How long is a piece of string? How many birds in a flock? How long does it take to learn guitar? It’s impossible to know how long it takes for someone to “learn guitar”. It depends on what you mean by having learned the guitar too. Do you just want to be able to strum a few chords? Or perhaps you are more into being able to shred a Dragon Force song with no errors.
If you ask any guitarist that truly loves playing they will tell you that they are always learning new things. We have an article about some guitar milestones you could be shooting for to keep progressing.
Let’s take a look at some approximations that could give you a rough idea.
Approx 2-100 hours
Let’s imagine you have never picked up a guitar before. How long would it take to bash out a few chords do you think?
I can remember in a music class while I was in high school. A friend of mine who had never played the guitar before sat at the back of the room ignoring the teacher and strumming away at a 4 chord progression for an entire double period. By the end, he had nailed those chords and the strumming. For some people that are lucky, like that friend, 2 hours of solid practice will get you good enough to play a song.
I was inspired after seeing my friend do this. Sure, I could play a couple of 3 chord power chord songs (inaccurately) but I’d not dabbled in open chords yet. I can tell you for sure it took me a lot longer than 2 hours to be able to play a 4 chord progression without messing up constantly. Somewhere closer to 35 hours I think would be right for me. That was with having picked up a guitar before so it could be even longer for others.
Approx 100 hours
Solos require much more accuracy, timing, and skill to play. However, it shouldn’t take that much longer to learn than your first chords. Depending on the difficulty obviously. There are some solos that you may never be able to play and that’s okay. Start on some easier ones and build your way up. You will find after learning a few your muscle memory gets better and you are able to learn quicker.
I’d set aside about 100 hours to nail your first solo. If you get it right before that, good on you make sure you return to it sometimes while learning new songs so you don’t forget.
50 hours PER SONG!
Oof. How confident are you? My first few gigs were pretty rough. The nerves got to me and I had forgotten my parts. It is lucky I was playing with a band. I just turned myself down and tried to jam along. How embarrassing!
To avoid doing what I did I would practice each song A LOT before the gig. Not just with your band (if you have one) but on your own as well. I estimate 50 hours a song. Presuming that you have played a little before already.
Of course, you can put less or more effort into learning a song in the future depending on how difficult a song is and how much you trust your memory. I even play songs on the fly at gigs now. That definitely took more than 50 hours of practice though. This brings me to the next point.
100's of hours
For me? F***ing forever. Nothing really seemed to sink in for me but for others, it is easy as pie. If you are particularly adept at learning languages it is usually a good indicator you will pick up music theory easily, at least reading music.
There are some little cheats guitarists can use that bypass the dry parts of music theory such as the CAGED system. We can also learn scale shapes instead of why/how the notes fit together. These will increase the rate you learn tenfold. It will also start to reveal a lot from your previous guitar experience.
I have to say when it comes to learning an instrument this rule is actually pretty accurate. By the time you have sunk 10000hrs of practice into guitar, there won’t be many people saying that you “can’t play”. You may reach that point way before 10000 hours though. Still, as I mentioned earlier there is always more to learn. Mastery may come but true masters are always learning more.
No! Talent is extremely overrated when it comes to musicianship. You may not ever be the first chair for the London Symphony Orchestra but if you put the effort in you WILL be good enough to play gigs.
I actually get a little frustrated when people say to me “You’re so lucky to be talented.” It took so long to learn how to sing, and I was a slow learner for guitar too. Saying something is because of talent is kind of discounting the hours of practice that goes into being good at something.
Effort over talent every time.
I could make some stats up to tell you exactly how long it’s gonna take you to “git gud” but it really does depend on you as an individual. It may take you longer than someone you are comparing yourself to. Don’t let that dishearten you though, stick to it and you will eventually prevail. If the converse is true, don’t rely too heavily on your talent. Someone holed up practicing for 6 months will progress way faster than someone half-heartedly practicing once a week regardless of the difference in their original starting position.
When you practice try to make sure you are focused. You will learn a lot faster if you are actually concentrating and not mindlessly strumming away.