How Long Should It Take to Learn Guitar?

Setting a timeframe for learning to play guitar

How long does it take to learn guitar? There are several potential answers to this question. After all, some people are able to bang out a simple song in just a lesson or two. On the opposite end of the question, some people believe that you never truly master the instrument; that you are in a constant state of mastering. Therefore, you have never learned guitar, but are continually learning. It also goes without saying that everybody learns guitar at their own pace.

In order to effectively answer this question, we will need to narrow the focus down. For the sake of this article, let’s frame the question this way: At what point in your learning do you become unconsciously competent? In other words, how long does it take before you are able to play any song of your choice competently without having to analyze your playing?

There are many variables in the answer to this question, even after we have narrowed it down. So…this is just a basic timeframe divided into different aspects of guitar instruction. These aspects will overlap; you won’t have one down completely before you move on to the next ones.

Let’s start with the basic mechanics. This is ensuring that you are seated in the right position or having the guitar at just the right playing level when standing. It also involves finger placement for chords and proper strumming techniques. Realistically, you should have these down within a few lessons, although you will be refining this continually throughout your learning. Learning the mechanics of moving from one chord to another will take longer, probably a few months of practice before that gets smooth for you.

As for learning the chords themselves, let’s break this down. For learning the basic major and minor chords with simple fingering at the top of the fretboard, it can take about three months or so to nail those down. Keep in mind that we are not talking about learning songs here, just the chords themselves. Most instructors will have you learning songs simultaneously to keep your interest up and keep you inspired.

Once you have learned majors and minors, you can then progress to other chords, such as 7ths, and alternate fingerings of chords, such as barre chords. If you have spent enough time mastering the basics, adding these chords and placements to your arsenal will take perhaps a couple of additional months.

After playing for just a short time, you will begin to see patterns in chord progressions and know what chord to move onto without even looking at the music! This is when you can really start to expand in your knowledge.

The more time you spend practicing between lessons, the quicker your pace of learning can be. On the other hand, you shouldn’t rush. Be patient and open to learning; that is the most efficient way to go.