We have all imagined ourselves up on stage, head swaying whilst playing the guitar, not realising that a real guitar is not quite as easy as an air guitar. Even so, it actually does not have to be so difficult, we do have to start somewhere afterall!
So, how long does it even take to learn how to play the guitar? It can be a pretty difficult question to answer. Try asking your friend who is known to never be without their guitar. The answer was quite vague, right?
That is because it is different for everyone. There are particular differences between you and other people, and how long it may take for you to pick up the skill of guitar playing.
Fear not, though, as no doubt that by this time next year you shall not only pretend to be on stage once again, but it will be with a real guitar. Read on to find out the answers to your questions, and hopefully it will help to give you an idea of how long it may take for you to learn the guitar.
The First Step
To learn to play the guitar, the first thing you need to be is dedicated to wanting to learn. It is not a hobby where you can pick it up once a week and hope you are already playing a riff by Led Zeppelin – you have to put the time and effort in.
To acquire some basic understanding and knowledge of playing, you will have already put in around 140-150 hours of practice time. After this time, it means you should already know how to play simple songs and have knowledge of basic chords and techniques.
When it comes to the guitar, or any musical instrument, there will always be different levels of ability. As stated above, as a novice, your ability will be at beginner level meaning you will not be ready to start a band just yet – which your neighbors may be thankful for!
To reach a more professional level, not only are you wanting to dedicate a few hundred hours into practice, it will actually be more like in the thousands of hours. If you seriously want to learn, this will not sound like a hardship.
Just like with most things, as a guitarist you will never stop learning new techniques and tricks, even if you have been playing for years – even decades. To learn to play is a broad term, but most people think of it as being able to play songs without it sounding awful and to a high standard. With this in mind, it is best to give yourself a goal to work towards, but something that is reachable right now.
This is so you can reach a certain level of ability. Setting out goals will help you to reach goals without trying to over achieve in such a short space of time.
The ability level you want to be at the end goal will also depend on what type of music you ultimately want to perform. As a more classic artist, it can be a little more complex and stronger knowledge and ability will be needed. If it is a punk or rock band, you should be able to get away with general basic knowledge of chords.
How Long It May Take?
It can be easy to want to rush learning, but there is a lot of fun in that. Maybe your current end goal is to learn a particular song? The process of getting from knowing nothing to being able to play it should be the fun part. So enjoy it!
Ultimately, it will depend on how much practice you give yourself each day. It may seem pretty obvious, but the more hours you put in each day, the better you will become in a shorter space of time. Spending around half an hour a day may seem good enough, but really you should be spending an hour or two – maybe more – practicing.
So the more you do each day, the likelihood is that you will pick up playing the guitar a whole lot faster in a shorter space of time.
Can You Practice Too Much?
Oh, yes! Practicing each day, or a few times a week for a few hours is fine, but make sure you are not taking in too much knowledge and skill each practice. Concentrating on a smaller focus will be easier to digest in the long run, and will help keep you on track. There is no point getting yourself overloaded with too much information, it will only become counterproductive.
Make sure you ‘perfect’ what you are learning before you move on. Do not feel like each practice has to be something new. In short, keep it focused.
When to Practice?
The majority of us have a lot going on in our day-to-day lives, so how do you fit in playing the guitar? If it is something you really want to do, then you will need to make time in your busy schedule.
The important thing is to try and at least practice every day whilst keeping a note of when that is, rather than just practicing on random days and forgetting which day you practiced last. This is because if you attempt to keep practicing each day and you can see a record of what you have done, you are then more likely to stick to a schedule.
If you lose track of which days you played the guitar, you are more likely to go long periods of time without practicing. Making the effort to practice will help in the long run, and will benefit your guitar skills in a few months time.
So, before you attempt to even consider learning the guitar, make sure you can fit in practice every day and buy yourself a calendar where you can mark off each day. Also make sure you have a minimum time, such as an hour, that will qualify you as having a practice.
When Will You Start to Play Songs?
Before you can even start to play songs, you need to learn the basics. Forget looking through a song chord book, it will only cause more stress than enjoyment, maybe even causing you to quit! Instead, start practicing by learning what you need to know like tuning a guitar and scales.
Having said that, we learn the guitar to ultimately play a song, usually by one of our favorite artists. There is actually nothing wrong with it taking the route of learning by playing a song, because that is the goal, afterall. The thing is, do not expect to be playing said song within a week of picking up the guitar for the first time.
Realistically, you could be playing well-known riffs quite quickly, but not a full song. That in itself will feel great, especially seeing as you will be able to entertain friends for a few minutes of ‘guess this song?’
Learning the chords to a song will help you to move your hands in lots of ways to play different riffs, and that is actually a good thing. It can become complicated, however, when playing a full song, so you will need to learn the chords and be able to transition from one to another smoothly.
At first, the odd riff might seem easy, but it becomes a lot more complex when it is a full song. Do not stress though, just like Rome was not built in a day, it will take you some time to fully learn chords.
What Are Chords?
Overall there are 8 simple chords to learn and they can be played using an “open” shape of the fingers. This means not playing a ‘bar chord’ which involves putting your index finger on the whole of the fret.
With these chords, you will basically be able to pretty much play a whole lot of songs and you may find yourself learning to play the guitar quite quickly. This is because you will not need to build up strength in the fingers and the technique is different – and easier – compared with bar chords.
Even though they are easier to learn, it does not mean you will not be making mistakes. In fact, you will be and that is fine because they are there to learn from. Once you start to grasp chords and you can hear yourself playing riffs you recognize, you will also feel really proud.
Acoustic or An Electric?
It all depends on what you are after in terms of sound, and whether time to learn is an issue. Even though you should not base your choice on how fast it could take to learn, it is the electric guitar which will be easier and much faster to learn.
Why? When it comes to the electric guitar, you will not need as much finger strength compared to an acoustic. Plus, power chords may become your best friend. They can be a ‘shortcut’ when it comes to learning songs and this cannot be done on acoustic. Even so, both require talent and dedication.
Another tip is to not move from an electric to an acoustic guitar. They are actually very different and you will notice it right away. Determine which one it is you would like to play and why, and stick to it.
It does not mean you cannot move between them for fun, say, your friend has an acoustic lying around but you exclusively play guitar. You can still have a play on the acoustic! Just know that sticking to one will make learning easier for you.
The Benefits of a Lesson
Lessons are not for everyone, and that is okay. Some of the best guitarists out there are completely self-taught, however, that does not mean lessons are pointless – far from it.
If you are able to afford lessons, which not everybody is, then it could be a good time to take advantage of expert advice, especially near the start of your guitar learning journey.
These days it is much easier to learn the guitar due to the fact there are so many ways to do it. There is Youtube and apps, as well as the internet in general – never feel like you cannot find the answers to your guitar practicing or playing questions.
Even so, for somebody who is new to playing the guitar, lessons can be a good way to learn from somebody firsthand, and they can let you know how well (or not well) you are progressing.
Technique can be a funny thing. You might feel like you are doing everything correctly, but once a professional steps in, they may say something different. This is invaluable, and will help you along the way.
Learning by yourself using the tools at your fingertips is great, but feedback right there and then can be a valuable tool to benefit from.
A lesson will be tailored to your specific needs which is always helpful when you want to focus on perfecting your skills. They have very likely taught a lot of beginners, so nothing here will phase them. The good thing about lessons is that they will have specific methods and activities that will help you to progress.
Onces Lessons Are Over
Once you have done around 3 months of lessons, which can be once or twice a week for an hour, then it will be easier to go independent. You will have basic knowledge but a much deeper understanding which will help you further your skills on your own.
Going It Alone Without Lessons
Being self-taught is pretty rock ‘n’ roll, right? Well, it can be. If lessons are not your thing, then you can build up guitar knowledge on your own. It may be slower but it is absolutely doable.
There is no right or wrong way to learn the guitar, just different ways. If you do choose to learn independently from the beginning, find others who also play the guitar. Bouncing feedback off each other will help as you progress.
Materials Needed to Learn
When wanting to play the guitar, learning materials are a must. As stated previously, they come in all sorts of forms these days, from the internet to books at your local library. Even though it is tempting to jump ahead, start at the beginning. It will be less overwhelming and you will progress faster as you learn the basics.
Key Things to Take From This
You are never too old to learn to play the guitar, and it can be a great hobby or something new to take you somewhere else in your career path. In fact, learning the guitar can be a rewarding experience, and can help you to achieve something fun but also a new skill.
To play at a good standard, or to even reach a particular goal you have in mind, it will take a few hours each day for a number of months to get you to where you would like to be. If you put the effort in, you will be rewarded, so invest your time if you would like to perform that favorite song of yours.
We all learn playing the guitar in our own ways, so establish this very early on. This will also help when searching for learning materials, because what might help someone else might not help you. If you want to see something visual, opt for something like Youtube or other instructional videos.
Learn the basics, and the rest will follow. As much as you want to know how to play that song now, do not jump ahead of yourself and instead take in that beginner’s knowledge. You will thank yourself later.
Make sure you play your guitar around people. As much as you can hear yourself playing guitar, you will not progress unless you receive feedback from others, whether that is from a friend who plays the guitar or a teacher.
Oh, and lastly, practice, practice, practice!