How long does it take to learn the guitar – Quora, Facebook and online guitar forums are full of questions like this. Can you learn the guitar in a few days, or does it take years of dedicated practice?
If your goal is to play a few very simple songs, you can achieve this in a relatively short amount of time. For example, if you are a complete beginner, who has never played the guitar before, you can learn the song ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries in around 30 minutes. It is easy, fun and will give you that instant feeling of being able to play the guitar. You can learn this song here: How To Play ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries
For the majority of popular, easy songs though, you will have to develop a basic knowledge of open chords and strumming patterns, and that may take you a few months of daily practice for 10 – 20 minutes. Integrating the new knowledge into your guitar playing takes some time so you will need to be patient as it may be a little bit frustrating at times.
Most aspiring guitarists give up learning the guitar after only a few months, though. Many times, it is a result of getting frustrated because of unrealistic expectations, for example, over practising the guitar and hoping that it will speed up your learning process (if you have time have a look at this article: Stay Motivated & Achieve Your Guitar Goals).
Moving forward, it may take you around 6 months to start feeling a little bit more comfortable with strumming and chord changes. This is the moment where you will notice that your hands and fingers have a life of their own. You know how to play some chords and strummings, but trying to sync them all together, is just on another level. You will need to be patient – remember that all guitarists, even the best guitarist’s in the world were beginners at some point 🙂
If you want to get to the next level, you will need to start learning more complex concepts like barre chords and simple scales like pentatonics. It could take you 1 to 2 years to become comfortable with them, but during this time, you will probably elevate your guitar skills to that of a late beginner or early intermediate player. It would be a good idea to increase your practice sessions to 30 – 45 minutes at this stage, so you have enough time to practice old material (that you already know) and learn new stuff that is going to increase your skills.
To reach an intermediate level, you will probably have to play the guitar regularly for around 2 – 3 years. At this level, you will need to be practising the guitar for at least 1 hour per day. By then, you should have quite an impressive library of songs that you can play. Around this time, you will also start developing a sense of your own style, and you will notice that you start doing things in your own way. Your musical preferences may get more specific, and you may start to prefer to play style-specific songs, like rock or folk. Probably, you will also start to specialise in certain technical aspects of guitar playing like fingerpicking, legato, alternate picking or sweep picking.
It might also be a good idea to join a band at this stage, as it will really speed up your learning process. There are plenty of bands looking for guitarists of all levels, from beginner to advanced, so I am sure you will find something suitable. Playing with other musicians will accelerate your guitar skills, and you’ll be able to test your musical ideas in a band situation.
Around the 3 – 5 year mark, you will start noticing that you are getting really good at playing the guitar and you will probably move into a late intermediate level player. By then, you should be able to play a lot of different songs, use comfortable barre chords, power chords and be able to play more complex guitar scales, like for example 3-note per string scales.
It may take around 10 years or more to get to an advanced level of playing the guitar (sometimes less – I know plenty of guitarists who get there in 6 – 7 years) but again, it all depends on your goals and practising habits. By this stage, you should be practising for 2 – 3 hours per day (some spend as much as 5 hours or more!) to keep developing your guitar skills.
So to answer the question, how long does it take to learn the guitar – you can learn a simple song in 30 minutes, but it can take you 2 -3 years to get to a decent intermediate level, 5 years to get really good with what you have learned and 10 years to jump to a more pro level.
I learn and practise the guitar every day and I enjoy every second of it. I personally think that keeping your expectations realistic whilst practising regularly will give you excellent results. So don’t worry about how long it takes to learn the guitar, pick it up and enjoy every moment you spend with it. What has been your experience? Let me know below.
Darius | Guitar Couch Lessons
Very grounded and realistic advise.
I just started playing my classical guitar again after a 45 year hiatus. I was a low intermediate. I know I’m looking at YEARS of practicing at least 1-2 hours per day if I really want to make headway, which I do. Sometimes I just don’t have the motivation . . . But you really have to “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk!