By Gage Hanson
Guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. The combination of portability, ease of upkeep, monetary investment and gentle learning curve make guitar an instrument of choice for a lot of beginners. However, it is no fun to buy an instrument and not be able to play anything interesting anytime soon. So the real question is: how long does it take to learn guitar?
Guitar Learning Goal
The first thing you need to do to figure out how long it will take you to learn guitar is set a goal for yourself. If you want to play guitar, you have to define what is an achievable milestone that will make you feel like a good, old-fashioned guitar player.
You aren’t going to be an Eric Clapton anytime soon and you probably won’t be playing Wonderwall at your friend’s next house party. Setting a realistic goal will give you a reason to learn guitar, and to keep learning to reach that goal.
If you want a goal that you can reach within a few months, set out to memorize the ten most used guitar chords. If this is what makes a guitar player, you can become a guitar player six weeks after you walk out of that music shop with your first Fender acoustic guitar.
If you are more willing to extend the time period to six to eight months, set out to play a popular, but easy to learn song. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan, or “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran are a couple of easy to learn guitar songs with minimal chords. Any one of those could be mastered by a properly motivated beginner in only a couple months. Nothing says “I play guitar” like singing sweet Bob Marley ballads on a stone bench at your local park.
Basic Guitar Lessons
If you really are serious about learning guitar and want to keep the time period down to a reasonable amount, consider lessons. Lessons keep you motivated, give you an experienced teacher and help you develop a routine that will improve your skills an exponential amount.
There are a multitude of online courses available for guitar lessons, but I highly recommend booking a teacher in your city. Simply googling “guitar lessons near me” will bring up tons of results of nearby teachers.
As far as timelines go with basic guitar lessons, you will definitely improve a lot quicker if you attend 3-4 lessons a week and practice everyday in between. If you want to know how long it takes to learn to play guitar with lessons, the answer is the same as every other method: it depends.
Like any new skill, the amount you improve will directly be affected by the time you put in. If you only pick up your guitar once a week, it will take you a year to learn a basic song. If you fit seven playing sessions into every week, you will be reaching new milestones every few weeks.
Online Guitar Lessons
I’ve found that online courses are much harder to keep yourself motivated for. A lot of their main, beneficial selling points are also their drawbacks. The fact that they are so cheap means you are more willing to blow them off and lose the five dollars you paid for the online video. It is much harder to justify skipping a 35-dollar in person lesson.
Also, it is much harder to learn a physical instrument without a teacher to help you in a live setting. Video calls as lessons would help bridge this gap, but it still doesn’t replace a teacher being able to help you tune your guitar or properly show you where to place your fingers on certain chords.
However, if you are properly motivated, online lessons can help you learn to play guitar, although I would expect the timetable to increase by a few months at least. The lessons are bound to be less personalized (unless you are really shelling out the dough) and you will have to build your own lesson progression, which might not be as smooth as a teacher planning it all out for you.
As far as how long it takes to learn guitar using this method, If you are planning on using youtube and google to learn guitar, I’d give yourself around nine to ten months before you are fully comfortable with a range of chords and figuring out how to play multiple popular songs.
Guitar Learning Pathway
0-2 Weeks: Learn all of the basic parts of the guitar and the string names. This is also the step where you need to focus on building a solid foundation of music theory. If you don’t know the terms chords, progression or scales, you need to go back and get that knowledge. It will make every step from here on out easier.
2-4 Weeks: Learn how to read chord diagrams and memorize some of the major chords. If you google how to play a song they are going to tell you two things: the chords and chord progression. If you understand what they are saying and can play those chords, you are already well on your way to becoming a guitar player.
4-8 Weeks: Learn basic riffs and continue to work on chords. The riffs will help you familiarize your fingers with the movements necessary to learn more advanced songs. Chords are going to be more difficult because you have to put multiple fingers on multiple strings, but riffs will give you the practice of moving your fingers quickly. They will also help etch the names of all the strings and notes into your head.
8-12 Weeks: Learn some songs. Congratulations. You have now reached the point that you are a certified amateur guitar player. Open up that case, find a street corner and start raking in the dough.