Lots of people want to learn how to play guitar but most never follow through and make it, unfortunately it is a hobby that can take a lot of work! Sometimes the ones who fail the most are those who have way too big of dreams about stardom and virtuoso mastery. If you take a logical approach and practice regularly you will get further as a musician, here is how long it takes to realistically learn the guitar.
What to Learn on Guitar?
Most budding guitarists these days are very focused on heavy skill sets like shredding and playing in unique time signatures. These are great things to learn but they are a bit much for someone taking beginner guitar lessons. It’s more important to get an understanding of basic songs, chord progressions, famous melodies, and being able to sing and play at the same time.
Not only are these skills more in demand, but they also help you learn the music better instead of hand pattern muscle memory. That harder stuff needs to be saved for after you are out of the beginning stages. Learn simple pop and even kids songs and play them for people first, this will impress them, increase your confidence, and then you will have more of an urge to tackle the difficult guitar techniques.
The Phases of Learning Guitar
Each phase will depend on length based upon the amount of work you put into it, those that keep trying will succeed, the rest end up with expensive gear they never use.
Beginner Phase 3 Months to 1 Year
This is the worst phase and it usually filters out the talkers from the do-ers! It is hard on your hands, wrist, back, shoulders, and posture if you aren’t sitting up right. For at least three months of daily practice it may seem like it is impossible to get anywhere, this is normal and how it goes for everyone.
If you don’t have enough willpower or support this time will be strenuous and stressful, but every musician has been there. If you see someone that is good at guitar, they have already put the practice in with intense finger pain and wrong notes played. There is no secret to beating this stage except for constant and sometimes boring repetition and practice. Online guitar lesson programs like these are a great way to breeze through this phase. With a proper guide you’ll get to phase two with confidence.
Intermediate Phase 1 Plus Year
Your intermediate phase starts when you realize that reading articles like this are both helpful and detrimental. It becomes obvious that new ideas and skills are fun to discover but mean nothing if you don’t apply them. The only way you will get better is if you put the work in and this lesson pulls you out of the beginning stages. At this middle stage it is understood that new lessons mean nothing without engaging in them.
After 6 months to a year of playing you will be confident and willing to take on more, usually it is music theory that needs to be tackled at this point. After memorizing parts of the fretboard and using a variety of guitar techniques it is useful to study as to why those sounds work so well. Music is all about the big picture and each day it gets clearer.
Advanced Phase Years +
If you practice every day for a few months you can realistically be shredding on the guitar, but you will still be lacking in some music fundamentals. The reality of being an advanced player is that it involves more than just fast playing. An experienced guitarist knows hundreds of songs, scales, chord progressions, and can play with most any band with practice.
Being an expert at guitar doesn’t always entail shredding or solo skills, there are rhythm guitarists who are masters at music but cannot play at lightning speed. Usually older players have learned that most audiences want the simple songs that have great beats and singing. You reach a point as a player where the truly advanced skill is giving the audience what they want to hear.
At any point during these phases it is easy to lose your guitar skills if you do not keep up with them. If you don’t play for a long time you will find you have to do some of the beginning work all over again to recondition your hands and fingers. That’s another sign of an intermediate or advanced player, they realize the practice is never finished!
Sometimes those that have been in music for a while will take times where they “start over” and try to look at it from the viewpoint of a beginner. Each generation has its ways of teaching music and it’s good to keep up with the trends to help keep your expertise in check.
Long-Term Guitar Playing
If you want to get out of the beginner phases and be a great player years or decades from now you need to find routines that keep you going for a lifetime. Don’t take your skill for granted and lose it, be humble and always try to get better at music. Trying different genres, songs, and even a new instrument can help reignite the spark you felt when you first picked up guitar.
With age will come more pain and problems so it is important to adapt your approach to keep yourself going. In music there are no right answers or exact ways, yes there are popular styles, but don’t worry about it and just do what you enjoy. If a player wants out of the beginning stages they will need to put TONS of time and work into it, so make sure you are having some fun to help get through the hassle. To keep the guitar as a long-term goal you need to find just the right balance.
So how long does it take to realistically learn the guitar? Roughly 3 months to life! There is never a point where you will know it all and if you don’t always practice you can lose what you have learned. But instead of worrying about time frames and skill just play music, pick up the guitar and play whatever! Musical instruments are fun, therapeutic, and great for socializing, don’t fret over how good you are, just engage and have fun.
About the Author
Shawn Leonhardt is a writer for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer. He has produced songs, written T-shirt slogans, and provided voiceovers. He specializes in teaching songwriting, lyrics, and music theory.