After seeing your favorite players, you decided you want to play the guitar.
Awesome – but how long it will take?
It depends on which level YOU want to reach.
In this article we will break down exactly what you need to know to reach each step, and the amount of time it will take.
Section 1: Choose a Guitar
There are several factors to consider when purchasing your first guitar.
First, consider what type of instrument you need. Would you prefer to play an acoustic style spanish guitar? Or would you prefer to rock on with an electric just like Jimi Hendrix?
As a novice you shouldn’t spend too much cash at first. There is an array of diverse options to choose from without unnecessary costs. As you grow as a player, your needs will evolve so should your budget.
You should also strongly consider buying some additional tools that will help you improve your playing and greatly speed up the time it takes to learn.
A metronome or drum machine can help wonders in improving your playing.
We recommend that you buy your first instrument at your local music shop, because some hands on assistance at first can really help set you up with the right guitar.At this stage is crucial to try several different models to get the best value for your money.
Or, if you don’t live close to a shop you should check out our extensive buying guides on exactly how to pick the right guitar.
Section 2: Practice Schedule
Manage your time for maximizing results.
A smart thing to do is to divide your practice sessions into 30 minutes slots. This method has a lot of benefits, it will certify that you tackle different areas, allowing you to get more done in less time.
You should base your practice schedule on 7 main elements:
- Ear training,
- music theory.
To learn to play the guitar as quickly as possible it is important to develop a daily practice routine.
Inspire yourself by the challenges of learning to play the guitar but don’t forget to have fun and mix in some actual songs while you learn the “boring” stuff like scales.
Section 3: Your journey to Guitar Mastery
Your journey to guitar mastery will take time.
How long it will take to learn the guitar and become a proficient guitar player?
As you develop the right habits and invest the time, achieving greatness will be in your reach.
You need to have a constant practice schedule. Be persistent and passionate, set goals and accomplish them.
The best guitar professionals in the business been through the same process. They all spent hours honoring their skills to become great. Once you can play a few songs, learn licks from your favorite players. Playing with other musicians is also paramount to develop your musicianship.
Can anyone play the guitar?
The answer is yes.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, previous experience or cultural background. What matter is commitment, perseverance and grit. If you own these qualities, you can learn to play the guitar.
Section 4: How to become a beginner level guitar player
As a beginner your path will revolve around learning the notes on the neck, playing easy chords like G, D and C. At this stage you should also be able to play easy songs. These skills will carry over as you develop your guitar playing.
Is learning how to play the guitar hard?
Like anything worth pursuing, you will face many challenges as a rookie guitar player. Moving around the neck and changing from chord to chord will be difficult. Keeping the rhythm is also important as your ability to play in time will affect how well you can groove.
Hold the guitar
Starting out, focus on establishing a good grip holding your instrument, this will ensure you don’t develop bad habits that can cause injuries down the road.
You should always practice with good posture.
It is important to relax, so you can release tension out of your back.
Bring the instrument close to you and lean your feet on a footstool or a similar object. A daily yoga routine can help in correcting bad posture and ensuring you can play for hours without hurting yourself.
How you hold the instrument will determine how comfortable you can play. A good grip will ensure you develop proper right and left hands technique.
Learn the notes on the neck
When you can see all the notes on the neck of your instrument, you will improvise and play with confidence. As a starting point, I will give you 1 method that will improve your fretboard knowledge.
It’s a series of 12 notes played a half step apart. So if you are starting at the 1st fret 6 string, the chromatic scale would be F, Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E. This scale names every note of the neck one by one, making a useful resource to visualise the notes on the fretboard.
Strumming and Rhythm (to play good lead guitar you need to be a good rhythm player)
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to strum using only their wrist. You should always strum using your whole arm.
Guitar playing is a 2 arm endeavour, so your strumming hand is the source of the sound, and the left hand decides how it will sound. This is an important concept to understand as your whole progression as a guitar player will depend on these simple mechanics.
3 basic chords
There are 3 basic chords you should learn right away. You can play a bunch of beginners songs with those. They are the G, D and C chords. Practice changing around them back and forth and try to keep your feet moving along. Use a metronome or a drum machine, keeping time is vital for playing with other musicians.
Learn your first 10 songs
When you can move with confidence between G, D and C you are ready to learn your first 10 songs. Start with the video below and remember to pay attention to the structure of each track. This is important as you jam with other musicians your ability to follow song form will help you stand out from your peers.
Power Chords and Barre Chords
Power chords are chords made of the root note and the 5th. So, for example, a G power chord would have the notes G and D on it. They are common in punk rock music, bands like The Ramones and Sex pistols wrote a lot of music using power chords.
Barre chords will challenge you as a beginner, it will be very hard to get a clean sound as your index finger will support all 6 strings. Once you can play these chords, it will be a breeze to move around neck and to discover additional chord voicings.
Learn 30 beginners song
On this step you should learn additional chords like F, E B and A.
Armed with this knowledge you are ready to expand your repertoire learning 30 songs. Artists like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Elton John have several easy songs suitable for beginners.
Basic Ear Training
As you evolve on your guitar journey, training your ear will help you communicate your ideas with other people. Start by recognizing the chord progressions of the songs you learned on the previous section. Try to find where every chord is and learn which function they represent in the underlying harmony.
Another good resource is to sing the notes of the chords you play. This will help in understanding the construction of chords and chord progressions. Music theory is an important part of playing any instrument. The building blocks of chord construction are intervals, the distance between 2 pitches. Sing when doing this exercise.
How long it will take to learn the guitar at a beginner level?
To get the most out of your time as a beginner focus on learning as many songs as possible as this will prepare you for the intermediate level of guitar playing. To achieve a level you can play beginner songs can take as little as 10 hours but to become a proficient beginner will take at least 100 hours of deliberate practice.
Section 5: How to become an intermediate level guitar player
After learning chords and 10 songs, focus on learning scales, expand your fretboard knowledge and improve your rhythm playing.
They based the CAGED system on 5 open chord positions, you can practice playing around the neck. It uses the C, A, G, E and D open-chord forms founded in first position. You can apply it to further develop your fretboard understanding. The awesome Paul Davis explains it on this video.
Triads are the smallest unit in the chord universe. They are a 3 note chord formed by root, 3rd and 5th. The root is the most important note as it defines the tonality of the chord. The 3rd defines the quality of the chord: major or minor.
They comprise the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The main types are major, minor dominant.
Major seventh chords comprise the root, major 3rd, 5th and major 7th. They write it as Cmaj7. A Cmaj7 has the notes C, E, G and B. Minor chords have a minor 3rd and a minor 7th. Dominant are a major triad with a minor 7th, provides a dissonant quality.
We use extended chords to bring a fresh and exciting approach to harmony. They are seventh chords with extended notes like the 9th or the 13th. Guitar player magazine has an excellent guide on extended chords for guitar.
When we rearrange the notes of a chord and shift the root note, the resulting chord it’s an inversion. First inversion means the 3rd is on the bass, second inversion is the 5th on the bass, the seventh on the bass is a third inversion chord. Taking a Cmaj7 as an example, we notate inversions as Cmaj7/E, Cmaj7/G, Cmaj7/B.
Scales are the building blocks of music, a set of notes grouped together to express musical ideas. As an intermediate guitar player, learn the pentatonic, major and, minor scales.
To play solos, guitarists practice scales as they provide a framework for exploring new ideas.
After learning scales, it is smart to learn how to play lead guitar. Most of us pick up the guitar inspired by guitar solos.
- Learn famous solos.Once you can play scales around the neck, it’s time to learn famous guitar solos. To proper understand what sounds good, which scales to use over certain progressions and best way to learn songs on the guitarThe biggest mistake most people make when they try to learn new songs is a lack of preparation. Start by breaking down the different sections of the tune into smaller chunks.Once you mastered each section, practice playing the full song.
Here are 3 tips to speed up the time to learn a song.
- Learn the chords. Search for a tablature or sheet music for the song you want to learn. If you are looking for good resources to find chords and tabs check Ultimate-Guitar and Hooktheory.
- Listen to each section and dissect the instrumentation.
- The ideal scenario is to select a section of the song and listen in a loop. You can achieve that using a digital audio workstation or a simple free audio editor like Audacity.
- Practice the song in a slower tempo. To play fast, you need to first play slow.
Section 6: How to become an advanced guitar player
As an advanced guitar player, it is best to specialize. There are several paths you can take to further improve your playing. Depending on your ambitions some paths are better than others. If you plan to study at a conservatory, learning classical guitar and jazz is a must. Rock and modern styles will prepare you to work as a sideman or as a recording artist.
On this path you should immerse yourself in learning classical pieces from composers like Mozart, Bach and Paganini. The technique and playing styles differ from steel string and electric guitar. Developing a proper right-hand technique will take time. Most players combine flesh and nails to achieve their desired sound. Experiment with both until you find a way that is comforting.
At this stage is smart to learn how to read music. Analysing structure and understanding dynamics is crucial. Listen to great classical guitarists like Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John Williams to absorb the nuances of the style.
One of the best ways to develop a solid technique in classical guitar is to practice etudes. They are musical exercises designed to expand the guitarist playing ability.
Key Concepts of Classical Guitar are:
- Artificial Harmonics
- Diminished and Whole-Tone Scales
- Thumb Technique
- Sight reading
- Right and Left hand Positioning
How long does it take to learn acoustic guitar?
To achieve an elite level of classical guitar playing takes around 5000 hours of deliberate practice. Most classical musicians undertake 4 years of undergraduate study where they focus in repertoire, sight reading and advanced ear training.
Every modern music style has roots in the blues. It’s simple but sophisticated. The first step it’s understanding the 12-bar blues form. Every blues song revolves around this structure and its variations.
The most used chords are dominant 7th. To become a great blues guitarist you need to play several chord voicings around the neck and vary your rhythm playing. Concepts like shuffle, bending and the blues scales should be second nature at this point.
The vocabulary of the style revolves around timeless licks. You should learn all classic licks and study B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
They have influenced how the style sounds and have inspired 1000s of blues guitarists.
How long to get good in blues guitar?
It depends on your goal. practice 30 minutes a day for 6 months and that will be 70 hours.
At this point you should be able to play most blues tunes without soloing. To become proficient in blues soloing will take at least 1000 hours.
Key Concepts of Blues Guitar are:
- The Blues and Minor Pentatonic
For you to become a proficient jazz guitarist, it takes serious dedication. A strong blues background is necessary since jazz evolved from the blues.
Matt Warnock has a great guide to get you started.
The real book is the bible of jazz. It contains the most famous jazz standards. You should spend a lot of time learning these tunes. The challenge of playing jazz comes to being able to improvise these songs in all 12 keys.
The most important improvisational concept in jazz, is to play through the changes. That means soloing through chord tones. When you construct solos, you need to connect these notes with the harmony of a tune. Arpeggios come in handy in achieving that. Practice scales, triads and arpeggios over the circle of 5ths. This way you will improvise through any set of chord changes.
Key Concepts of Jazz Guitar are:
- Chord Substitutions
How long it will take to learn Jazz guitar?
Jazz is a hard style to play and to mastery it should take a lifetime. With an efficient practice schedule, you can play jazz standards in around 500 hours.
Rock guitar playing is all about riffs, solos and creative comping.
It can be a demanding style to play. Requires precise technique, stellar tone and a lot of creativity.
Distortion defines the sound of rock guitar. A good tube amplifier is essential for getting this sound. GuitarRig5 emulates famous amplifiers for a fraction of the price.
Key Concepts of Rock Guitar are:
- Hammer on and pull offs.
- Sweep and alternate picking
Learning funk guitar is an invaluable resource to advance your musicianship. Originated in the late 60s, rhythm and groove comprise the skeleton of the style.
Playing in the pocket and leaving space are crucial concepts in this style of guitar playing. You need to develop a solid palm muting technique and expand your chord vocabulary. Remember that playing funk guitar is about moving your right hand so you can emphasize 16th notes.
Study guitar players like Leo Nocentelli, Curtis Mayfield and Nile Rodgers. You can learn a lot just by listening to great Funk records by artists like The meters, Prince and Stevie Wonder.
Key Concepts of Funk Guitar are:
- Chordal Runs
- Repetition and groove
- Octaves and double stops
- Sliding Chords
How long does it take to play funk guitar?
It will take at least 500 hours of serious playing to be proficient in Funk Guitar. How well you can play it will depend on your ability to lock in with the rhythm section.
Section 7: Summary
How long it takes to learn the guitar? As we examined, it depends on which level do you want to reach?
If your goal is to play songs, 100 hours should be enough
To improvise in more sophisticated styles like jazz and blues it should take around 2,000 hours.
To achieve mastery, it’s safe to say it will take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
How long does it take to play Guitar like Frank Gambale?
Frank once told me he practiced 12 hours a day for 7 years straight which is around 30000 hours.