One of the most popular instruments worldwide, the guitar, has a rich history dating back centuries. Playing the guitar can be a great way to improve your musical skills. And if you want to explore music further, the guitar can be a great addition to your arsenal.
In music (and life in general), learning is a continuous journey with no real ending. The goal is to keep progressing and moving forward, even if it’s just a little bit each day.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar?
The answer to this question is not as simple as you might think. It depends on many factors, including your natural ability, how much you practice, and what style of music you want to play. Generally speaking, for most people who practice about 30 minutes a day for 3-5 days weekly, it takes 1-2 months to be able to play beginner songs, 3-6 months to be able to play intermediate songs, and 18 months to be able to play advanced and more complicated pieces.
One of the great things about learning guitar is that you can go at your own pace. Some people pick it up quickly, and others take their time. But as long as you’re making progress, you’re on the right track.
To give you a better idea of what to expect, let’s look at the different stages of learning guitar and how long each one might take. For all skill stages, we’ll consider that you’re practicing at a medium intensity, approximately 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days per week.
What are the Stages of Learning Guitar?
There are generally four stages of learning guitar:
- The Beginner Stage
- The Intermediate Stage
- The Advanced Stage
- The Expert Stage
Let’s take a look at each stage in more detail.
This is the starting point for everyone. During this stage, you’ll be focusing on learning the basic chords and melodies of simple songs. Of course, you won’t be able to play anything too complicated just yet, but that’s okay.
Basic strumming and simple plucking techniques will be the primary focus during this stage. By the end of it, you should be able to play some basic songs and understand how to transition from one chord to another.
At the end of this stage, you should be able to:
- Play basic chords such as C, G, D, and A
- Strum simple songs using basic chords
- Transition between chords smoothly
- Start learning simple melodies and lead parts
This stage usually takes 1-2 months for most people.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to move on to intermediate-level concepts. This is where you’ll start learning more complicated chords, melodies, and strumming patterns. At this point, aside from improving your strumming and plucking techniques, you’ll also start working on your music theories.
Some people might find this stage a bit challenging since there’s more to learn than before. However, your focus will transition from just playing to also understanding how music works. You’ll advance to more complex strumming and plucking techniques, alongside familiarizing yourself with new terms such as “timing,” “rhythm,” and “tempo.”
At this stage, some people also start learning how to read tablature (or “tabs”). Tabs are a type of musical notation that shows you where to place your fingers on the fretboard. Think of it as a note sheet, but for guitar.
People usually play guitar at an intermediate level within 3-6 months.
As you get better at playing, you’ll start to notice that there are different ways to play the same song. You might experiment with different techniques and styles at this stage. Within 12-18 months, you are now familiar with all the chords, and your fingers move flawlessly across the fretboard.
Most of the time, you won’t have trouble reading tabs and sheet music. Your goal now is to start refining your skills and perfecting your craft, honing your own style, and advancing to barre chords, lead guitar playing, and even fingerstyle.
You might also start learning more difficult strumming patterns and plucking techniques. You can now play most songs with ease and may have your own interpretation and/or arrangement for certain pieces.
It takes about 12-18 months of constant practice to reach this stage.
The expert level is where you start to feel like a “guitar god” (or goddess). At this stage, you can pretty much play anything you want. Your skills are now polished, and you have full control over your instrument.
At this point, you’re able to play just about anything thrown your way. Your fingers move effortlessly across the fretboard, and you have complete control over your instrument. Picking up songs by ear becomes second nature to you.
This is the level where most people want to be, and with constant practice, being an advanced guitar player can be achieved in about 18 to 36 months.
Is Guitar Really Hard to Learn?
Playing the guitar isn’t as hard to learn as some people make it out to be. Out of all the other musical instruments, the guitar is actually one of the easiest to learn.
Sure, it might be overwhelming at first, but this is the same for all musical instruments. In fact, this is similar to almost everything in life.
Anything worth doing will take effort, time, and patience. The same can be said for learning to play guitar. Yes, it takes effort, time, and patience to learn how to play guitar (or anything else for that matter).
However, this doesn’t mean that guitar is difficult to learn. The key is to start slow and gradually build up your skills. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, and always practice regularly. The most difficult part about learning is simply getting started. Getting past through the initial hump is usually the hardest, but once you do, everything else becomes much easier.
How to Make Learning Guitar Easier?
Here are a few tips to make things easier for you:
1. Get a Good Guitar
Having a good guitar also makes things easier. A well-made guitar is easier to play, and it will stay in tune better. This is especially important for beginners who are still developing their ear. We recommend avoiding cheap knock-offs as they’re usually harder to play and stay in tune.
2. Find a Good Guitar Teacher
If you’re serious about learning, then we recommend finding a good guitar teacher. A good teacher can teach you the basics, help you develop good techniques, and give you feedback to help you improve. Ideally, getting formal lessons to help significantly helps you understand music theories faster and make learning the guitar much easier in the long run.
Can guitar be self taught? Partly, yes – you can definitely teach yourself guitar without any formal lessons. However, on the other hand, taking lessons from a guitar teacher can make learning much easier and faster.
If you’re working and can’t find a class that suits your schedule, online guitar lessons are a great option. You can find plenty of free content online, but we recommend finding a structured course or lesson plan to help you learn more effectively.
3. Get a Guitar That’s Easy to Play
Some guitars are just naturally harder to play than others. If you find that your guitar is giving you a hard time, then it might be a good idea to get another one that’s easier to play. Acoustic guitars are usually easier to play than electric guitars.
4. Set Reasonable Goals
When learning anything new, it’s important to set reasonable goals. Trying to achieve too much too soon is a recipe for disaster and will only lead to frustration. Start by setting small, achievable goals, and then gradually work your way up.
5. Break Down Songs Into Smaller Pieces
One of the best ways to learn anything new is to break it down into smaller pieces. So when you’re learning a new song, break it down into small sections and then practice each section slowly. Once you have the hang of one section, move on to the next.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid to make them, and don’t get too discouraged if you do. Everyone makes mistakes, even the best guitar players in the world. Just remember to keep practicing, and you’ll eventually get it right.
These mistakes will shape you as a guitar player and help you develop your own style.
Final Thoughts: How Long Does It Take to Learn Guitar?
In conclusion, learning to play guitar does take some effort, time, and patience. However, with a good guitar teacher, some guidance, and lots of practice, you can learn how to play the guitar in a relatively short amount of time. Just remember to set small goals, take things one step at a time, and most importantly, have fun!