If I told you that there is no correct answer to the question “How long does it take to learn the guitar?” and left you with that, you will surely be disappointed.
Instead, in this lesson I’m going to explore what the main variables that determine how long it will take you to learn the guitar are.
The good news is that all of these variables except for the last one, are within your control.
Thus, while this lesson will not give you any specific timeline as to when you should expect to reach your desired level of guitar playing, it will show you what factors you can change to make that process faster.
If you make even a slight improvement in each of these factors (except for the one that you can’t control), reaching any destination you want in your guitar playing will happen a lot sooner.
1. Your sources of information
Though I always recommend learning the guitar with a good teacher rather than being self-taught, whether it’s formal guitar lessons or not, you’re getting your information on how to play the guitar from somewhere.
The quality of that information/the teacher, is a major determining factor in how fast your progress is on the guitar.
I’ve learned this the hard way. My first two guitar teachers literally didn’t know what they’re doing.
They could play, but they had no clue how to teach.
Which resulted in my first 3 years of learning the guitar going around in circles without achieving any of my goals.
Thankfully I took the right lesson from this and rather than quit, I went on to find amazing music teachers who have literally changed my life.
2. Practice time quantity
Some guitar students think that how much time they spend practicing the guitar is the only variable that determines how fast they reach their musical goals.
As you’re seeing in this lesson, it is not, and some of the other variables have an even stronger impact on your improvement.
That said, it goes without saying, that the more you practice, the sooner you’ll become good on the instrument.
3. Practice time quality
10 minutes of focused guitar practice aimed at achieving a specific goal, will give you more results than an hour noodling aimlessly on the instrument.
You can become a good guitar player even if you have little time to practice.
Whenever you pick up the guitar, no matter how little practice time you have, set a specific goal you want to achieve and focus all your attention on achieving that small goal.
Quality practicing can compensate for lack of time.
Quality practicing and a lot of time, for a long period of time, can lead to levels of guitar playing that at this point you may think are impossible for you to ever reach.
4. Your expectations
Once I got a call from a new student who described himself as a beginner.
He came for his first lesson and started improvising using the minor pentatonic scale.
However, being able to improvise music on the spot is definitely not beginner stuff.
By most people’s standards the guy could play, but by his own standards, he was just starting out.
At what level you can actually play means different things for different people.
Make sure you set specific long, mid and short term goals so that you can measure your improvement according to your own expectations.
It’s also good to be flexible in your expectations.
You can’t present a fully accurate timeline for your progress since you don’t even know what there is to know yet.
Some things may take longer to reach than you would have originally planned.
Or else, you can make a breakthrough in your guitar playing and discover that things you used to think were too hard, or even impossible, are actually within your reach.
5. Your favorite genres
If your favorite guitar player is Steve Vai, it’s going to take you more to reach your goals than if your favorite player was Kurt Cobain.
There’s nothing wrong with the latter – I personally connect more with Cobain’s music than Vai’s – but it’s a fact that if you want to play like Steve Vai, it’s going to take you much longer.
What I suggest here is that you should learn songs from different guitar styles, not just your favorite one/s.
This will add a lot to your wealth of musical knowledge and if your genre is too hard to play with your present level of skills, you can still reach milestones in other genres.
Some genres, like Punk and Heavy Metal are related to each other, but vary in the general level of difficulty. (Punk guitar is usually easier to play than Heavy Metal).
6. Your mindset
Do you think of your guitar practice time as work or as a fun activity?
Do you realize that the numerous mistakes you make while practicing, are actually the seeds of your growth as a musician?
Do you get angry that you can’t get something right, or do you feel excited that once you do you’ll have become a better guitar player?
The answer to these questions will show you whether your guitar practicing mindset is in the right place.
If you think it is not, implementing the instructions from the “5 steps to an ideal guitar practice” book will help you get your mindset in the right place, improve faster on the guitar and enjoy the process.
7. Your genes
The last variable that determines how long it will take you to learn the guitar is the least important since it’s beyond your control.
Some people speak of “natural talent” as if it’s the main component that determines how fast you will learn an instrument (or if you ever will).
This is entirely wrong.
“Natural talent” simply means that some people have an ability to learn faster than others, either in all areas of life, or in specific area (such as music).
Child prodigies probably do have such natural talents.
It explains why they’re able to learn so much, in such a little time, without any skills in life us adults have acquired.
But the majority of adult professional guitarists and musicians haven’t become as such because of any special gifts from nature.
With or without any natural talent, it’s the six other variables that actually determine when you’ll learn the guitar on the level you want to reach.
Conclusion: A long term game with short term results
By now you should have a clear idea as to why no one on the Internet can give you a correct answer as to how long it’s going to take you to learn the guitar.
What you should also realize is how faster you can learn the guitar if you incrementally improve on each of the first six variables.
Learning the guitar is a long term game but one that keeps giving you regular benefits during the process.
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