experience, the quality of the practice is the key. You want to make every hour as effective as possible.
Weeks of noodling around on the guitar won’t get you anywhere, but focused and deliberate practice will.
It’s possible to move faster through these phases if you practice in the right way and learn the elements of guitar and music in the right order.
How to practice.
There are some key things you need to do to make your practice sessions count.
- Make a guitar diary. Write down what you’re learning and your goals.
- Turn off your phone. Prioritize focused practice and minimize distractions.
- Stop noodling. A shorter focussed session is better than a meandering longer one.
- Commit to a consistent schedule. Practicing every day for a shorter time is better than a long session every week or so.
- The right time. Choose a time to practice when you’re not too tired.
- Start slow. When tackling new chords, scales, or exercises, begin at a slower pace. Building precision requires time, while speed can be developed later.
- Play what you love. You’ll be way more excited to play if it’s your favorite song.
- Surround yourself with musicians. Join bands and be inspired by other musicians.
- Find your style. Whichever type of guitarist you want to be, keep focussed on that style, rather than being just okay at a lot of styles.
- Embrace your mistakes. You’re going to get stuff wrong. But that’s part of learning. Keep going because when you overcome a challenge, it’s hugely satisfying.
How to supercharge your progress
There are methods proven by science to speed up your learning of guitar.
The Gap Effect
The Gap Effect is a process where you focus on a task intensely for a period and then randomly break for ten seconds. During those ten seconds, you try to not think about anything (yep, so no looking at your phone).
Studies have analyzed brain activity during these breaks and found that our brains repeat the task we’ve been learning at twenty times the speed. So ten repetitions of a scale is experienced as 200 repetitions.
Prof Andrew D. Huberman, a neuroscientist, explains how the Gap Effect works.
The Feynman Technique
Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He developed a simple technique for learning, which is great for the study of guitar, like music theory, and concepts like CAGED.
The Feynman Technique is super simple and goes like this:
1. Find a topic you want to learn. For example: the music theory of major chords.
2. Study it. Immerse yourself in that subject via websites, books, YouTube, etc.
3. Take a piece of paper and write down everything you just learned as if you’re teaching it to someone else. By doing this, you can find out what you have forgotten and come back to study it again.
4. After you’ve done everything, write it all down in a really simple way, so a child can understand. This final point is based on a belief of Einstein who said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, then you don’t understand it yourself.”
Here’s a short video to explain more:
Learning guitar is good for you
Whatever your goals, learning the guitar is a great choice. Studies have proven that learning an instrument is great for your brain health and well-being.
This report from the Penn Medical Centre states that “Playing an instrument may be one of the best ways to help keep the brain healthy.” And that even starting later in life is beneficial. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2017/january/playing-an-instrument-better-for-your-brain-than-just-listening#:~:text=Playing%20an%20instrument%20may%20be,left%20sides%20of%20the%20brain.
The guitar is mentally therapeutic and reduces stress. It’s a gateway to making friends and spending fulfilling time with others. And it has an endless progression of challenges and rewards – so it will always make you feel fantastic.
In short, learning guitar is awesome.
The downside: Finger, hand, and wrist pain from guitar
It’s going to hurt a bit at the beginning.This is the truth that no one talks about is that. Sore fingers are part of the progress, unfortunately. But no pain, no gain, right? Just don’t push yourself too hard at first so your fingers have time to develop calluses. Take regular breaks to avoid muscle strains or carpal tunnel syndrome. And make sure you’re using the correct technique of how to hold the guitar and apply pressure to the strings.
The bottom line
Learning the guitar is a fulfilling journey that requires dedicated practice. While it takes around six months to reach a basic level of playing, the learning process doesn’t stop there. Your goals and commitment will determine your progress, whether you aim to jam with friends or become a master guitarist.
While the 10,000-hour rule provides a road map for mastery, natural talent and other factors also play a role. And how you practice is more important than how long you practice for. You can also boost your progress with techniques like the Gap Effect and the Feynman Technique.
Overall, I’m kinda jealous that you’re just starting out on this incredible journey. Enjoy the ride, it’s going to be epic.
Recommended YouTube and online resources for learning guitar
- JustinGuitar: Justin Sandercoe, the man behind JustinGuitar, is often one of the first names mentioned when it comes to online guitar lessons. He offers comprehensive beginner courses and covers many basic concepts in a very clear and approachable manner.
- Marty Music: Marty Schwartz offers easy-to-follow lessons and breaks down popular songs in a way that’s accessible for beginners. He covers both acoustic and electric guitar.
- Andy Guitar: Andy Crowley’s step-by-step guides are great for beginners. He offers lessons on basics, techniques, and full songs, all delivered in a friendly and easy-to-understand way.
- GuitarJamz: This channel, also by Marty Schwartz, has a wide variety of guitar lessons, including a specific beginner playlist with step-by-step video tutorials.
- GuitarLessons: This channel by Nate Savage has a range of lessons that cover guitar basics and more advanced concepts. His Beginner’s Course is a great place to start.
- Paul Davids: While some of Paul’s content may be too advanced for absolute beginners, his lessons on basic techniques, theory, and practice tips can be very helpful for beginners who are looking to deepen their understanding.
- FretJam: While not as well-known as some others on this list, FretJam has very clear and comprehensive lessons on music theory and basic guitar skills.
- YourGuitarSage: Run by Erich Andreas, this channel offers beginner guitar lessons along with tips on guitar maintenance and advice on overcoming common challenges.
- GuitarZero2Hero: Dave Tran breaks down popular songs, showing you how to play them step-by-step. He also offers a beginner guitar course that covers all the basics.
- Yousician: While Yousician is primarily an app-based guitar learning platform, their YouTube channel offers free lessons and tips that are great for beginners.
Frequently asked questions
How to prevent fingers hurting from guitar?
To prevent fingers from hurting while playing the guitar, it’s important to build up calluses by practicing regularly and gradually increasing playing time. Additionally, using lighter gauge strings, maintaining proper hand and finger positioning, and taking breaks when needed can help reduce finger discomfort.
How long will fingers hurt from guitar?
The duration of finger pain from playing the guitar can vary depending on individual factors such as practice frequency, technique, and finger strength. Generally, beginners may experience discomfort for a few weeks as their fingers develop calluses and adapt to the strings. With consistent practice and proper technique, the pain should gradually diminish over time.
Self-taught Vs teacher
Self-taught guitar playing and learning from a guitar teacher each have their own advantages. Self-teaching allows for flexibility and independence in learning at one’s own pace, while a guitar teacher can provide structured guidance, personalized instruction, and valuable feedback to accelerate progress and ensure proper technique. Ultimately, the choice depends on individual learning preferences and goals.
Do I need to learn music theory?
While learning music theory can greatly enhance your understanding and mastery of the guitar, it is not necessarily a requirement. Many guitarists have achieved proficiency without formal music theory knowledge. However, understanding music theory can provide valuable insights into chord progressions, scales, key signatures, and other fundamental concepts that can greatly expand your musical repertoire and improvisational skills. It ultimately depends on your personal goals and the depth of musical knowledge you wish to acquire. If you want to play punk, or noise rock, it’s maybe not necessary. But if you’re into jazz fusion, you probably will need theory.
Acoustic Vs Electric
Consider the type of music you enjoy, the sound you want to achieve, and your budget when making a decision. Many beginners start with acoustic guitars as they provide a solid foundation for learning basic techniques, but ultimately, choose the type of guitar that resonates with your musical preferences and goals.
Can I become a successful musician?
Becoming a professional musician involves a combination of talent, dedication, hard work, and opportunities. While it is not guaranteed for everyone, it is certainly possible to achieve success as a guitarist with the right combination of skills, creativity, and determination. But success in the music industry is subjective and varies from person to person, so focusing on personal growth, enjoyment, and artistic fulfillment should be the main driving force in as you learn guitar.
Am I too old to learn guitar?
No, you are never too old to learn guitar. People of all ages can start learning and enjoy playing the guitar. While it is true that children tend to have a higher learning curve and more flexible fingers, adults can still make significant progress with consistent practice and dedication. In fact, adult learners often bring a level of discipline, patience, and life experience to their guitar journey, which can be advantageous.
What are the benefits of learning guitar?
Learning to play guitar offers a multitude of benefits. It serves as a creative outlet for self-expression, providing emotional and artistic fulfillment. When you play guitar it can also alleviate stress, enhance cognitive skills, and improve finger dexterity and coordination. It fosters social interaction by connecting you with other musicians and creating opportunities for collaboration. Learning guitar teaches discipline, and perseverance, and offers a deeper understanding of music theory. It brings personal satisfaction, enjoyment, and the ability to entertain others. Engaging in guitar playing is a lifelong learning journey, offering continuous growth and exploration in a rewarding and enriching manner.
What factors influence the question how long does it take to learn guitar?
Several factors can influence how quickly you learn to play the guitar correctly, including the amount of time you spend practicing, your natural musical ability, prior experience with other instruments, the complexity of the music you’re learning, the quality of your instruction, and your age.
Is it possible to learn the guitar in a few weeks or months?
There are many answers to the question, how long does it take to learn guitar?
You can certainly learn the basics of the guitar and play simple songs in a few weeks or months with regular practice. However, mastering the guitar is a longer journey that usually takes years of dedicated practice.
How much practice per day is recommended for beginner guitarists?
As a beginner, aiming for 15-30 minutes of focused practice per day can be a good starting point. As your skill and endurance build, you can gradually increase this time.
How do individual learning styles affect the time it takes to learn guitar?
Everyone has a unique learning style and pace. Some people may pick up techniques faster through visual learning (like watching videos), while others might prefer a hands-on approach. Understanding your learning style can help you choose the most effective methods and resources, potentially speeding up your learning process.
How does age factor into the speed of learning the guitar?
While it’s often easier for children to absorb new information and skills, adults have the advantage of discipline and focused practice. Regardless of age, regular, dedicated practice is key to learning the guitar.
Can you learn guitar on your own, or is it better to have a teacher?
You can definitely learn the guitar on your own using resources like online tutorials and books. However, having a teacher can provide personalized guidance, immediate feedback, and motivation, which can significantly enhance your learning process.
How does knowing how to play another instrument affect how quickly you can learn the guitar?
Knowing how to play another instrument, especially another string instrument, can be beneficial when writing music yourself. It can help you understand musical concepts more quickly and easily, and your fingers may already have some of the strength and dexterity required for playing the guitar.
Are there certain techniques or skills that take longer to learn on the guitar?
Yes, some techniques, like fingerpicking, complex chord transitions, and solos, often take longer to learn because they require more finger strength, dexterity, and coordination. The speed at which you learn these also depends on your level of practice and natural aptitude.
Can advanced techniques like fingerpicking and bending be learned early, or should they be reserved for more experienced players?
While it’s possible to start learning advanced techniques early on, it’s generally better to have a strong grasp of the fundamentals first. Advanced techniques typically require a degree of finger strength and dexterity that beginners might not have yet.
What are some tips for speeding up the learning process?
Regular, focused practice is crucial. Break your practice schedule and sessions into smaller, focused chunks, each dedicated to a specific skill or technique. Make use of online resources and tutorials, consider getting a teacher for personalized guidance, and don’t forget to tune your guitar regularly. Also, try to learn to read both guitar tabs and standard musical notation.
What are the common challenges or roadblocks beginners face when learning guitar?
Common challenges include building finger strength and dexterity, mastering chord transitions, learning to read music or tabs, dealing with sore fingers, and staying motivated during periods of slow progress.
How long does it typically take to learn a song on the guitar?
The time it takes to learn a song on the guitar depends on the complexity of the song and your skill level. A simple song with basic chords might be learned in a few days to a week, while a more complex piece can take weeks or even months.
Does the type of guitar (acoustic, electric, classical) affect how quickly you can learn?
Each type of guitar has its own characteristics and learning curve. For instance, electric guitars are generally easier to play due to thinner strings and smaller body size, but they require knowledge of amplifiers and effects. Acoustic guitars are more portable and don’t require additional gear, but they can be harder on the fingers. Ultimately, the best guitar for learning is the one that keeps you motivated to play.
Can online courses or video tutorials significantly speed up the learning process?
Online courses and video tutorials can be a great resource for learning at your own pace and on your own schedule. They can provide visual and audio guidance that can speed up the learning process, especially for visual learners.
How long does it take to read guitar tabs and sheet music proficiently?
With consistent practice, a beginner can start reading basic guitar tabs in a few days or weeks. Learning to read standard musical notation is generally more complex and can take several months to a year or more.
How can I gauge my progress while learning the guitar?
Tracking progress can be done in several ways: noticing improvements in speed and ease of playing, being able to play more complex songs, receiving positive feedback from music teachers, or peers, noticing increased finger strength and dexterity, and feeling more comfortable and confident when playing.
Are there any shortcuts or quick tricks to learning the guitar?
While there are no shortcuts to learning the guitar, certain strategies can help speed up the process. These include regular focused practice, starting with simple songs, learning to read tabs and musical notation, understanding basic music theory, and getting professional guidance if possible.
How does the complexity of the music genre affect the learning curve?
The complexity of the music genre can significantly affect the learning curve for guitar players. Genres with simpler chord progressions like pop or folk can be easier for beginners, while genres like jazz and classical that often include complex chords and fingerpicking techniques can be more challenging.
What are the signs that indicate you are making good progress in learning guitar?
Signs of progress can include an increase in speed, accuracy, and fluidity when playing, the ability to play more complex songs, a better understanding of music theory, increased comfort with the instrument, and playing rhythm and the ability to improvise or even play songs by ear.
Is there a recommended learning path for beginners?
A common path to learn guitar playing, for beginners might start with learning the parts of the guitar, how to hold it, and how to tune it. From there, you can learn open chords, basic strumming patterns, and simple songs. As you progress, you can start learning barre chords, scales, fingerpicking, and more complex songs. Remember, every learner’s path can be different based on their goals and musical interests. It can be helpful to consult with a guitar teacher for personalized advice on strategies to develop your playing based on your goals. Also, practice regularly and focus on the specific types of skills you wish to improve, such as dexterity, speed, accuracy, etc. With dedication and patience, you can make steady progress in developing your guitar playing!
What are the main challenges beginner guitarists face?
1. Finger Soreness: When first starting out, your fingers are not used to the pressure and positioning required to play the guitar, resulting in soreness or blisters. Over time, as you practice, your fingers develop calluses which make playing more comfortable.
2. Building Finger Strength and Dexterity: For a beginner, it can be tough to press the strings hard enough to get a clear sound, or to move fingers quickly and accurately between frets. This improves with practice and finger-strengthening exercises.
3. Mastering Chord Transitions: Changing chords smoothly and quickly is another common challenge. Initially, your fingers might fumble and slow down the rhythm, but with persistent practice, transitions will become smoother.
4. Strumming Patterns: Maintaining a steady rhythm and incorporating different strumming patterns can be tricky. Using a metronome can help establish a steady beat.
5. Reading Music or Tabs: For many beginners, learning to read standard musical notation or guitar tablature is a completely new skill and can be quite complex.
6. Barre Chords: These require you to use one finger to press down multiple strings at once. They’re often difficult for beginners because they require more finger strength and precision.
7. Staying Motivated: Progress on the guitar isn’t always linear, and there will be periods where it feels like you’re not improving. This can be discouraging, but remember that every guitarist goes through these plateaus.
8. Understanding Music Theory: While not strictly necessary for all guitarists, a basic understanding of music theory can greatly aid your playing. However, it can be quite complex and challenging for beginners to grasp.
9. Practicing Regularly: Many beginners struggle to establish a regular practice routine. Consistent practice is key to improvement on the guitar.
How Many Hours Do Professional Guitarists Practice?
The best professional guitarist practices four hours per day in general. It entails rehearsal and performance. Their genre plays a huge role in guitar players’ practice. Then the guitarist must determine the amount of time he or she will spend practicing his or her instrument. Slash, a popular guitar songwriter, said that he re-practiced 12 times every week. It is advisable to practice at least 24 hours a week to reach Slash. Not everything learns the same way.