How Long Does It Take to Learn Guitar?

How long does it take to learn guitar? This is one of the most frequently asked questions from beginner guitarists. Needless to say, this question has no definitive answer and is based on various factors. While some people may be fairly advanced guitar players in a couple of years, for others it can take much longer. A couple of major factors that will determine your success in guitar playing are:

  • Your determination to learn new techniques and master existing ones
  • Your guitar practice schedule
  • The tools and resources available at your disposal to advance your skills

Thus, based on the factors mentioned above alone, it is close to impossible to predict how long it will take you to learn how to play the guitar. That question in itself “how long does it take to learn guitar” is quite subjective as one person’s idea of being able to play the guitar may be different from another’s. It all depends on what you want to achieve and how much time and effort you’re willing to dedicate to it. That being said, the sections below will give you greater insight as well as a rough timeframe regarding what you should be doing (and how much of it) to learn how to play the guitar.

How Often Should You Practice?

If you have never held or played a guitar, the first thing you will realize is that learning how to play guitar is like learning how to walk or talk. However, in this case, you will have to learn new hand and finger movements. How fast you learn these movements will depend greatly on how much you practice. Thus, if you are a beginner it is important that you practice frequently.

When you practice for 15 minutes a day you will notice changes in your guitar skills within one or two weeks. Contrastingly, if you practice for 15 minutes every week it could end up taking much longer before you notice any improvements. Although I am a strong advocate of practicing to improve your skills, as a beginner, it is important not to “over-practice”. When you’re just starting out your fingers will get sore fast as they have not built up any calluses yet. Therefore if you practice too much, your fingers will hurt and that may cause one of two things to happen:

  • a) It will inhibit you from practicing for a few days
  • b) It may deter you away from the guitar

fingers dead inside

As a beginner, try practicing the guitar for 10-15 minutes a day. As you begin to build your finger muscles and improve your playing, you can increase this amount of time as you see fit. You may feel comfortable practice for 30 minutes per day, an hour per day, or even more.

If you cannot find the time to practice every day, be sure to practice as often as you can on a weekly basis. Also, it is advisable that you formulate a practice timetable. Depending on your schedule you can choose to have your practice sessions before you go to sleep, early in the morning or in the afternoon, whatever works best for you. It is recommended to keep track of what you practiced and when. For that reason, I have created a guitar practice schedule you can use to track what you did every day. An example of what your practice schedule might look like for the week is shown below.

guitar practice schedule complete

As the days go by you can mark the day as complete if you accomplished what you set out to do and can add a few notes about your practice session if you wish. If you want to use the above fillable PDF for keeping track of your guitar practice schedule, download it here.

Stages and Timeframes

Let’s say that you are able to practice on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes per day, how long will it take you to learn the guitar? The section below provides a rough outline of the stages and timeframes most guitarists will go through given they practice regularly.

  • Within the first two months (30 hours) of learning, you will be able to strum a few basic beginner guitar chords. Learning these chords will allow you to select from a wide range of songs to learn. However, in this stage, you will only be able to play simple songs that do not require complicated strumming. Learning how to read guitar tabs in this stage is vital in order to allow you to also learn how to play songs that require simple plucking.
  • At month 6 (90 hours), you will be skilled enough to play more difficult songs, especially those that require more technical elements. Thus, between the third and sixth month, you will be able to perform simple lead guitar techniques such as pull-offs and hammer-ons.
  • After 1-2 years or 180 – 360 hours of regular practicing, you will become increasingly comfortable will playing and learning new songs. At this stage, you will be able to play many popular songs and will learn / practice more advanced techniques such as playing barre chords, learning major & minor scales, and soloing.
  • After 3-5 years or 540 – 900 hours, you’ll be able to play almost any song you want. However, to get to this stage you have to maintain consistency in your practice. Learning how to play a new song becomes easy at this stage as you have already mastered the basic and intermediate guitar techniques. You will also be fairly comfortable in improvising and playing licks or solos over some chord progressions.
  • After 10 – 20 years or 1800 – 3600 hours, you should be much more comfortable in improvising lead over a vast array of chord progressions. Your knowledge of theory will be quite advanced, however you will realize that there is still much more to learn. Your ear will also be much more developed and you will be able to listen to a song and have an idea already of which frets / strings should be played to replicate that sound.

Am I Too Old to Start Playing Guitar?

Nonsense! You’re never too old to start playing guitar. Sure some of the legendary guitarists you grew up admiring started playing guitar at an early age, however, this doesn’t mean that if you’re over 50 you can’t learn. Hence, it is never too late to learn something new. Guitar playing can be an exciting hobby for you to enjoy in your retirement.

Thus, don’t worry about how old you are and just enjoy your newfound hobby if you decide it’s right for you. Follow a guitar practice schedule (sample provided above) and learn from the vast amount of resources available online or get one-on-one guitar lessons from a teacher near you.

It is worth noting that children take less time to learn than adults, for obvious reasons. For children, their muscles are still developing and are at a period in their life where learning comes more naturally. Additionally, whereas a child will welcome the idea of learning how to strum a guitar with open arms, some adults may have a preconceived notion that guitar playing is difficult. Children also have much more free time to practice than adults. As an adult, you may have to squeeze in time for guitar practice to fit with your busy schedule.

Nevertheless, do what feels comfortable for you and ignore any preconceived notions that playing the guitar is hard or takes years. Nike put it best – just do it ;).

How Quickly Will I Be Able to Play Songs?

Once again, the answer to “how quickly will I be able to play songs” will depend on:

  • How often you practice
  • What songs you want to learn

By learning a few beginner chords you should be well on your way to learning a ton of new songs. For a short list of easy beginner songs to start out with check out the beginner’s guitar songs to learn list. If you practice frequently, you should be able to play one of these songs within one week. Though at first the playing may be rough around the edges, you should be able to quickly improve your sound by practicing at least a little every day.

Start off slow by learning a song with just a couple of chords or a few simple tabs. Additionally, use helpful guitar software such as Tux Guitar or Guitar Pro to help you hear and visualize how the song should be played.

Summary

In summary, there is no precise answer to the question “how long does it take to learn guitar”. However, as mentioned in the timeframe section above, you may be where you want to be in a couple of months or it might take 5+ years. It all depends on whether you’re looking to be able to play a few songs for friends or become a professional guitarist. One thing I can say however is that practice combined with useful and educational resources can help vastly improve your learning abilities and help you get on track to where you want to be much faster.

Additional Resources

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