How Long Does It ACTUALLY Take to Learn Guitar

In Guides for Guitarists by Jake LLeave a Comment

Last updated on May 29th, 2019 at 06:10 am

You may have found yourself asking, “how long does it take to learn guitar?”

Answering this question can be a little complicated, but it can take around a year to learn the guitar. A year sounds long, but let me explain.

It’s a complicated question because it has many answers. It varies among people. Everyone has different ideas of what it means to learn the guitar.

Here are some ideas:

  • The ability to learn any song you want
  • Shredding guitar solos with no effort
  • Being able to write your own songs on the guitar
  • The ability to play chord progressions
  • Just being able to play the guitar and sounding good
  • A good understanding of music theory
  • Mastering all of the different guitar techniques and styles

The list can go on and on, but instead of letting that happen, let’s define a general idea of a guitarist’s skill level.

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advance
  • Guitar God

For a lot of people who are just starting out, having the ability to play the guitar and sounding good would be an ideal level to reach.

This is achievable, even if you are still at the beginner level.

But the skill level that you should strive to reach for as your first goal is the Intermediate level.

The knowledge you receive on your way to the intermediate level sets the right foundation for you as a guitarist.

Being at the intermediate level puts you in a very good spot to continuously learn the guitar and begin to develop your own style.

To have a better understanding of what an intermediate level guitar player is, let’s talk about what it’s like to be a beginner.

Beginner Level Guitarist

Acoustic guitar zoomed in shot black and white

The start of your journey as a guitarist

For anyone who starts learning how to play guitar, we find ourselves at the beginner level. This is one of the most crucial stages in our journey of learning the guitar and will probably be the hardest stage for you.

“Early Beginner Stage”

Your guitar experience is limited and you might not know where to even start.

Unfortunately, this is the stage where most people quit.

-We’re learning an instrument from scratch.
-Our fingers hurt from pressing down on the strings.
-We sound awkward trying to play our first few songs as a guitarist.
-Progress is slow which can demotivate you.

Overall it’s a difficult time for us aspiring guitarist.

As you continue to progress as a beginner guitarist, you start to sound better. This leads us to the next stage.

“Intermediate Beginner Stage”

You’re starting to get the hang of it. Your guitar playing sounds smoother and you’re starting to see your potential.

The songs you play are actually starting to sound like songs.

If you’ve made it to this stage, there’s still a chance that you’ll quit trying to learn the guitar due to not seeing the results you might have wanted.

However, you find yourself more motivated to practice the guitar and you continue to push yourself to learn.

You’re also starting to widen your chord vocabulary while also starting to look into reading guitar tabs.

When you’re at this stage, you have to keep going. Trust me, it’ll be worth it!

Now for the final stage of the beginner level guitarist.

“Advanced Beginner Guitarist”

If you’ve reached this stage, you should be proud of yourself.

You’re really starting to shape up as that guitarist that you’ve always dreamt of being.

The songs that you play are actually sounding good and you are starting to develop that muscle memory needed as a guitarist.

You are developing a great understanding of the different guitar techniques you have learned and you are applying it to your play style.

Not only do you know a decent amount of chords, you also have some chord progressions that you can put together.

A lot of popular songs are made using the same exact chord progressions. In the key of C, these chords would be: C Major-G Major-A minor-F Major

You can practically play so many different songs with this simple chord progression.

You’re understanding of reading guitar tabs has significantly improved, allowing you to learn more of the songs that you want to learn.

You have set a good foundation for yourself to continue your journey as a guitarist.

Overall you starting to feel more confident in your level of guitar playing and it’s looking like there’s no sign of you stopping now.

The best part is, you’re starting to develop your own style of guitar playing.

This leads us to the next level of skill as a guitar player. The level that I told you was the first goal that you should strive towards when starting to learn the guitar.

Every beginner guitar player should strive towards getting to the intermediate guitarist level because this is where things get interesting for you as an aspiring guitarist.

Intermediate Level Guitarist

Intermediate guitarist playing electric guitar

So what is an intermediate guitar player?

An intermediate guitar player is someone who has a good foundation and understands many guitar techniques.

Here are some general skills you would need to be considered an intermediate guitar player:

  • You know the names of the notes on the neck of the guitar (At least the two thickest strings: E and A)
  • You can transition between chords smoothly
  • Understands and applies different guitar techniques (Hammer-ons, pull-offs, proper usage of guitar picks)
  • The ability to use bar chords (Both major and minor)
  • Ability to figure out the strumming pattern for a song
  • Some understanding of music theory (Key signatures, time signatures, scales, chords)
  •  Confidence

These are just some of the skills that you should have as an intermediate guitar player, and just because a few of them might not be familiar to you, doesn’t mean you’re the worst guitar player in the world.

The guitar is one of the most picked up instruments but can be one of the hardest instruments to master.

There are so many different techniques and styles that aspiring guitarists can potentially learn.

Why the Intermediate Level is Important

Honestly, you could definitely get by at the advanced beginner level because, at that point, you should be able to play the guitar at a level that sounds good to a lot of people.

The reason you should keep pushing to get to this intermediate level is that you develop more of an understanding of the guitar.

The more guitar techniques you know and understand, the more flexible of a guitarist you are.

Not only will you be able to play multiple different songs, you can also begin to create your own style of play.

You can apply the different techniques into your play, allowing you to produce a nicer sound while also sounding more technically advanced.

An understanding of key signatures, time signatures, scales, and chords allows you to begin writing your own music.

Getting More Serious with Guitar

Once you’ve become an intermediate guitar player, you start getting more serious with the guitar.

You have surpassed the infant stage that every guitarist goes through in the beginning and you are starting to see all the different opportunities you have with your developed guitar skills.

Here are some examples of new potential opportunities:

  • You are confident enough to perform the guitar in front of people
  • The possibility of joining or forming a band
  • Invites to perform at gigs (Finally getting paid to play guitar)
  • It can be easier for you to learn more advanced guitar techniques
  • Becoming a songwriter (Lyrics and instrumentals)

So many opportunities that weren’t possible when you were still a beginner.

Performing the Guitar in Front of People

You are now confident enough to put your guitars skills to use. For any musician, performing live is an incredible experience, but it is a skill on its own.

Now that you are having more opportunities to perform live, you can obtain more experiences that will help you grow as a guitarist and help you work on your stage performance.

Being able to perform for “paid gigs” also allows you to turn one of your passions/hobbies into another stream of income.

I mean who doesn’t want to get paid for something that they love to do?

Joining/Forming a Band:

Rock band performing on stage dressed in black

People are starting to take you more seriously as a guitarist. They acknowledge your skills and you might be getting invites to join local bands around your living area.

If you have other musician friends, maybe they’re in need of a guitarist and are inviting you to join their band to perform some gigs with them.

Maybe you can join a band and start writing some original music.

Being part of a group allows you to grow more as a guitarist and gives you the experience of performing with others.

Performing with other musicians can be very challenging.
-Staying in rhythm with the group
– Balancing the sound of all the instruments.
-Handling artistic differences

When you begin performing with other musicians, it teaches you valuable lessons of communication and teamwork that is impossible to learn if you just perform by yourself.

Learning Advanced Guitar Techniques

At the intermediate level, you should have a good foundation and understanding of multiple guitar techniques and music theory.

With this knowledge, you are able to press forward and continue to learn more advanced guitar techniques.

It won’t be like your early beginner stages because you are already familiar with the guitar.

It can still be challenging to learn these more advanced guitar techniques, however, it won’t be as daunting because you’ll know it’s possible with enough hard work.

You will have more confidence in your ability to learn and will be less likely to quit.

Becoming a Songwriter
Acoustic guitar and sheet music book outside

Like I said before, this is when things start getting interesting.

You start to develop your own style of guitar playing. You can start playing around with different chord progressions and strumming patterns.

If you are a singer, you can add lyrics to your created instrumentals.

Your understanding of music theory will help you distinguish which notes sound good with each other and will help you when you are composing your own music.

You will also be able to work on your guitar improvisational skills. 

With good improvisational skills, you might be able to come up with something that could potentially be turned into a song.

During your jam sessions/practice sessions, when improvising, record what you are playing because you never know what will come out of your session.

Your next biggest song could come from you just jamming out on the guitar while you’re in the moment so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So how long will it take to be an Intermediate Guitar Player?

Like I said earlier, it can take a person at least a year to get to the Intermediate Guitarist level.

Becoming an intermediate guitarist takes a lot of time and dedication to the craft. It will also take a lot of practice and study.

It takes a lot of commitment to learning the guitar because there are so many different techniques and music theories that you will need to learn.

It’s definitely possible for someone to achieve the status of being an intermediate guitarist in less than a year.

Things you can do to speed up the process:

  • Find a “good” guitar teacher
  • Practice the guitar as much as you can
  • Practice the guitar with people who are at the intermediate level or higher
  • Self-study in between your guitar lessons
  • Don’t be afraid of trying to learn more challenging songs and techniques
  • Get as much experience as you can performing the guitar to build confidence
  • Constantly work on familiarizing yourself with guitar tabs, chords, and the fretboard
  • Focus on improving on guitar techniques, form, strumming patterns, rhythm, and accuracy
  • Always stay motivated to learn

You do have to keep in mind that people learn at their own pace. Some people might be able to get a technique down after learning it once while others have to constantly practice.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to the intermediate level in the time you want. Just keep practicing and keep learning.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. It should take you around 1 year to learn the guitar if you constantly work hard.

Just remember that in the end, we all have our own ideas of what it means to have learned the guitar.

If you are a singer who wants to learn how to play the guitar so you can accompany yourself on stage, then maybe you just need to learn the chords of the songs you want to play.

Maybe you don’t want to be the next guitar god and just being able to jam along with your friends is all that is needed to be satisfied. You don’t have to stress out too much about learning all the technical stuff.

If you find yourself at a good level where you are having a good time playing the guitar, then I say keep jamming on and have fun!

You shouldn’t let music stress you out because it should be an experience that lets you enjoy life even more.

Just remember to always keep your mind open to learning something new, and progress at your own pace.

If you want to become a better guitarist, of course, you’ll need to study and practice, but always try to have a good time with the process.

Here’s a great video by Andy Guitar on YouTube talking about how long it takes to learn the guitar.

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