Why Does It Take So Long to Learn How to Play the Guitar?

Thinking of picking up the guitar? Read on my friend.

Category: Guitar

I get asked this question A LOT.

“Hey man, so I want to start playing guitar. How long you think it’ll take?”

To which I always retort with, “Rome was not built in one day.”

Which usually gets the general follow-up question of “Why does it take so long to learn?”

and I follow-up with “Because, hand movements.”

I then get the “Are you messing with me?” look so I always have to give context.

“It’s not an overnight thing and is basically like learning how to walk.”

As you’ve probably now gathered from my conversation above, the real answer is: It all depends.

Learning how to play the guitar, in the beginning, will seem difficult. Some may pick it up faster than others but it goes without saying, it’s a bit difficult at the start. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the absolute truth.

But if that answer is not good enough for you, here’s what I can tell you:

Learning to coordinate your hands and fingers to different shapes, movements and styles is a real challenge in itself. It’s basically putting your hand and fingers to school to learn new movements and that’s a difficult task. It really is akin to learning how to walk, so imagine that. Along with learning new movements, you will also have to fully streghthen your hand which also takes time. Pair all of that up with learning the proper technique, styles and how to practice and you can bet that it will take longer to learn.

But the best part is, once you get over all the obstacles, you will have years and years of joy from playing guitar, I promise.

In the first few months to the full year, you will learn the basics. You will learn chords, chord progression, strumming and some basic patterns. You will also learn and get acquainted with hammer-ons, pull-offs and some solo improvisation. Lastly, by years end, you will be treading the waters of playing intermediate songs, riffs, and other styles. Your barre chord game also starts to feel right.

In the next 1 to 3 years, again depending on your eagerness to learn and how much practice you put into your learning guitar journey, you will be moving up to getting really comfortable with playing songs from all genres. This is the time when you start to realize why practice is so important as the skill of learning how to play a song is all dependent on what you ‘ve learned through practice. Hopefully, at this point, you grasp the technical aspects of a song and play them with ease.

The next 3-6 years, things get a bit more simpler as by this time, you’ll be a full-blown guitarist. There should be nothing that you can’t play and improvising over songs and tracks becomes second nature. You are now a guitarist, period.

The next coming years after that, you will play with absolute joy, learn new concepts and styles, try different things out and will be absolutely accustomed to playing guitar. At this point, you will try to play everything and anything you can and will be entertaining everyone with your skills. At this point, you just enjoy playing music!

With that said, learning how to play the guitar is a life-long process. There will always be new things to learn, new tricks, different styles, and new things you’re curious about. So, the learning never stops and that’s a good thing. I still learn to this day!

So before you give up, which is usually a few weeks or months into learning, don’t. You will overcome the obstacles and learn. I did and so can you. Believe in yourself, honestly. Look, all the greats were at the start too, just keep that in mind.

I’d like to now emphasize practice. Practice is key to learning how to play guitar.

Practice is not just something you do, it’s something that must be done correctly. If you spend years jumping around and doing this and doing that, you will be all over the place, along with your guitar playing. Instead, create a practice structure for some needed discipline.

Instead of YouTubing for how to fingertap with two hands and whatnot, create a structure on what should be practiced in increments. Here’s an example:

1 hour of practice:
5 minutes - stretch fingers, wrists, arms, etc.
10 minutes - Single string picking, chromatic scales & warmup scales
10 minutes - Intervals, triads & hammer-ons/pull-offs
10 minutes - Fingerpicking, Chords, power chords & transitions
10 minutes - Arpeggios, Major scales & Blues scales
15 minutes - FUN. Play along to your favorite track, play tunes you recently learned or try out different ideas or tricks

You can create your own and modify to your guitar level but it’s an example. For the most part, this is how a practice session should look like. When you practice this way, you cover all of the bases of learning how to play guitar, instead of fishing for things to learn online and spending countless hours doing the same thing.

While I don’t suggest many books, only because I would really rather you learn in-person or through sKype lessons because you get to ask a question on the spot and will get an answer. with books, you’re pretty much left with what you’re reading. With that said though, I do realize that many may not have that luxury of having an in-person lesson or have an internet connection for that matter and books is where its at for them.

Here’s some books I can recommend:

The rewards of learning how to play guitar are many. Even though it’s not the quickest process or the easiest thing to accomplish, the joys of being able to play the guitar is completely priceless. It’s an instrument that you can play by itself and create a whole variety of moods with no accompaniment. Not many instruments can do this, but the guitar can.

It’s one of the reasons why the guitar is such a powerful instrument.

Now go and be a great master guitarist.