So really, how long does it take to learn the guitar? And what do we mean by “learn the guitar”? To be able to strum the guitar comfortably, or play some crazy fast solos effortlessly like Steve Vai and Petrucci?
The one answer that any expert guitarist can give you to that question, and even Steve Vai himself said it, is, a lifetime.
If Steve Vai himself said that, and said that even now he's still learning new things on the guitar, practicing and doing exercises almost daily, then that should be an enough confirmation that “A LIFETIME” is truly the real answer.
However, if you want to be more specific as to how long does it take to advance from one level to another, to master the scales, switching chords, or simply to be able to play one of your favorite guitar solos, then I will be specific with you as well and try to answer you as best as I can, based on my own experience, and my observation of other guitarists.
The following assumptions are made taking in mind that you're being tutored by either a PRIVATE guitar teacher OR, an Online Guitar Training program!
I will refer to self-learning and other alternative methods in the last paragraphs of this article.
Taking Calluses Into Consideration, FIRST!
Every beginner guitar player will experience a rather “severe” fingertips' soreness as a result of moving his/her fingers all along the guitar strings.
For a total beginner, someone who hasn't touched a guitar before, this kind of action will make your fingers develop what we call “calluses”, a thick layer of skin on the fingertips as a result of constant movement of the fingers on the strings.
Calluses are good! But unfortunately, before you start to develop some serious calluses on your fingertips, the act of playing the guitar, pressing the strings with your fingers in order to play a chord or a solo, will result in a CONSIDERABLE PAIN. Only after you develop those calluses you will stop feeling pain on your fingers while playing.
Why do I mention this here?
Simply, fingertips' soreness is one of the biggest reasons new guitar players:
- Either quit after a couple of weeks or months!
- Or cut the playing and practicing time in half, even more sometimes
- Overall it can make you less motivated to pick up your guitar.
Taking this fact into consideration means that in the first couple of months, new beginner guitar players will have some serious difficulty practicing for long continuous hours, which results in SLOW PROGRESS overall.
First 1 – 2 Months, From Zero Experience in Guitar Playing
Now we know what the first obstacle of learning the guitar for beginners is (calluses) and how it can limit the training time, taking it into consideration can allow us to make a rough estimate of what our real progress can be after a couple of months training with a real, private teacher OR training online as part of a professional online guitar training program.
After 2 Months Period, 0.5-1 hour of practice, 5 – 7 days a week:
Can play and memorize all the basic major chords, can perform some basic fingerstyle picking technique, basic strumming patterns, can play TONS of “easy” pop and rock songs, and can switch between chords slowly.
You will experience difficulty in the following areas:
- You will find that switching between some chords is extremely hard, so you will have slow switching time
- You'll have a slow, inaccurate fingerstyle picking and normal picking.
- The majority in this period of time can NOT perform Barre chords yet.
However, for a lot of people, that's considered a great progress! And for some, that is their entire goal! to be able to play all of the popular major chords and their variations (the sus and diminished), strum the guitar and sing along with their favorite new and old school rock songs, and just have fun time with the guitar around family and friends playing casually.
So if you are in that category, that is your goal, consider training for 2-3 months with a little bit of dedication and practice time, and you'll be amazed what you can achieve with only that amount of time.
From 2 – 6 Months of Playing the Guitar
So you're over calluses now, can play and strum the guitar over basic exercises and songs, you've made it that far and you're still enthusiastic and eager to continue discovering the guitar even more than the beginning. That's great! Now what?
From 2 – 6 months, with constant practicing and training, 1 hour a day, 5 – 7 days a week, you will have an EXPONENTIAL rise in progress and skill level.
You will feel that you're learning way faster than the first couple of months, which is also a reality because you would have developed calluses by now and your fingers and muscle memory are trained well enough to make playing the guitar much easier now.
So you will genuinely be progressing further, learning much faster, and even enjoying it a lot more than the first couple of months.
During that period of time, with 1 hour of practice almost every day, you can really move from the early intermediate level to ADVANCED!
And what I mean by ADVANCED is the following:
- Can play much faster now, whether it's for strumming, switching chords, or picking techniques
- Should perform slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, bending and vibratos fairly well
- Can play alternate-picking in medium speed
- Should be able to perform tremolos
- Can perform some of the more advanced riffs and guitar solos quite conveniently
- Know all the five shapes of the major pentatonic scale by heart
So yeah, after 6 months of playing and practicing the guitar, you can have some amazing results and even impress a lot of people with your guitar skills! And that's by practicing ONLY 1 hour a day. Imagine if you practice 2 hours a day, 3 hours, and ultimately 4?
From 6 – 24 Months, Average 1 Hour a Day, Every Day
Why I decided to focus on the 2 years mark rather than 1 year, is because during that period of time, guitarists usually have SLOW progress, and to reach the next level, which is the “expert” level, can be very challenging to achieve and most of the time it takes MORE than 2 years to get if you're practicing only 1 hour a day.
With that in mind, let's see what you can achieve from 6 months to 2 years of continouosly practicing the guitar.
You MIGHT reach expert level, the majority will reach high-advanced level, which is:
- Fast and more accurate alternate-picking technique
- Can play advanced arpeggios fast, almost 100% accurate
- Easily play chords and switch between almost any chord effortlessly
- Know a much wider range of scales and modes, other than the pentatonic
- Can play almost all of your favorite pop and rock songs and solos easy enough
- Faster, more agile, and more accurate fretting hand
Almost every guitar student, after 2 years of good guitar training, with only an hour a day of practicing, can achieve the above progress.
That is some serious progress and guitar skills for an amateur guitarist if you ask me! I mean, beyond that level you can start searching for gigs, create your own band, and even start making money playing in different gigs and parties, and many will be more than happy to hear your awesome skills on the guitar.
But … What comes next?
2 Years and Above!
That is a tricky period. Because, after the high-advance level, you have the expert level, and then, the VIRTUOSO level (The level of Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, etc)
And to reach that amount of skills, speed, accuracy, feel, and control, I seriously don't believe that 1 hour a day will cut it, even after 2 years, 3 years, or even 5 years of practicing 1 hour a day.
If you keep practicing like that, you MIGHT become an expert after 3 – 5 years of constant and continouos training, because to reach that level of playing, your musle memory, fingers' stamina and agility, will physically requier you to spend much more time daily into practice.
It's just the way it is.
You can't expect to have a ripped body and a six-packs without training intensively, and the same rules apply here as well.
If you want to have a chance to really become an expert of the guitar within 2 years, then I strongly recommend that you train at least 2 hours a day, ideally 4 hours a day, and don't forget, we're talking here about training PROFESSIONALLY either online or offline, not with some random exercises off the internet here and there or off mediocre youtube “guitar lessons”.
The more time you put into practice, and the better you practice, the FASTER you'll reach your end goal that you have put for yourself for playing the guitar.
Simple as that.
Did you know that experts and professional guitarists train much above 4 hours a day? Will you believe me that a lot of them train 8 – 10 hours a day?? Yep, you've heard me right. 8 – 10 HOURS A DAY.
But I'm not saying that you should train the same (unless, of course, you're thinking of turning it into a profession, then sure go ahead!), because these are professionals, meaning that is what they do for living! Play guitar, entertain the masses, and get paid for it! They HAVE that amount of time to play and practice and become this good.
For the normal guy or gal who just loves the guitar and want to be awesome playing the guitar, and at the same time reach a level where he/she can play really, really well, on an expert level, then I'd say that:
Playing for 2 – 4 hours a day, 5 – 7 days a week, while trying to push for even more practicing hours during the weekend, will get you to that expert level within 2 – 3 years if you keep yourself disciplined, dedicated, and follow a professional learning system/instructor.
Factors That Can Affect Your Progress
(For the better or the worst!)
The above “timeline” of progress for the guitar student is, of course, a “rough” estimate and NOT 100% accurate. Otherwise, we wouldn't have these 8 years old asians playing fast arpeggios by Yngwie Malmsteen! Haha 😉 (Respect to all my fellow talented asian people!)
With that said, let's see what factors CAN affect our progress on the guitar:
- YOU! – Yes, you. Even if you have an identical twin, and you both started playing the guitar at the same moment, following the same learning program, and doing the same exercises, still, you will both have some “overlaping” in the skill level, and one will always be either a bit behind or further away of the other. Your progress on the guitar, no matter what you do or the program that you follow, will always be personal.
- Practicing Hours per Day – As we said, 1 hour a day is enough to make of you a good guitarist over a period of 2 years. 2 hours can double your progress, and 4 hours can do wonders!
- HOW You Practice – This is why I made the assumption first based on training with a professional offline or online instructors, because most of the best learning programs will have more or less the same effects on you and your progress.
- Practicing Tools – Getting a metronome is, in my opinion, mandatory for any serious guitar student. You can't imagine how faster and more effeciently you can progress with the help of a meteronome. Besides, it's probably the best tool to use to train your sense of rhythm, which is something not many are blessed to have naturally! Other practicing tools you can use are:
All these factors can effect the time it takes you to get from one level to another on the guitar.
Additionally, many professional and experienced guitarists advise you to set a goal ahead of you for playing the guitar, like, a goal of becoming an advanced guitarist, a goal of being able to play arpeggios, and etc, because it will help you stay focused on that specific goal and keep you motivated, which translates to MORE time spent practicing and playing the guitar, and thus, faster progress.
Final Thoughts & About Training Alone
So how long does it take to learn how to play well on the guitar, if you afterall decide to train yourself, all alone?
Quite frankly, I have yet to see a really good, advanced guitar player who trained alone all by himself, playing only tablature alone in his room.
You can become decent after several months or years, you can succeed playing some of the advanced songs and exercises, but that would be it.
Most of these “stubborn” guitarists, are easily identifyable by their playing style, tone, and are very predictible, and most of the time they tend to make a lot of note and rhythm mistakes.
They also start on a “bad” foundation, learning the guitar or any other instrument all by yourself from the scratch can hinder your progress later on (That is why, I haven't seen a good advanced self-taught guitarist) because throughout that beginning-phase you acquire “bad” playing habits, and miss out on the fundamentals of guitar playing, which is what it is, fundamental.
Keeping all that in mind, it's clearly evident that self-taugh guitarists would normally take double, if not triple the time of a professionally-taught guitarist to progress to the same level, and normally these self-taught guitarists will be blocked from progressing at some point because of lack of fundamental and basic guitar techniques, and acquiring bad playing habits.
But hey, at some point in time we all didn't have the time or the money to pay for a private guitar instructor! I totally get that, this is what have led me to dig into other alternatives of learning the guitar without compromising on quality.
I didn't know if I can find such alternative because we all know that a pivate guitar instrutor, although is considered extremely expensive for many, is extremely effective overall.
Luckily, I found the alternative online, which made it possible to spend so little money in exchange for so much content of instructional material, tips, professional lessons and more, with some of the top online guitar lessons program today.