Realistically, How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar?

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Most budding musicians have the same question at one point in their journey; how long does it take to learn guitar?

Ever held a guitar, felt its weight in your hands, and wondered how long it’d take to create a melody that moves hearts and earns you admiring glances?

Your journey to guitar mastery is unique and unpredictable; it could take months or even decades, depending on your goals, dedication, and the hours you put into practice. This article offers a glimpse into the world of learning the guitar, providing a realistic timeline, tips to speed up your progress, and the role talent plays in mastering the guitar.

So, let’s embark on an adventure of strumming chords, exploring rhythms, and savouring the joy of creating music, one string at a time.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar?

Mastering the guitar is a unique journey for each individual, and the time it takes to learn can vary greatly. The most reliable measure of progress is the total lifetime hours you’ve spent practicing.

For instance, if you’re practicing for four hours a day for six months, you’ll accumulate almost 720 hours of practice. This amount of time can lead to significant progress.

On the other hand, if you’re only practicing for 30 minutes a day, it’d take you four years to reach the same number of hours.

The “10,000 hour rule” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell suggests that mastery in any field requires at least 10,000 hours of deliberate and structured practice. To reach this milestone, you’d need to practice 1.5 hours a day, every day, for 18 years. This level of dedication is what it takes to achieve world-class mastery.

However, if you’re not aiming for world-class mastery, there are more manageable timelines. If you’re practicing around 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week, with medium intensity, you can expect to play beginner guitar songs within 1-2 months.

By 3-6 months, you should be able to confidently play intermediate and slightly more advanced songs with technical elements. As you continue to practice, you’ll start to explore more techniques and begin learning more advanced strum patterns, hammer-ons, and more difficult plucking.

By 12-18 months, you should be comfortable with basic chords and ready to move on to more advanced chords and fingering combinations. By 18-36 months, you should have a solid understanding of music and guitar theory and be able to play almost any song with little struggle.

It’s important to note that consistent practice over many years is key to reaching higher levels of guitar playing. Even if you’re practicing a great deal every day for a month, you’ll notice your skills start to decline if you cut back on practice time. Even with intense practice, reaching the highest level of guitar playing can take over a decade.

When you’re practicing, start by focusing on accuracy, then move on to rhythm, and finally speed. A great guitar teacher can provide instant feedback and accelerate your progress. Complementing lessons with internet and book resources can also be beneficial.

As you improve, you’ll need to focus on different elements of your guitar speed. There are 11 guitar-playing elements to focus on, and no single practice method will work all the time. As your skill level evolves, so will your specific guitar technique challenges. Most guitarists don’t spend enough time learning to integrate their skills together, instead focusing on one technique at a time.

Whether you choose to learn on an electric or acoustic guitar, the time it takes to learn should be about the same. The more passionate you are about guitar, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get. It’s important to accept that becoming really good at guitar will be hard, but knowing this can make you savor the days when you gain a new technique or finally understand chords and music theory.

man sitting and learning how to play guitar in a studio.

How to get better at playing guitar

Persistence is everything

Embarking on the guitar journey requires your commitment and serious study. The initial thrill may wane after the first few months, turning the learning process into a task. However, don’t let this deter you, particularly when you’re grappling with the more intricate parts of a piece. Even a minor improvement each day can culminate in significant progress over time.

An effective approach is to start small and gradually extend your practice time. You might initiate with 20 minutes a day and eventually extend to an hour. Regularity is the key here. Practicing daily, even if it’s just for a brief period, can yield substantial results. Establishing a fixed practice regime is another common characteristic among successful guitarists.

Keeping a journal to track your progress can be beneficial. Competing with yourself can stimulate massive growth. Strive for regular practice sessions almost every day of the week.

Know your “why”

Maintaining motivation can be a hurdle for many guitarists. To overcome this, nurture a positive mindset and concentrate on the guitar. Having a distraction-free practice area can be beneficial.

Avoid making excuses for not practicing – even 15 minutes per day is better than no practice at all. Engaging with other musicians and attending live shows or guitar-related events can also boost motivation.

Setting objectives for each practice session can lead to progress on your instrument. Listening to a diverse range of music for inspiration is also beneficial. Reflect on your progress to stay motivated.

Establish rewards for reaching your goals. If you find it challenging to stay motivated, consider sharing your learning journey with others. This can make practice less tedious and more enjoyable.

Watching accomplished musicians perform live can provide inspiration and motivation. It can make you realize that it’s all achievable with a disciplined practice routine. Learning riffs or solos that you’ve always wanted to play can be highly motivating.

Comprehend your long-term objectives and develop a practice routine that aligns with your vision. Having a sense of purpose in life can help manage daily stress and regulate emotions. It is a crucial component of overall well-being and can even predict financial earnings and longevity.

Purpose is more than a goal; it’s an ongoing intention that’s never fully accomplished. Cultivating a sense of purpose early in life can have lifelong benefits, including improved health and longevity.

Top Tips for learning faster

To expedite your guitar learning journey, consider the following factors.

How many hours should you spend practicing every day?

Your practice duration is directly tied to your specific goals. Aspiring professionals may need to dedicate around 4 hours daily, while casual learners can make do with 30 minutes. Regardless of your goal, consistency is crucial. Aim for at least 5 practice sessions a week for casual learning. Remember, extended practice sessions tend to be less productive. Short, focused practice sessions with breaks in between are more beneficial as they prevent your mind from wandering or tiring.

Should I learn by myself?

You can either opt for self-teaching or formal lessons. Both require commitment and dedication. If you find structure helpful for your learning, then guitar lessons might be a better fit for you. Self-teaching offers the freedom to learn what you want at your own pace. Regardless of your choice, remember that the journey of learning guitar is mostly self-driven.

Acoustic Or Electric

Your choice between an acoustic or an electric guitar can be guided by the genre of music you’re into. Manufacturers have made beginner-friendly guitars that are easy to play. If you’re leaning towards an electric guitar, consider the type of pickups it has as they can affect your guitar’s sound. A commitment to learning and practicing is key, no matter the type of guitar you pick.

Practice Frequency

The frequency of your practice can greatly affect your learning speed. Studies have shown that taking short 10-second breaks during a practice session can boost your learning. These short breaks give your brain a chance to process what you’ve been practicing and replay the part over and over. This method is especially helpful during the early stages of learning.

Natural Aptitude

Talent isn’t something you’re born with, it’s developed through persistent studying and application. Improving your guitar playing is just like learning any other skill. It involves mastering small isolated elements of playing, technique, and theory, and then weaving them into more complex skills and concepts. Believing in hard work over natural talent tends to motivate more practice and study, leading to better skills.

a close up of a guitar fretboard and a woman's hand playing the guitar

Talent is overrated

The concept of talent often arises in discussions about learning musical instruments. While some individuals may possess a natural affinity for music or physical attributes that facilitate playing certain instruments, these advantages do not guarantee success.

For instance, longer fingers might simplify guitar playing, but lacking this trait does not preclude you from mastering the instrument. Talent can provide an initial advantage, but it’s not the determining factor in your musical journey.

Consider two individuals: one with a natural aptitude for the guitar but a lackadaisical approach, and another devoid of noticeable talent but possessing a fervent passion and willingness to dedicate hours to practice. The latter is more likely to excel in the long run.

This is because the key to becoming a proficient musician lies in time, effort, and the right mindset rather than inherent talent. Practice can bridge the talent gap, allowing those without inherent advantages to acquire skills through dedication. However, those without natural talent may need to invest additional time to match the progress of those with talent.

Passion for the instrument also significantly influences learning. If you derive pleasure from practicing the guitar, you’re likely to dedicate more time to it, leading to quicker improvement. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose an instrument that genuinely piques your interest rather than one you feel obligated to play due to perceived natural talent.

So, if you’re enthusiastic about learning the guitar, don’t let the lack of inherent talent deter you. With the appropriate resources, motivation, and ample practice, you can become proficient at playing the guitar.

The Ultimate Guitar Journey

Undeniably, the journey to mastering the guitar is a unique, intricate process. It is one that requires time, deliberate practice, and, most importantly, a genuine passion.

Remember, the timeline varies for everyone based on their commitment, practice methods, and personal goals. What matters is your individual progress, not the comparison to someone else’s journey.

Whether you’re aiming for world-class mastery or simply want to strum along to your favourite songs, consistent, deliberate practice is key. With patience, dedication, and the right strategies, you’re equipped to make impressive strides on your guitar learning journey.

This journey is not just about refining your guitar skills, but also about immersing yourself in the joy and fulfillment that music brings. Keep strumming, keep exploring, and most importantly, enjoy the ride!

Andrew Scrivens

Andrew Scrivens

I am a live musician and guitar teacher from Brisbane, Australia, with extensive experience playing live, in the studio and for TV shows. I play in many venues, studios, music shops and with my students and as such am exposed to a lot of different gear. I form my opinions based on my experiences playing instruments in these locations.

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