How long does it take to get good at guitar? Good question. In this article we’ll look at some practical answers to a very common question.
The Skills You Need to Get Good at Guitar: How Long Do They Take?
One of the most common questions among guitar students is how long will it take for you to get good at the guitar?
Whether you learn guitar from scratch or have put the instrument down in the past and want to pick it back up, there are a few steep hills you’ll have to climb before you feel like you’re good at the guitar.
While many people focus on what is the fastest way to learn to play guitar, they should be searching for the best way to learn to play guitar.
While getting good at the guitar is a fairly subjective topic, as each player has their own definition of “good”, let’s take a look at some of the major accomplishments you’ll strive for and how long it takes.
Build Finger Strength
This is another very broad and subjective skill that could mean anything from comfortably fingering barre chords to completing complex single note patterns around the neck. Either way, the goal here is to feel comfortable and in-control while playing the guitar.
Generally speaking, the first hurdle to clear is developing calluses on your hands or fingers that will prevent you from experiencing pain while playing. With consistent practice, it can take anywhere from two to four weeks.
Developing those calluses through diligent practice will open up a world of possibilities as the last finger strength hurdles will require only repetition and patience.
Often, after just a few months, students can play easy songs that feature mostly chords, arpeggios, or simple lead lines such as The Rolling Stone’s hit “Satisfaction”.
VERDICT: 2-4 Weeks
Develop Good Practice Habits
Guitarists of all skill levels are often only as good as their practice habits are, something that I struggled with for years. While playing guitar should never feel like a chore, it is important to continue to push yourself to practice.
Whether it’s scales, chords, or new fingerings, or even just sitting there playing along to Wonderwall or Good Riddance for the hundredth time.
Stay Motivated, It’s Worth It
Having the discipline and motivation to practice every day and challenge yourself remains the best way to learn guitar. While guitar lesson sites or live instructors can help in a myriad of ways, you’ll only truly learn if you use that vital first months of learning to drill in strong habits.
According to most research, it takes around 2 months for a new behavior to become automatic or turn into a habit. So if you’re learning guitar, a whole lot of your progress may be getting locked in during the first two months!
VERDICT: 2 Months
Learn to Read Tablature or Notation
Practicing and learning songs can often rely on your ability to read tablature, more often called tabs, or even musical notation.
Most guitarists rely on tabs, as they are quick and easy to read and found for free via a number of top rated online guitar lessons resources including songsterr.com or ultimate-guitar.com.
Learning Guitar Tab
Tab should realistically take only a matter of hours or days to learn and understand, while the real challenge may be learning to read it and play at the same time.
Tabs work by using 6 lines (or 4 for bass, or more for 7+ stringed guitars) where each number represents a fret number on the neck displayed in the order in which you play them.
Learning Music Notation
Musical notation can take a little bit longer, even if you have some prior experience with it from something like band class or piano lessons.
Classical and jazz guitar styles often use notation while blues, rock, pop, and metal stick to tablature or short hand chord sequences.
VERDICT: 1 week or less of constant review and practice
Improvise / Write Music
For many up and coming musicians, the ability to improvise or create their own music is the true sign of becoming “good” at their preferred instrument. The timetable on this is hard to define as is the concept.
Improvisation and Songwriting Skills
For example, improvising doesn’t just mean instantly creating a new melody or sequence. Often means mixing and matching pieces of your favorite music or influences in a new way that you’ve subconsciously had hanging around your head.
Similarly, songwriting may involve taking a common chord sequence used in dozens of pop songs and adding a single note or new vocal melody on top that changes the whole structure. Much of this is also influenced by playing style, tone, or the gear you use.
As with everything listed here, practice makes perfect. I wrote some of my first (and worst) songs ever only a few short months into my playing career.
Combining Skills and Tools
While I barely remember any of them, they were important steps in me learning how to write a pentatonic solo via improvisation over riffs or chord sequences I had stuck in my head.
One quick way to really step up your time table is to invest in a loop pedal so you can hear yourself play and analyze your own performance.
Practicing soloing on different scales over your own chord progressions or sections of your favorite song. Anywhere from months to years after this, you’ll find yourself growing into a more complete creator.
VERDICT: Months to years, super variable from student to student
Final Thoughts About How Long it Takes to Become a Good Guitar Player
If someone asks you “is it easy to learn guitar?” you can confidently tell them yes. If they ask you how long it takes, that’s another story, however.
Each student is different, and each skill or accomplishment also requires different levels of commitment or practice. Generally, you can expect to be fairly competent after a few months, playing simple songs, basic scales, and understanding how the guitar works.
Quickly Develop Muscle Memory
As muscle memory and habits form after about two months, you can start to push yourself towards new techniques, faster playing speeds, or even new genres.
The important part is understanding there isn’t always a clear best way to learn to play guitar and you should spend an equally large amount of time research how you want to learn.
Reading guitar lesson reviews online can help you find the best website for how to learn guitar step by step.
Take the Long View
Whatever it takes, remember you will plateau, you will get discouraged, and your fingers will hurt, but every time you feel like quitting, just think of how great it felt when you first accomplished something on the guitar.
Anyone can learn the guitar but it takes a long time to get good at the guitar, so sit back and enjoy the journey and hopefully we here at Guitarniche can help you through it.
Contributed by Matt Dunn of Guitars For Idiots