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How Long Does it REALLY Take to Learn to Play the Acoustic Guitar? (With real life examples from actual guitar players)


How long does it take to learn to play the acoustic guitar

A question that I get every so often from students is: How long does it take to learn the guitar… or more specifically, how long does it take to learn the acoustic guitar?

Or even MORE specifically:  How long will it take before I become a famous rockstar in the style of John Mayer or Taylor Swift?

All of these are great questions… and they all have a very disappointing answer: “It depends…”

(Before we move on, if you’re interested in teaching yourself how to play the guitar you should check out this article)

So, in an effort to provide good information (so I don’t waste your time), I’ll try to answer this more precisely.  And, like I said above….

It depends… on how much you practice.

Obvious but true.  For anyone who knows me I’m all about efficiency – and making the most of my time.  I’m a strong proponent of deliberate practice. This is how elite musicians become elite musicians.  But it’s also how beginners (or anyone) can learn more quickly – without spending a lot of time.  Essentially it boils down to practicing the right material.  As I said, I’m big on efficiency.


It depends… on what you want to learn/what your goal is.

Arguably, more important than practicing, your level of skill and/or satisfaction with the acoustic guitar (or any guitar) depends on ultimate desire.  If you want to reach Rodrigo y Gabriela proficiency… it’s probably going to take you 10,000 hours (yup – that’s 20 hours a week – of practice – for 10 years).  However, there is hope! As I said, it depends on your goal.  If you want to be able to play your favorite songs, strum the chords, sing along, and impress your friends (and the ladies), it will take MUCH less time.  You can accomplish this in less than a month.


Yeah…but really… how long does it take to learn the guitar??

Ok.  I’ve seen some other websites give timeframes (like: “if you practice regularly, in 1-2 months you can play most chords”; or “in 1 year you can play most songs”).  I think that’s crazy.  What does “most songs” mean?  Or “most chords”?  And what does “regular practice” even mean?


So let me give you specific examples:

Case Study 1:  Steve – The Brand-Spanking-New Beginner Guitar Player


Goal: Just loves the guitar and wants to play.  Just loves it.

Frequency of Practice: 4-5 times a week.  For around 20-30 minutes.  (To me – that’s A LOT of practicing).

Skill Level after 6 months:  Can play rock/pop songs easily: strums the chords, clearly plays the chords with no trouble switching.  Can easily learn new chords via chord chart and/or tablature.  Can read tablature and play small riffs (or can learn riffs by listening to the song).  Can read some standard/staff music (but hates it).   Has great rhythmic timing.   Can play a few of the minor pentatonic modes (for newbies – this means that he can solo and improvise).  Can’t quite play barre chords but is getting there.  Not interested in the theory behind music…which may limit him (at least for now).

Case Study 2: Jenn – Played Trombone 20 years ago in High School – nothing since. 

Goal: Always wanted to learn, not a lot of time to practice, but really really wants to learn to play her favorite songs.

Frequency of Practice:  Practice?  A little bit every day – but when I say “little” I mean like 2-3 minutes (total).   In between commercial breaks she picks up the guitar and plays a few chords (one of my preferred practice methods).

Skill Level after 6 months: Has memorized 5-10 first-position open chords and can clearly play them.  Can execute some basic strumming patterns.  Not much outside of down-up-down-up-down-up.  Can execute some basic fingerpicking styles.   Has reached her goal of playing her favorite songs!


The Results:

Both Jenn and Steve could call themselves guitar players.  Both Jenn and Steve started playing at the same time.  But obviously, both are very different in their goal and level of practice.  No judgement is meant to either of them – they are both happy with their progress (and they should be!!).

When Steve practices – it is hard work – mentally.  He’s actively trying to push himself.

When Jenn practices – the mental piece isn’t as draining – but she’s training the muscles in her hand and fingers to remember those chords – and again, it meets her goals.

So, like I said above, the length of time it takes to learn the guitar truly depends on those few personal factors.

Access to good teaching materials:

Lastly, having access to good guitar teaching materials will help you learn much faster.  Having a great guitar teacher (who clearly understands your goals) is probably the fastest way to learn how to play guitar.

Not all of us have time for guitar lessons.  I get it.  I was self taught (before there were things like JamPlay, or Youtube).   I think I turned out ok.

If you want to learn to play guitar for free… something like Youtube lessons, or even chord charts and tabs from Ultimate-Guitar.com are a great place to start.  However… the downside is that this will take longer – mainly because you have to find all of the resources yourself (e.g. they’re not tied up in a nice little package).

If you really want to speed up the learning process, and don’t mind spending a few bucks,  I’d strongly recommend something like JamPlay.   It’s cheap, comprehensive, and you can cancel anytime you want (so you’re not spending a fortune).  If you can’t learn to play with something like this… you’re probably not going to learn to play the guitar.  As we talked about above:  it depends on your… and your how you practice.  

If you like these little case studies – let me know and if you want to know how long it will take YOU to play the guitar – drop me an e-mail and I’ll tell you what I think (or leave a comment below).


(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at jake@jakeposko.com).

(Note: Image above courtesy of The Present Season’s Gibson J200 Acoustic Style Guitar Shape Wall Clock – also… I’m surprised at the number of  images that appear when you google “Guitar Clock” – weird.)

123 comments… add one
  • Anthony November 6, 2013, 8:28 pm

    How long will it take if I practice four to five times a week and 20-30 minutes a day to move up to the electric guitar and play songs like Paranoid or Man on the silver mountain.

    • jposko November 14, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Hey Anthony,
      It really depends on **how** you practice. If you’re practicing the same parts of each of those songs every day, but not really pushing yourself to get faster (and accurate), it could take awhile. It also depends on your current level of playing: If you’re an absolute beginner it will obviously take longer (maybe work your way up to those songs by starting with the beginning riff to “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, or even “Crazy Train”). Having said that 20-30 minutes, four or five times a week is an AWESOME amount of time to practice. If you stick with it, you’ll move along relatively quickly (maybe within a few weeks to a month). Good luck!

  • Jermaine February 3, 2014, 5:37 am

    Hi Anthony,

    First off great answers this makes it a lot easier to cope with starting out slow not knowing how soon it will pay off. I would like to play Like John Mayer abd be able to improvise a nd eventually write. I don’t care how long it takes me however I would like to practice efficiently. Could you point me in the right direction by telling me what I should be focusing on first second and third and how much time I should look forward to committing to these steps each day?

    • Jake February 3, 2014, 2:57 pm

      Hey Jermaine!  It sounds like you have a great attitude towards practicing/learning to play (which is awesome).  Take as much time as you want – generally the more you play and practice, the quicker you make progress.  If you’re looking to improvise and/or solo like John Mayer, I’d suggest that you start to learn some scales.  I’d start with the pentatonic scale.  This video is pretty good.  At around 2:00 minutes into the video he shows the first position (also known as “Box 1)  to learn with the pentatonic scale.   Start there.  Go slowly.   If you don’t have a lot (or any) background in music or music theory, scales can get confusing really fast.  Be patient. If you’re able to – I’d strongly suggest at taking a lesson or two (that’s it) just to get started.   Good luck!

  • Drew June 15, 2014, 12:08 am

    Hi! I really liked your answers above. I am 13 and have always wanted to play guitar and eventually be in a band. I just recently bought my first acoustic guitar and was wondering how long it would take me before I will be band ready. I plan on practicing most every day for over 45 minutes or an hour each day. Also, the acoustic guitar I got was a pretty common $300 guitar. When would be the best time to upgrade?


    • Jake June 17, 2014, 1:39 pm

      Hey Drew – if you practice for 45 minutes everyday, you will make progress really really quickly (just make sure when you practice that you continue to push yourself to play more difficult things, either more complicated or more quickly… don’t just play the same things over and over again (at the same speed, or you’ll never get better). Upgrade whenever you want – and whenever you have the money to spend. I’ve been playing the guitar for 20 years and I still use one of the first guitars I ever had (just a $200 basic fender acoustic). Hope that helps!

  • Timmy July 16, 2014, 2:39 am

    Hi, Im a huge punk/poppunk fan, and Im 13 years old. Id like to start out on acoustic guitar; If I practice about an hour a day; at least five days a week; how long will it take me to learn acoustic covers of songs like basket case and longview?

    • Jake August 4, 2014, 8:25 pm

      Hey Timmy – exactly one month. Just kidding. The bass line to longview should be pretty basic, and you should be able to get it down in no time. Both of those songs are pretty standard power chords – which can be kind of tricky to get the hang of, but not really difficult. The tough part (for a beginner) would probably be getting these songs down on the acoustic guitar. That’s not to say you can’t do it… it just may take a little longer (and sound a little different) when compared to learning them on the electric. An hour a day of practice is a good amount of time… but don’t burn yourself out. Good luck! Let me know how it’s coming!

  • Emily September 21, 2014, 3:09 am

    Hi! I’m looking into getting an acoustic guitar…. I have a background in music but it’s just singing & I can read music. I can also play a little ukulele… If I practiced for an hour everyday about how long do you think it would take me to master playing while singing? Some examples of songs would be “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones, “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys & “Believe” by John Mayer… Thanks for all your help!

    • Jake September 22, 2014, 7:23 pm

      Hey Emily – Good question. I’ll try to write a post soon about singing AND playing at the same time… it can be kind of tricky. The good news for you is that having a background in music/singing will be super helpful. An hour of practice every day is A LOT OF PRACTICE. As long as you’re practicing the RIGHT stuff, I bet you could be strumming and playing within a few weeks if not sooner. Again – make sure you push yourself during every practice session (if you only practice the same stuff over and over, you won’t make progress). If you haven’t already checked it out, drop me your e-mail here and I’ll send a copy of some of the guitar hacks that I’ve used (and that I teach my students). Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks! -Jake

  • saber December 17, 2014, 11:37 pm

    Hey Jake! I was wondering how long will it take me to play on an average base skill if I was practicing everyday for 30 min? I used to only stretch my fingers on the guitar but now I want to take it seriously and how long will my pinky finger get flexible with regular practice? Thanks I’m advance!

    • Jake January 7, 2015, 12:32 pm

      Practicing every day for 30 minutes will add up really quickly. Most people start off with goals like this, but realize that 30 minutes EVERY DAY is ton of time. If you can maintain it – AWESOME! The main thing to remember is that you’ll need to continue to push yourself. For example: try to play a little faster each day, or a little more accurately each day. Timing yourself for speed, or recording your practice sessions can be really helpful to monitor your progress. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  • Gentry December 22, 2014, 6:11 am

    Hi, I’m a beginner and I’ve learn a few chords on the acoustic .I sing and play piano I can also sing and play the few chords I know on the guitar.I plan to practice 2 hrs a day and I want to be a intermediate player within a year time,hopefully able to play and sing in my live performances..My question is..will I be able to achieve that within 6months to a year?

    • Jake January 7, 2015, 12:34 pm

      Dude! 2 hours a day! You are crazy! 🙂

      If you practice that much, you could definitely reach your goal of singing and performing live. Are you taking lessons? Or do you have another way to monitor and manage your progress. This can be really helpful (for folks in your case who have very specific goals and timeframes). Stay focused on a handful of songs that you’d like to perform and just work on perfecting them! Good luck!

  • Brayden January 3, 2015, 11:13 am

    Hi, i started playing the acoustic guitar back in may 2014 and had no previous experience with instruments before then. i started just so i could play songs i like (which i have achieved haha) but one of the first things i started doing was making up my own songs/instrumentals, most of the songs i have made up are in fingerstyle because i find fingerstyle more fun and challenging to play at times (most of these songs a reletively simple). I’ve managed to make progress and i love playing guitar, it’s become something i have to do everyday, i don’t always practice everyday but i always play for at least 30mins. I still have trouble with some simple things like barre chords (I actually have a lot of trouble with those haha) and i can only play mostly simple chords like Em, D, A, G, C, em7 and am7. i can’t read or write music/tabs but it’s something that i really want to be able to do and i’m willing to put the time and effort in to get better and improve because guitar is slowly becoming less of a hobbie and more of a passion. I want to be able to write and play music like eric clapton or ed sheeran, not to be a performer or fame like some other people my age i know want (I am 16). I’d just like to know where i should start and what direction i should go to learn how to read tabs and any other ways to read/write music for guitar, i’d also like to get better at barre coulds and just learning other chords in general, i’d still consider myself very much an amteur but i want to improve and i like a challenge when it comes to guitar.

    • Jake January 7, 2015, 12:44 pm

      Hey Brayden – that’s awesome! If bar chords are giving you trouble, I’d start working on chords like F and Bm (not necessarily the FULL bar chord versions of these chords, but just the basic version). I’m not sure, but I THINK “I’m a Mess” by Ed Sheeran has an F thrown in there (if you play it in the key of C, probably with a capo on the 3rd fret?). Either way, there are a billion songs that utilize those chords, and they are a great place to start with bar chords. I’m hoping to have a video up soon with bar chord details… if you’re not on my e-mail list, sign up here to be notified: http://eepurl.com/XjoLL

      Good luck!

      • Brayden January 10, 2015, 5:21 pm

        Thanks so much for the reply! And I’ve signed up for your emails 🙂 I’ve been on a couple sites like this that don’t give much feedback and are just looking for a quick buck so it’s awesome that you are taking the time to read our comments and reply to us 🙂 thanks again

        • Jake January 11, 2015, 3:56 pm

          Hey Brayden – glad you’re digging it! Let me know if you need any other help or have questions – thanks for commenting!

  • Angel January 5, 2015, 3:12 am

    Thank You for your encouragement of these individuals pursuing their passion. I am 44 years old and just looking to learn to tag along to some songs, and maybe show off a bit at a get together with family. I am simple, just wondering what time frame am I looking at seeing I have 0 experience on any instruments to learn “AGUINALDO” ( A type of music played around Christmas in Puerto Rico). You may want to listen to a few before answering this one. Thank You very much.

    • Jake January 7, 2015, 12:37 pm

      Woah! That’s awesome. I pulled up a few youtube videos of aguinaldo style and it’s pretty sweet (and it does look a little difficult). I’d suggest asking around your family and friends to figure out some easy/beginner songs within that style. If you don’t know anyone who plays guitar, check out some local lessons… but make sure you let them kno wwhat your goals are. You can totally do it! Have fun. Let me know how it’s going!

  • Robert January 11, 2015, 7:56 pm

    I just started (1 week ago) teaching myself to play on an old classical acoustic guitar that was given to me. Eventually want to learn to play some old and new rock/pop songs so is learning on a classical guitar ok? I’m just doing basic dexterity/scales practice for about 20-45 mins a day and started learning a few chords. I do have some issues due to having smaller hands/fat fingers and was wondering if that will always hold me back or will it just take longer to get the needed dexterity? Also, calluses are coming along nicely so it’s not as painful now! 🙂

    • Jake January 12, 2015, 2:19 pm

      Hey Robert – Ahhh yeah, the old fat/stubby/little/short finger issue. A few things that may help:

      1. Using a classical guitar will probably help anyone who has thicker fingers. Generally, classical guitars have wider/thicker necks, which usually means that the strings are further apart. This lessens the issue of your fingers rubbing up against the wrong strings. Unfortunately, wider necks can make it more difficult for players with small hands.

      2. Using a capo on the 4th or 5th fret (or playing your scales on higher frets) may help as well… maybe.

      3. Check out this post (and video) of Django Reinhardt. One of the best guitar players ever, and he only used two fingers.

      4. Another example is Ritchie Havens – who had super large fingers that made open position chords tricky to play – so he relied on open tunings to get the sound he wanted.

      The point is… your finger size and shape may make it more difficult, but it’s not an excuse. You can always adapt. You can always find work-arounds.

      Good luck! Keep playing!

      • Robert January 12, 2015, 5:00 pm

        Thanks for the reply and info.

        1. Yes, the wider neck is making it a challenge and the reason I’m doing so much dexterity practice. Some chords are a real pain to play clean but I’m already seeing improvement. 🙂
        2. Don’t have a capo but I started with playing the higher frets and making my way down as I get better … seems to be helping.
        3-4. Impressive and inspirational!

        I figure I’ll give it 3-6 months of daily practice on the classical, depending on how my skill level goes up, then I’ll look at getting a steel string acoustic (maybe electric?) guitar. Does that sound like a good plan?

        • Jake January 14, 2015, 3:08 pm

          That sounds like an awesome plan – as long as you keep picking it up and stay motivated. Don’t be afraid to go easy on yourself once in awhile and play some easier stuff (just for fun)… no use in pushing yourself too hard. Let me know if you need ANY other help! Keep me updated on your progress.

          • Robert February 17, 2015, 6:32 am

            Thought I’d give a quick update with a little over a month of practice now. I can play all the major and minor open chords (except F), even started to air change between a few of them but I’m still not quick enough to play any songs. I also found that I really struggled with rhythm and strumming so I do that everyday now and have gotten much better. In hindsight, I think working more on the strumming rhythm first would have been a good idea. So the journey continues …

          • Jake February 17, 2015, 3:42 pm

            Hey Robert – That’s nice progress. Keep working on the F chord. Start with Fmaj7 (it sounds harder than F, but it’s more like a C chord and will still give you that F chord sound). As far as the strumming goes, here is what I usually tell people:

            1. Whenever you’re strumming, and about to change chords… KEEP STRUMMING. Do NOT stop strumming. Ever. Even if your left hand hasn’t fully formed the chord. It’s ok. By continuously strumming you will subconsciously force your left hand to make faster changes. It may not be perfect at first, but it will help.

            2. Are you watching your left hand when you make chord changes? If so: STOP. Take some of the focus off of your left hand so you can begin to make the changes by touch/feel and muscle memory (rather than visually). Also easier said than done, but again, it will help.

            You should be able to play some basic 3-4 chord songs really soon. Don’t go crazy with the strumming pattern, just start with one strum at a time (per chord). Keep it basic until you can get the timing right. Choose songs that utilize your best/easiest chords. For me, that’s usually G, D, Em, and C. For others it may be A, E, and D.

            Keep it up. You’re making awesome progress! Love the update… keep it coming!


          • Robert April 11, 2015, 3:26 pm

            Three month update!
            Its coming along, I can play a couple of really simple songs now along with a few cool riffs. As long as I keep the BPM below 90-100 I can generally keep up with the chord changes though not perfectly. Strumming practice has really paid off, its nice to just stum away and switch up the pattern and chords, makes learning much more fun … and easier on the ears.

            The Fmaj7 was easy to learn, thanks for pointing that one out. I haven’t focused on new chords though I know some new shapes for the riffs I learned. I did practice new fingerings for the common chords and this greatly increased my speed. Simple changes, like using fingers 1&2 instead of 2&3 for Em makes a quick change to A or G … there are many of these that help.

            It seems I have hit a bit of a learning wall in the past couple of weeks, not really getting any better and feels like I took a step or two back on some days. I’ll keep at it though …

          • Jake April 13, 2015, 1:31 pm

            Hey Robert – Thanks for the update! Awesome points… definitely trying alternate fingering positions can make a difference. It’s crazy… I’ll play a G chord one way in the first part of the song, and then another way later in the song. So much of it depends on what chord comes next, how fast the song is, etc.

            Here’s a few things that I do (for myself, or for my students) when I hit a wall/plateau:

            1. Learn some new songs. Find a song you’ve always wanted to learn (even if it seems beyond your skill level) and start learning… just take it slow and be patient.

            2. Learn a new style. Maybe you can switch from a strumming style/song to a finger picking song. Maybe you’ve been learning chords and you can take a stab at a basic scale or solo or riff. I think one of the best ways to beat stagnation is to mix things up.

            3. Try a new guitar out. Go to a guitar/music store and try out some different guitars (using what you’ve already learned). No need to buy anything (though the temptation will be strong). But really, it’s just a way for you to get a feel for what you’ve learned and how it can be applied/played on different guitar styles.

            See how that stuff works. Keep me posted!

        • Robert April 14, 2015, 7:06 am

          Switching up the fingering is a great thing to learn, I did it not only for the speed but partially due to the classical as doing a G with fingers 2,3,4 is a real stretch on a 2″ nut width for me but it should be easy on a standard guitar now!

          Thanks for the suggestions, already doing 1 & 2, learning new songs or intros that require picking (Boston, Rush, BOC, etc) so it’s not just strumming. Not ready to try finger style yet but I’ll keep that one in mind for the future.

          I’ve been resisting the urge to get another guitar though I think it might help some now as the classical width and higher action does give me some grief but I think it might help me play better later on when I get another guitar.

          • Robert July 19, 2015, 4:36 pm

            Six Month Update … 🙂
            Doing a little less practise due to the warmer weather months but still getting 15-45 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week.

            Strumming is pretty easy now, even for fairly complex patterns and doesn’t take long to learn new ones. Also learned palm muted strums which creates an interesting sound.

            Chord changes are getting better, a bit faster and more accurate now and I’m comfortable with more of them (minor, 7 and sus versions). Started learning (only a couple of weeks now) power and barre chords, getting the hang of that faster than I thought. I do have to pay real attention to my thumb position right now as it’s not “trained” to the larger movements barre/power chords require when sliding between frets.

            My picking still needs work, I’ll focus more on that once my barre chords get reasonably good. Also, I took your advice and started learning a few basic fingerstyle patterns which gives my fretting hand a nice break. I find it’s a good thing to practise when watching TV.

            So my six months have passed by and I think I’ve learned a fair bit. Don’t really consider myself a real guitar player yet but I think I’m doing pretty good for an older guy of 50+ years. Following the goal I set for myself, I’m looking at buying a beginner/intermediate electric acoustic guitar to continue on this journey ….

          • Jake July 20, 2015, 11:58 pm

            Hey Robert! Thanks for the update. Sounds like you’re getting pretty proficient – awesome! Barre chords can get tricky (especially the transitions between open chords and barre chords).. let me know if you need any help. Otherwise, keep doing what you’re doing. The only other thing I’d suggest: If you haven’t already…. try to get a handful of songs under your belt (songs that you can play from start to finish). It’s nice to have a a few go-to songs that you feel really comfortable with. Keep me posted!

          • Robert July 23, 2015, 4:07 pm

            Thanks Jake!
            I only know a few complete songs (with vocals too!), simple ones that have the same (or nearly the same) intro,verse,chorus but I know a number of other ones just not the bridges/connectors and such. Thanks for the advice, I’ll work on completing a few.

            I’ll likely learn the entire song that got me into doing the power chords (Nickelback’s Photograph). Strumming pattern took 15 mins to learn but these new chords will take much longer, still have to look at my hands. 🙁
            Also working on learning Rush – Closer to the heart, that intro is just killing me but one has to push themselves right?

            I started playing along with some backing tracks as well, really messed me up in the beginning but getting a handle on it now. Its loads of fun being “part of a band” so to speak. 🙂

          • Jake July 28, 2015, 6:14 pm

            Have you ever thought of playing with other musicians? I know it can be daunting… but it’s a really good way to improve/learn. I’ve run of couple of “jam sessions” with some students (who have only been playing for a year or so)… they all liked it… it’s a safe and fun environment. If you have access to anything like that in your area you should check it out.

          • Robert January 13, 2016, 1:11 am

            One year update, well … kind of. So, a month after my six months of guitar I injured a tendon which stopped me from playing anything (though I tried a few times), zero force on my fretting hand thumb. Fast forward to mid-December when I picked up a friend’s electric guitar just for fun and I could play without too much pain, yeah!

            So for the past 2 weeks I rented an electric (Fender strat) to try and rehab my hand which seems to be working, I can almost play the classical guitar again. I find the electric is sooo much easier to learn on despite a tight finger fit for some chords (like A). It also requires much less pressure on the strings and is less picky on how far you are from the fret.

            Though it set me back a ways, had to re-learn much since I stopped, I believe I’m almost playing better now. The electric is also a lot of fun, much different with bends, slides and hammer ons but I have to take things easy for a while so I don’t cause the injury to come back. Slowly the journey continues …

          • Jake January 20, 2016, 6:14 pm

            Hey Robert – so good to hear the update. Sorry about your injury – glad the electric is working for you. If you haven’t done so already – you should seriously consider getting your acoustic guitar setup with a lower action. Take it to a local guitar store, explain your injury and see if it’s something they can do. The difference between a guitar that has not been setup versus a guitar that has been setup well is incredible. Usually costs between $50 – $70. Totally worth it and can make even a cheap guitar play sooooo much better.

  • John January 15, 2015, 10:05 pm

    Good article. I am a 50-year old who picked up the guitar for the first time around 5 months ago. I have learned 15-20 chords, done some picking and am currently working on barre chords. I do have a local instructor I see 30 minutes a week and I practice 3-4 days a week for 30-40 minutes at a time. I love it and am having a blast but am completely frustrated with my inability to change chords quickly. Even basic stuff, like C-D-A…I get there but not quick enough for my tastes. I feel like by now I should be able to. Is this common? I will get there, right??

    Please say yes!

    Thanks for the great site!

    • Jake January 19, 2015, 6:28 pm

      Hey John – Thanks – that’s awesome that you’ve got that chord vocabulary down. As far as quick chord changes, here’s what I suggest:

      1. Whenever you’re strumming, and about to change chords… KEEP STRUMMING. Do NOT stop strumming. Ever. Even if your left hand hasn’t fully formed the chord. It’s ok. By continuously strumming you will subconsciously force your left hand to make faster changes. It may not be perfect at first, but it will help.

      2. Are you watching your left hand when you make chord changes? If so: STOP. Take some of the focus off of your left hand so you can begin to make the changes by touch/feel and muscle memory (rather than visually). Also easier said than done, but again, it will help.

      Try those two tips out and let me know how it works.

      Good luck!


  • ask February 22, 2015, 6:27 pm

    Aw, this was a really nice post. Taking the time and actual
    effort to produce a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.

    • Jake February 23, 2015, 2:47 pm

      Are you kidding me 🙂
      This is my favorite comment ever! So honest… Good luck my friend. Keep at it – even if you have false starts, set-backs and struggles. Happens to me all the time. Let me know if you need any tips or motivation!

      Thanks for sharing,

  • James March 28, 2015, 10:12 am

    Lovely post

  • Jon April 11, 2015, 10:39 pm

    I’m pretty new to guitar and playing music in general, but I take lessons every week and practice for a minimum of 30 mins to 45 mins a day 6 days out of the week. Going at this pace how long do you think it would take me to play things like Avenged7fold or Metallica?

    • Jake April 13, 2015, 1:17 pm

      Hey Jon – Dude… it all depends on what and how you practice. If you practice the same stuff, at the same speed and difficulty level, you will not really make any progress. I’ve seen guitar players “practice” more than what you’ve listed, and NEVER make much progress because they don’t push themselves, or practice the right stuff. Here’s what I think…

      If your goal is to play Metallica stuff, you should be practicing Metallica stuff. There are some beginner Metallica songs (or at least basic riffs) that you can learn. If your guitar teacher isn’t pointing you in that direction… get a new teacher who will help with your goals.

      So to answer your question… you should already be able to play some basic Metallica riffs. Check out this youtube link for an example. Or just google: “easy Metallica songs” or “beginner guitar Metallica songs”. Once you get those down, then keep pushing yourself to learn scales (which will likely help with your shredding/super fast riffs/solos) and progressively more complicated songs.

      I hope this helps. Let me know what you think! Thanks!

      • Jon April 13, 2015, 11:19 pm

        okay cool, thanks man! That’s about where i’m at right now and my teacher is definitely choosing stuff i like for me to learn.

  • jane May 15, 2015, 1:54 am

    I am 19 years old and have been singing since i was young. I have always dreamed of playing a guitar but never had the confidence to even try because of my fear of failing….i just got my first guiter and know about two chords lol i think i am going to start takeing lessons soon but i am scared that my rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia will prevent me from being able to play but i want to learn so bad but it would be nice to know if there is even a chance for me i would practice 20/30 mins 4/5 times a week if i find more free time then it would be more often but two full time jobs takes up most of my time

  • Isabel July 9, 2015, 4:16 am

    How long will it take to be at a professional level, able to solo and do riffs, and be really proficient, if I practice at least 3 hours a day? I also play piano and sing. I have been playing piano for a long time.

    • Jake July 9, 2015, 2:19 pm

      Hey Isabel – good question… I think it really depends on your definition of “professional”.

      For me, as soon as I had my first paying gig, I considered myself a professional musician, which from the time I started playing guitar (14 years old), took about 7 years. I was probably about 21 years old, and I got the opportunity to perform (a few times) as the open act for a number of different bands (this was at a venue that sat about 200 people).

      I think I got paid about $200 or so for about 30 minutes of music (incredible). Soon after that, the chef at a local bar down the street liked my music and hooked me up with the owner of his restaurant where I started my first regular gig… Monday nights, 4 hours of live music, $75. So to answer your question… for me it was 7 years. And I DEFINITELY DID NOT practice anywhere CLOSE to 3 hours a day…

      … But really, if you want to become a professional musician, you should try to think about what that actually means (are you looking to be in a band that tours, a studio musician, to license your music for tv/radio/film, play in an orchestra, or just be a rock star)? It all really depends on your goals – and honestly, I think your ability to take advantage of opportunities to connect with other people in the profession will probably be MORE important than your proficiency.

      Have I crushed your dreams or given you hope? 🙂

  • Christopher B October 16, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I know this post is a bit old, but I see folks are still discussing this every couple of months, so I’ll add my voice to the conversation.

    My scenario: I’m an almost-fifty-year-old and I’ve flirted with learning to play guitar since I was a teenager. I just never connected with it – I don’t know if I was too young, had goals that were too lofty, wasn’t serious enough about it, or was just too impatient. (Probably some combo of all of these each time I tried.) But a month and a half ago I resolved to make it happen.

    This time around, I’m loving it – I feel engaged with the instrument instead of daunted or mocked by it, and I’m finding the music theory fascinating. I can’t wait to learn more about both the instrument and the theory behind the music I (sort of) play with it. (Not too mention wanting to learn as much as I can about the physical components of playing – my guitars and amps.) Each day, I look forward to the time I have to pick up my guitar.

    My goal is fairly simple: I want to be a competent enough musician to play in front of people, so I can play for family and friends, get together with other musicians and jam, and maybe even find a group of folks to do small local gigs with. (Although I don;t plan to stop learning when I reach this goal. I expect to continue to increase my musical skills at a steady pace through continued study, even after reaching this goal. There’s just so much to learn, and I want to keep digging…)

    My practice routine: On evenings and weekends, I pick up the guitar while I’m watching TV and noodle with it during commercial breaks – I practice the chords and notes I’ve learned to date, play with different strumming patterns, etc. I also practice at least 30 minutes every day – usually closer to an hour. My practice consists of finger exercises, followed by playing new chords I;m trying to learn and making chord changes between all of the chord progressions I’ve learned so far, and finally playing bits of songs I’m learning that use the pieces I know. I also spend a good amount of time each day researching what I already know, what songs use it and how, and the theory behind it all. I have a series of DVDs covering learning and mastering guitar, and I use these as a basic structure around which I build my self-directed learning. (The DVDs alone were boring and losing me, and I found that by augmenting what they’re teaching with things that interest me, I’m able to stay connected.)

    I’ve already found that I’ve improved in the last 90 days – a few weeks ago, it was almost like a light bulb turning on. Suddenly, I’m not fumbling with the chord fingering and changes as much as I was, and I find I’m able to fairly easily learn new chords and integrate them into my practice routine. I’m still having some challenges reading music and translating the notation to the notes on the fretboard, but I know that, too, will come with time and practice.

    My biggest hurdle is rhythm – I have zero natural rhythm, and I’m finding that to be the most daunting piece of the puzzle. My fear is this is the one aspect I’ll never be able to learn.

    Long story short (too late, I know!), I’m curious to hear your thoughts: I want to achieve my aforementioned goal in six to nine months. From what I’ve read on “teh interwebs,” it sounds possible, but I don’t want to set myself up for failure by aiming too high. So, does my goal/time frame seem reasonable, given my scenario?

    Chris B

    • Christopher B April 27, 2016, 1:29 pm

      Thanks for the helpful reply! Oh, wait…

      • Jake April 27, 2016, 1:57 pm

        Ah! So sorry I missed your comment Chris! Since it’s been awhile… how are you coming along?

        Here are my thoughts:

        1. If you’ve been diligent about the practice routine that you listed, you should be making excellent progress. AS LONG AS YOU CONTINUE TO PUSH YOURSELF. If you’re just running over the same exercises and drills, you won’t see as much progress.

        2. I like that you’re augmenting your DVD lessons with stuff that you actually want to learn… I would even say focus more on actual songs you’d like to be able to play…. in other words, pick a song and start to learn it (if you haven’t do so already).

        3. Strumming/Rhythm is a weird thing. I usually recommend starting super basic (like one strum per chord), then progressively making this more interesting/complicated. There are two main ways that I handle rhythm guitar:

        Rhythm Guitar #1: Counting. If you’re not planning on singing and playing at the same time, this is how I approach learning rhythm. This is probably the more traditionally accepted way of practicing and learning rhythm. You’re basically counting how many strums your doing per chord. Using a metronome to help you keep the right beat/time can also be helpful (albeit kind of annoying).

        Rhthm Guitar #2: Singing. If you’re planning on singing and playing at the same time… it’s gonna be tough to count your beats/strums whilst singing (at least my brain can’t handle it). Instead, I focus on making the chord changes at the appropriate lyric of the song. I start with one strum per chord (and change when I get to the correct lyric). Once I feel comfortable at this level, I start to add additional strums….. basically just strumming with my arm as though I were just tapping the beat of the song… Kind of like if you’re listing to the song and just tapping your foot along. Another way to think about it is that you’re arm is acting as a metronome or a drummer…. sort of just moving at a constant pace/beat while your other hand deals with the chords. Don’t get me wrong though… it’s tricky (and not easy).

        For strumming… You may find this video helpful.

        Good luck… again sorry for the super delayed response… Keep me posted with your progress. Thanks!

  • Xavier Hammond November 13, 2015, 4:34 pm

    My name is Xavier I just bought an acoustic guitar. I practice almost everyday I go along with a program called Learn and master guitar. I love Country music and my goal is to be able to play and sing. I love music and want to be able to entertain myself and others around a campfire or in my free time just pick up a guitar and play my favorite songs to where I don’t even need to go to YouTube to listen to music. I’m interested in playing all kinds of styles of music from bluegrass to pop and r&b just to really impress others. My problem is I’m a perfectionist so when I started a week ago I get very frustrated I usually will break for about 15 minutes and then I’m back at it again all night and day. When will I break through and finally begin to enjoy picking the guitar up lol. I feel like my program is perfect cause it gives me time to pause and try to perfect my lesson before moving on I just feel like my hands and coordination aren’t coming together. When will this stage become a little more progressive

    • Jake November 16, 2015, 2:02 pm

      Hey Xavier – Keep up the practice, you’re definitely on the right path.

      Try to relax and take it one step at a time… super small baby steps. Start slow. I mean reeaaaal slow. Keep this in mind:

      The guitar is a physical activity And like any physical activity, your body (muscles, bones, tendons, skin) need time to develop and adapt. Your fingers aren’t used to moving in these new ways, so give them a break, but keep working at it. Usually the more your practice (as long as you’re practicing correctly and pushing yourself) the quicker you will adapt and be able to move on.

      But be warned…. you will probably never be TOTALLY happy with your guitar playing. There will always be people better and there will always be mistakes and ways for you to improve (which is good, because it keeps challenging us).

      If you ever want to jump on Skype/Google Hangouts for a quick lesson, I’m happy to help you with some tips. I love learning from books and YouTube, but sometimes I need feedback from my instructor to make sure I’m doing everything right (I find this is especially true for my beginner students who tend to worry about EVERYTHING).

      Good luck… keep at it. Take your time. Don’t quit.

  • Rachel January 12, 2016, 4:40 pm

    I’ve just bought my first guitar! I have a daughter and so from 7pm until 12pm I’m alone and going a little stir crazy! I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar but kept convincing myself I’m too old (at 27) so assuming I practice every night for around an hour, increasing it the more I enjoy it, how long do you think it would take to be able to play along to my favourite songs? I’m not trying to be a rock star haha I’d just love to be able to create the music I enjoy so much

    • Jake January 12, 2016, 8:54 pm

      Hey Rachel! Congrats on the guitar purchase! You’re definitely not too old to start playing. An hour a day is a lot (especially when you’re just getting started)… so don’t push yourself too much.

      It really depends on what your favorite songs are… if they’re super advanced (solos, shredding, barre chords, etc) it could take a little while. If you’re just talking about basic open chords (G, D, Em, C, etc) you should be good to go in a month or less. Just wrote an article about how much your should practice… you can read it here.

      Let me know if you have an questions… and keep me updated on your progress!!!

  • nikhil January 16, 2016, 7:47 pm

    I just want to play my favourite songs and impress my frnds and yeah girls also so can u tell what I have to do
    PLZZZ tellll me I want to be a grt guitarist also

    • Jake January 20, 2016, 6:16 pm

      Pick a song. Learn those chords. Practice every day. Then pick another song. Learn those chords. Practice every day…. repeat. Over and over. Good luck my friend.

  • Stan Eckstrom January 23, 2016, 7:51 am

    I am 60 years old when I was 23 I took guitar lessons for about two and a half years. I became quite proficient, and to had gotten to the point where I was comfortable with substituting major chords for standard cords. I have only played minimally for the last several years. I want to get back in the morning how to play some rock and roll and some boogie woogie. I can read music pretty well, but from having done this before I know that it will take me awhile to get back into reading comfortably. I would prefer to go with and more by ear style. I have limited time available As I am working nights, and I am working 12 hours a day. I figure if I am diligent I can probably give about a half an hour a day. Can you give me any good tips to get back into the swing of things? I would be grateful for anything that might help me. Yours truly Stan the man.

    • Jake January 25, 2016, 7:36 pm

      Hey Stan! Congrats on getting back into it. I’ve written a bunch of articles about the best ways to practice (here, here, and here). Those are a good place to start for some quick tips. A half hour a day would be awesome, though you could probably get away with less. It’s really a matter of what you remember (and how quickly all of that old stuff comes back to you). I’m not a big fan of reading music or traditional teaching/learning methods. I suggest picking a song or two that you’d love to learn and just begin with that. Even if it’s a complicated piece you can generally find easier versions and begin to work your way to more complicated variations. Youtube is a good resource (as is my email list… shameless plug if you haven’t already signed up).

      Good luck… and keep me posted with your progress!

  • Alex January 28, 2016, 10:37 pm

    Hey! So I’ve been playing for 3 or 4 months now, and I can play almost every chord to most songs that I try (except Eb-it’s a doosy, and a few obscure ones), though switching can get a little difficult at times. I do practice a lot everyday but I’m always worrying that I’m not making enough progress. I’ve been working on riffs lately, but it seems that it can take hours to learn just one. Should I be expecting this kind of thing even though I practice a lot and have been playing it this long and am I at a good place? It’s just hard to see my heroes like Johnny Marr and Johnny Greenwood play these incredible riffs and solos when I’m still struggling to tackle the intro to ‘Under The Bridge’ 😂

    • Jake January 29, 2016, 2:49 pm

      Alex! Seriously? Don’t be so hard on yourself. These guys have been playing for years and years and years and years. If you’re already tackling the “Under the Bridge” intro (which has some pretty big stretches) after only playing for 3 or 4 months, you’re doing great. Also – if there is a particular solo, progression, or riff that you’ve seen Johnny Marr or Johnny Greenwood play…. see if you can start to work on that. Focus all of your energy and practice time on those solos – or maybe simpler/easier versions of those solos. If you want to play like your guitar heroes, start playing their music. But be patient. You’re going to get frustrated (totally normal). Just keep going and going. Since you have pretty specific goals… you may want to think about getting a guitar teacher (if you don’t have one already) and really focusing on some specific songs/solos. Good luck my friend! Keep me posted!!!

      • Alex January 29, 2016, 6:00 pm

        Thanks for the advice!! Is there an alternative to a guitar teacher that would help me reach those goals because lessons are a little pricy for me?
        And P.S. I really love this site and I’ve subscribed!!

        • Jake January 30, 2016, 2:21 am

          Thanks Alex! Glad you dig it and thanks for subscribing (hopefully the tips are good)….
          As for guitar teacher alternatives….

          Free stuff: You Tube, UltimateGuitar.com (or just about any guitar apps online). Guitar forums… maybe check out Reddit /r/guitar or /r/guitarlessons. Also… Stay tuned, I may be setting up a more interactive component to my website just for this kind of thing… As always.. keep me posted on your progress and let me know if you have any other questions!

          • Alex February 1, 2016, 11:56 pm

            Thanks again! I’ll make sure to stay tune! Oh and I finally got the Under the Bridge riff down!! 🙂

  • Neophilus March 1, 2016, 9:28 pm

    Hey, thanks for very encouraging piece.
    I am 40, and into guitar for last 2 weeks. Strangest thing: when I start to practice and play, I kinda lose myself for 3 or more hours and have to scrape myself from my cheap Bullet Strat.
    What I know so far: C.A.G.E.D. plus basic minors, simple strumming oatterns, clean minor pentatonic at 80 bpm, some songs…pleasant Hey Joe progression C-G-D-A-E, basic version of Downtown Train, and now I am learning to palm mute.
    Do you have any suggestion for future course? My primary goal would be blues improvisation, with some power chords just for the hell of it.

    • Jake March 8, 2016, 5:53 pm

      I totally get the flow (losing a few hours to guitar). I missed many classes in college due to this. I’d suggest working on those power chords, and if your hands/fingers can handle it.. bar chords. If you want to be able to improv some blues… maybe pick a blues tune or two and learn it inside and out… pick some solos as well (in the style that you’d like to learn). Being able to play solos/riffs will start to advance your improv skills… it’s kind of like learning new vocabulary words…. At first it’ll feel clunky, but then you’ll get more proficient and start to use them comfortably on your own. Does that make sense?

  • Haduwe March 8, 2016, 12:21 am

    I’m about to start acoustic guitar lessons at a local guitar shop within the next 2 weeks. (30 min sessions 4-5 times a month). I am 23 and though I’ve tried self-teaching in the past off and on because I could never afford lessons, it never works out and I rage quit after spending 2.5 hrs practicing with a 30 minute break 4 times a week. It’s the frustration of not getting things perfect or understanding- not the time practicing that does it. My end goal is to be able to become a good singer/songwriter in the style similar to Iron & Wine and Sea Wolf. Mainly modern folk music is my focus. Not to be the next greatest star but to be able to play at bars and local gigs confidently. My question is this: If I continue to practice as much as I can during the week (most available freetime) in combination with outside lessons, is there a high probability that I will become proficient enough to entertain publicly in 2 years or less? And will my age negatively impact my ability to book gigs like bars and offbeat clubs by the time I achieve a high proficiency? I am having a crisis of faith and confidence but over the years I keep coming back to singing/guitar like an impulsive obsession. I don’t want fear to stop me but I need a reality check too.
    Sorry for the length. Thank you for reading.

    • Jake March 8, 2016, 5:48 pm

      Crisis of faith! Oh No! Dude… practice as much as you can. You will get frustrated… that’s ok. And normal. Just keep sticking with it. The only reason you will fail is if you quit. Also, make sure that you and your guitar teacher are on the same page. Tell him/her what your goals are… and your timeframe. What you’re asking is totally doable. If they say it’s not… find another teacher.

      Songwriting is totally different from playing guitar and singing (and performing). Work on each one. If you’re not writing songs now… you should probably start. You don’t need to be able to sing and play the guitar in order to write songs… but it probably helps. Start with lyrics.

      As soon as you have some basic stuff down (maybe three songs that you can play and sing)… find some open mic nights and start performing. I have a ton of students who do this and they LOVE IT. Most people who run open mic nights will be very supportive of you (as will the crowd). It’s a great opportunity and too many people don’t take advantage of it.

      Also…. Your age? Are you afraid of being too young or too old? Either way… it doesn’t matter. If you’re looking to get gigs at bars/clubs, really you just need to be able to bring in a crowd. The bars primarily care about making money (even if you’re not that good… but being good helps). It also helps to know someone that can help you get a foot in the door. When I first started playing bars, I worked at the ticket office of a club/restaurant. One night, an opening act didn’t show up. They manager of the club knew I could play and sing, and let me open. It was awesome and crazy and fun. That happened a few times and led to other local gigs. It’s a slow process (or at least it was for me). But that’s cause I was super lazy.

  • Tapaswini March 24, 2016, 7:18 am

    I am 21 year old and don’t even have a single piece of knowledge in music whether it is vocals or instruments. Now, I desperately want to learn guitar. I can spend 1 hour in practicing. Suppose, if I want to join a rock band in next 2 years, will it be possible for me? How much time will it take for me to compose my own tunes on guitar? As I have zero knowledge in music, should I learn from online lessons or is it better for me to go to a tutor?

    • Jake March 24, 2016, 12:33 pm

      Dude… find some other people who share your vision and you can start a band today… As for learning the guitar? In person lessons (tutor) are probably more effective (if you have a good teacher who teaches what you want to learn). But online lessons, courses, or even YouTube videos are also a great place to start. And as for making your own songs…. start now. Do you have lyrics written? Write them (no musical skill needed). Do you have melodies in your head (maybe you can sing them, but don’t know how to write them)… that’s ok… record them on your phone or computer (video or audio). Start now. The more you produce, the easier it will come in the future. Just start!

  • Isaiah Thelwell June 30, 2016, 9:06 am

    Hello Sir, I am 13 years old and I always admired musicians like Lenny Kravitz,Prince, Parliament -Funkadelic,Jimi Hendrix . I admired those artist for Funk-rock, and blues, and psychedelic.But I also deeply enjoy classic rock like Bon Jovi,Def Leopard, The Beatles,Rolling Stones,Jim Morrison, I also really love Aerosmith. So I wanna know how can I combine these styles to make it my own. Also I recently started playing before summer break of this year, which was about 2 weeks ago. I practice daily for various amounts of time ,it usually ranges from 25 mins-3 hours, but 3 hours doesn’t happen alot, I also have 2 electric Guitars there not name brand but I have a les-paul style guitar ,a and a stratocaster style guitar, THANK YOU for helping me(P.S if it helps I’m more like your first example I forgot his name but the opposite to the girl) I also forgot to mention, I want to possibly play in a band by the beginning of my freshman year I was wondering if I’ll be able to do this if I practice even more considering I don’t have school. Also do u think I should take lessons

  • Louise August 3, 2016, 8:08 pm

    I’ve been learning for approx 8 months now and can play stuff like Radiohead Fade Out, Jack Savoretti Soldiers and am currently trying to get to grips with Tommy Emmanuel’s The Fingerlakes (albeit at a much, much slower tempo). I practice for around 20 mins to an hour a day but have no gauge as to whether I’ve made good progress in 8 months or whether what I’ve achieved in that time is behind the progress of a ‘normal’ beginner as I have private lessons for an hour each week so have no benchmark to compare my ability against? Should I be further along in my playing by now e.g able to play barre chords easily, play harmonics easily be able make 5 fret stretches easily by now?

    • Jake August 12, 2016, 3:11 pm

      Hey Louise – It’s tough to gauge where you should be (everyone’s different). What does your guitar teacher think? Also – what does your practice look like? Are you really working at improving – or are you playing the same stuff over and over. If you want to improve (and I mean REALLY improve)…. Practice should be rough. You should be pushing yourself to get a little better each time. It should be a little painful (mentally). It should be frustrating too. Don’t dwell too much in the painful/deliberate practice space (guitar should be fun too).

      If you’ve been practicing barre chords… they should be easy (or at least a little easier).

      If you’ve been practicing harmonics (and incorporating them into your songs)… they should be easy too… well except maybe pinch harmonics… I’ve always had trouble with those…. but that’s just me (and I don’t play a lot of songs that utilize pinch harmonics).

      Are you doing exercises that stretch your fingers? Are you playing songs that spread across 5 frets? If yes… they should be coming along (maybe not easy… but definitely doable).

      Try focusing on a specific technique and REALLY focusing on that specific skill.

      Good luck – keep me posted with your progress!!

  • Sterling Hibbard August 16, 2016, 11:54 am

    How long would it take me to learn guitar if I practice for 3-4 hours a night? Would I be good enough to perform in 7 months?

    • Jake August 16, 2016, 3:51 pm

      Hey Sterling! Thanks for the question – 3-4 hours every night is a lot. Assuming you’re practicing the right stuff (i.e. the stuff you want to eventually be able to perform), it’s possible that you can be ready in that amount of time. Do you have a guitar teacher? If so… talk with them about what your goals are and make sure that you focus ONLY ON THAT STUFF! Don’t deviate. If you don’t have a guitar teacher, youtube videos and tabs/chords on the internet can be helpful (but they make take longer since you’ll be searching for stuff all over the internet. I’ve had students/friends in your situation use something like JamPlay to meet similar goals (it’s cheaper than a guitar teacher, but more focused than youtube videos).

      I hope that gives you some guidance/answers. Good luck. Keep me posted on your progress!!

  • Akshaj Budakoti September 2, 2016, 1:07 pm

    I’ve just started guitar lessons today. I’m practicing everyday for one hour with a guitar instructor. I’m an absolute beginner though. How long do you think it’ll take for me to learn to play guitar??

    • Jake September 7, 2016, 12:31 am

      Hey Akshaj – If you’re practicing an hour a day (and you’re actually practicing in a focused way) you should see some pretty quick progress. You should get all of the beginner stuff out of the way after a month or two. After that – start to focus in on a specific style of music or type of guitar playing. Keep honing in on specific skills. Don’t for get about music theory too. Good luck! Keep me posted.

  • deadgamer2 September 20, 2016, 9:51 pm

    i practice from 1 to 2 hours a day
    and i have been practicing for a month

  • Cricket September 28, 2016, 10:29 pm

    Hey! Interesting piece. I’ve got a lot of musical experience, just not on string instruments (well, I played cello in elementary school and bass in middle school, but most of that is far out of my head by now.) I already switch between a mishmash of instruments (saxophone, accordion, harmonica, trumpet) in a folk punk band, but we’ve been tossing around the idea of me picking up a guitar every once and a while. I’ve got a solid understanding of musical theory backing me up; if I practice 30 minutes to an hour 3 days a week, sometimes with guidance from friends who already play, any idea how long might it take til I can keep up?

    • Jake September 29, 2016, 5:25 pm

      Hey Cricket – your background will definitely help you pick things up more quickly (it will probably help you the most when you’re playing with other musicians). I’d try to practice more than 3 days a week if you can… even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes a day. The first month of playing is probably the most important. Develop the habit of practicing guitar (again – even if it’s just a couple of minutes). Also – if you’re playing the guitar in a folk punk band – decide what your role will be (is it more rhythm or more lead). Whatever the case – focus your practice efforts on what you will ultimately be playing. If it’s lead: focus on your scales, learning riffs, and solos. If it’s rhythm: start with open chords and move to power chords and/or bar chords.

      Also – it’s cool that you’re friends will help teach you, though you may want to try something like this for quicker progress.

      Good luck – keep me posted!!

  • Hunter October 15, 2016, 11:29 am

    I have been taking lessons for 2 years, and practice at least 1 hour every day. I cannot play any songs, and can only play the last 3 or 4 lesson “riffs” from the 1st and 2nd lesson books (still on 2nd). I can mess around with 3 to 5 chords / bar chords, and sound like I might know how to play. Thats it. My teacher says that I am doing better than average. Am I being taken for a ride? I can do 4 or 5 scales up and down the neck, but have no idea what each note actually is.

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:08 pm

      Hunter – You need to talk to your teacher and tell them what you want to learn. It sounds like you’re not getting what you want out of your guitar lessons. During your next lesson tell your teacher EXACTLY what you want to learn – be specific. Bring a song you’d like to play and have them help you learn it. If they won’t do that… get a new teacher.

  • Kelsey October 26, 2016, 5:18 pm

    Hello Jake, I am 17 and have only just started looking into playing guitar. I do not have one yet but my buddy will occasionally bring 2 of his over to show me things. I have a job and am going to use my spending money on a acoustic guitar asap. I would like to know how much practicing you recommend for someone who is completely new to the process. Thank you so much!

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:06 pm

      Hey Kelsey – Practice as much (or as little) as you want. I usually recommend just a few minutes (like 5 minutes) a day. But make sure you do it EVERY DAY. I’d rather see you pick up the guitar for just a small amount of time every day (as opposed to picking it up for an hour a few days a week). The more your hands get on the guitar, the better.

  • Josh October 29, 2016, 1:09 am

    Hey jake I’m just a newbie and only know a couple of chords and can change them relatively clean I just started yesterday and am planning on doing 20-30 mins a day how long would it take me to play songs such as wonderwall(oasis) wish you were here(pink flood) ect thanks😃

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:05 pm

      Hey Josh – If you’ve been practicing like you mentioned you should already be playing Wonderwall as well as the basic chords for Wish you Were Here. The little licks/riffs from the intro of Wish you Were Here may take a little longer. How is it going?

  • Nick November 11, 2016, 4:03 am

    Hey I’m Nick I’m 23 I never played a day in my live…. ok so I am soooo obsess with learning the guitar. I work and have a busy life but I will dedicate 45 mins a day to learn. I am busy so I don’t have time to go to classes what should I do? Is there some plays that I can see visioual lesson step by step and I am willing to practice for 6 months or more I wanna be able to play at lease a basic song help please!!!!!!!!!

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:04 pm

      Hey Nick – Check out youtube for free guitar lessons… they can be hit or miss. If you’re looking for something more structured I usually recommend something like JamPlay or Guitar Tricks. I like JamPlay better, but either one will help you get started.

  • Danielle November 18, 2016, 12:53 am

    Hi my name is Danielle. I just started playing acoustic guitar 3 days ago. I can practice 1 hour 6 days a week. I have a lot of musical training I have been singing for 15 years and played piano for 14 on and off. I want to be able to sing and play at same time at open mic. How long do you think it will take before I feel ready to perform? How long will it take me to learn most chords ?and play and sing at same time ? H

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:02 pm

      Hey Danielle – I suggest picking ONE SONG and really working on it. Work on the chord changes and work on singing and playing at the same time. If you’re going to be standing up and playing at an open mic…. practice while standing up. It could take just a few weeks (given your past musical experience). Just don’t get sidetracked (and try to learn a bunch of different stuff). Stay focused. Let me know how it’s going!

  • Eric December 6, 2016, 10:51 am

    Hey Jake-

    I’m relatively new to guitar. I practice maybe an hour or two per week, so I understand it will take longer for me to learn than most people, and I’m okay with that. My question stems from the fact that I am a natural lefty on a righty guitar. I can play a few chords well, and can put together enough songs to keep my interest up, but picking is difficult and frustrating. I’m at a crossroads of whether it’s best to switch to lefty and start over or fight through it. As most lefties will probably agree, it’s easier for a lefty to use stuff built for a righty than the other way around (since most tools/equipment in this world are built for righties and lefties are familiar with adapting). I’d like to advance beyond where I’m at. I’m stuck between being good at basic chords and not being anywhere close to good at anything more advanced. Just curious on your thoughts.

    • Jake December 6, 2016, 2:00 pm

      Hey Eric – That’s a tough one. Out of all of the students I’ve worked with… only one chose to play with a left handed guitar. I know that she was frustrated with the resources available (tabs, chord charts, guitars, etc). As you mentioned, it’s clearly an issue. I usually advise my students to try and stick with right-handed guitars because of those resource issues. However, if you think that switching to lefty will improve your playing (and enjoyment)… then absolutely switch. You may also want to have a guitar teacher watch you play… they may be able to diagnose problems/issues that you’re not aware of (maybe your plateau has less to do with left vs. right and more to do with some other technical aspect of your playing). Let me know what you decide (post a response if you get a chance – as I’m sure there are other lefties out there with the same question). Good luck man!

  • Brian December 8, 2016, 5:01 pm

    Excellent advice all round. I am 65 and have just, JUST!, started learning Bass guitar. You talk about practising efficiently. Any helpful tips? I am currently doing an hour or so twice or three times a week playing C major scale.

    • Jake December 11, 2016, 8:36 pm

      Hey Brian – Congrats on starting! The stuff that you practice should be in line with what you want to be able to (ultimately) play. Scales are good for theory and dexterity… but you may want to throw in some licks/riffs/bass lines. Pick some popular riffs that you’re familiar with. You may also want to try to play along with recorded songs (or backing tracks which can be found online/youtube). Playing along with music will help develop your ear… and serve a practical purpose. Good luck! Keep me posted!

  • Chandler December 15, 2016, 6:39 am

    I’m a little lost on what I should start with. I’m a beginner, don’t know a lot, but do know I want an electric bass guitar. Should I get this or start with acoustic? Also I’m left handed, and was wondering if there was anything different to it really?

    • Jake December 16, 2016, 12:49 pm

      Hey Chandler – I’d suggest starting with an electric bass (if that’s what you ultimately want to play). As far as left handed bassses go… I’d advise against it and learn how to play a right handed bass. Somewhere on this webpage I answered someone’s question about left vs right handed guitars… here’s my response to them (I think it applies to you as well):

      Out of all of the students I’ve worked with… only one chose to play with a left handed guitar. I know that she was frustrated with the resources available (tabs, chord charts, guitars, etc). As you mentioned, it’s clearly an issue. I usually advise my students to try and stick with right-handed guitars because of those resource issues. However, if you think that switching to lefty will improve your playing (and enjoyment)… then absolutely switch.

      If you’re struggling to get started (or don’t know what to learn first) here’s my suggestion:

      1. Learn a scale (pentatonic scale is good… google it)
      2. Learn a bass riff or two from a song you like (again… google is your friend).
      3. If you want a more straigtforward route, just sign up for something like JamPlay . It’s hard to find on their website, but they DO have specific bass lessons (which are actually pretty good).

      Good luck! Keep me posted!

  • Kartik December 22, 2016, 3:57 am

    Hey Jake,
    I was an extremely beginner in Guitar, but i am practising regularly having an average of around 20 hours in a week since 5 months. At now i am able to play all the open chords easily and trying with barre chords now but i am facing problem in the lead patterns i.e. i am not able to play them fast and clear, sometimes i face a my middle and ring finger won’t be able to stretch that much and i am not able to stick my fingers near the fret. But i always try me best to achieve it.
    Sometimes i see that i am not able to hit the chords on timing according to the song requirement.

    So I want to know by practising like this, how much time it will take to comfortable with the lead patterns, timings problem and with barre chords.

  • Matthew December 31, 2016, 10:08 am

    Hello! I have picked around for the past few years but no structural practice. My goal is to be able to play all the chords… all of them. Also scales extremely fast paced and sweeps. What exercises should I focus on? Like what kind of picking, hand exercise, and length should I practice for? I currently am practicing 2 hours a day. I want to get as good as Arch Enemy (melodic death metal band)

    Thank you!

  • Mohan Sundar March 10, 2017, 7:25 am

    I received my guitar today.. Im gonna pratise 4 to 5 hours a day for 20 days how long i can get.. I know a little bit guitar i used to play basic 4 to 5 chords wen i was at college.. I also hav a little music knowledge.. I want to become a master in guitar playing and music theory.. I hav patience and can even wait years for this to happen.. So how much time u predict for me..

    • Jake March 10, 2017, 1:11 pm

      Glad you got your guitar! To master the guitar it will take years… and even then you may never feel like you’ve mastered it. Start slow with what you already know. Pick a song or a style of music you really enjoy (or really want to learn) and just focus on that until you feel you’ve got it down. It will take time, but stay disciplined.

  • Salina Rose March 14, 2017, 12:35 pm

    Hi! I’m 16. Recently I have bought a guitar. I have started watching guitar tutorials in youtube. I love guitar .That’s why I want to learn it. I want to play guitar while singing. I have learn singing for about 7 years… If I practice 1 hour and 4-5 days in a week,how much it will take to learn guitar? Oh ! one thing, in youtube classes I’m facing problems. I can’t understand my mistakes and I’m so confuse because there are too many videos. Which will I choose? Could you point me the right direction that what should I do? I really want a good source from where I can know and learn the basic of guitar and shall able to play all types of cords ,songs and…. thanks for your help.

    • Jake March 14, 2017, 3:14 pm

      Hey Salina – Tell me the top 3 or 4 songs that you want to learn and I will tell you the best youtube video. Let me know the song name and the artist/singer/band name.


  • Rose March 15, 2017, 4:58 am

    Hey, I think there is a misunderstanding. Of course, I want to play songs but that doesn’t mean I just want to play songs. I’m just a beginner .So, I have to learn first how to play guitar .I want to learn the basic in detail. I just love it.In my previous comment I said that I want to play all types of song.I wanted to mean that I want a good control in guitar. Then I want to continue my singing with it. I need a good teacher for that. I’m thinking to learn guitar from free online classes,youtube… So, please help me to create a great foundation on guitar and suggest me the proper classes.Could tell me how can I give efficient practice?… I hope this time you will understand exactly what I’m trying to say….

    • Jake March 15, 2017, 2:35 pm

      Sure thing! If you’re looking for a step by step process for a beginner, I strongly recommend Justin Sandercoe’s Justin Guitar website. His beginner course is free (and can be found here: https://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-000-BeginnersCourse.php)

      Work your way through those video lessons. He even provides a practice schedule and practice tips (so you practice efficiently).

      I advise that you stay away from music theory (at least at the start) – I think it can make the learning process more confusing than it needs to be.

      I think I understand what you’re saying, though I still prefer the process of learning a song first (as I think it’s more engaging, more fun, AND still provides basic/beginner guitar technique).

      Hope that helps! Good luck!

  • Rose March 15, 2017, 6:07 pm

    Thanks for your suggestion.I was looking for that.

  • Daniel March 21, 2017, 2:07 pm

    So, I’m a music enthusiast that really loves any type of music, I can go from Iron Maiden to All That Remains in terms of music and I really love avenged Sevenfold’s music, this is probably going to insult some people but the only “remote” experience I’ve ever really had is playing rhythm games like Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, If I was to say, practice all the time in my free time (I have quite a bit, go to college 12 hours a week and do nothing after, plus I don’t really mind if it’s a professional opinion or an enthusiasts opinion.) how long would it take me to get to a point where I can just strum out an old guitar heavy classic or something that is like Avenged Sevenfold? I’m really open to anything so I’ll take what people say onboard 🙂

    • Jake March 21, 2017, 2:19 pm

      If you’re just looking to learn rhythm guitar – it shouldn’t take long. Avenged Sevenfold does a lot of Drop D tuning (it sounds fancy… but really it will make it easier to play). Look up the tab/chords for “This Means War”. You can play most of the rhythm guitar (if not all of it) with ONE FINGER. Learn the chords in Drop D and then learn the song. Once you have that down, move on to “Bat Country”. Same principle applies to “Bat Country”… learn the chords in Drop D and then learn the rhythm part of the song. The chord changes are faster, but the theory remains the same. N

      Now… if you’re interested in learning the lead riffs to these songs… that will take some time. But you should be able to learn the Drop D chords in a day or two.

  • Henry April 2, 2017, 9:38 pm

    So I started practicing the guitar pretty seriously in the past few months. I can switch between chords pretty easily, and have a very long history in music theory, I typically practice one and a half to two hours a day everyday, broken into thirty to forty-five minute chucks. I’m taking lessons on Jamplay. I’m currently learning how to play “Tripping on a Hole in Paper Heart” by the Stone Temple Pilots, although the solo is coming along very slowly. I’m currently 19 and want to start a band within a few years. If I practice at this rate do you think I will become an “advanced” guitarist within the next five years?

    • Jake April 7, 2017, 6:31 pm

      Hey Henry – Start a band now. Why are you waiting. The sooner you start to play with other musicians the better you will become. I know a lot of people who considered themselves great guitar players… but as soon as they started playing with other people… they couldn’t handle it.

  • Max April 6, 2017, 7:27 pm

    Hi, Im Max ….I really do love music. the only thing i want to be, the only dream i have is to be a rock star (guitarist) in a rock band,i cant see myself doing anything other then that. …. but due to some reasons i dont have much time before that time comes i have to reach a certain level … everyday i spent around 12-14 hrs for pratice.. i find it fun to learn new things so i dont get bored … just recently i started taking guitar class because i cannot get some chords etc… i dont mean to brag but in my guitar class for eg the teacher will give 2-3 scale for learn to other students but for me he will give 6 scales and off course right after the class ends ill go home n start practicing it until i get it done,the teacher was a bit surprise for my fast learning but thats bcoz i spent more time learning then the others. So according to u if i keep up the same pace within 3 months or a year how will my progress go? what level will i get to?
    i know im not being specific but can u plz give me some advice on how to get better.. daily routine pratice, the do’s n don’t etc..

    • Jake April 7, 2017, 6:26 pm

      Hey Max – Practice the kind of music you want to learn (in addition to what you’re learning in school). As far as being in a rock band (and rock star)… that has less to do with how good you are, and more to do with SOOOO many other factors. Starting playing with other musicians and if you haven’t joined a band… get started on that ASAP. The sooner you start playing with other musicians the better. Without an idea of what kind of music you like, I can’t give you more details – but if you’re practicing for several hours a day, you should be making incredible progress. Hope that helps.

  • Shalini April 7, 2017, 4:11 pm

    Hello Jake!
    Im 36 yrs old mom of 2 (6 and 2 yr old) and im in love with guitar since ive known music.
    I dont have any music knowledge and im aiming to practice hopefully 30 mins a day ( maybe at 10 min intervals) as soon as i get time from my kids.
    Im a stage lover and ive been an active stage person during my college days singing ( not trained) , giving speeches and debating.
    For now my aim is to be able to play songs my kids and i love like ” say u won’t let go ” by James Arthur ” ,”Stitches” by Shawn Mendes or “Thousand years ” from
    Twilight movie.
    Kindly guide me on how long it might take for me and how much practice time is needed for me to get to my goal of making my kids enjoy and love music the way i do.
    Thank you!

    • Jake April 7, 2017, 6:23 pm

      Hey Shalini! Sounds like you have a good plan already. Try to play every day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Pick a single song to get started. Use basic open chords (I like chords in the key of G for beginners: G, D, C, Em, and Am). Learning those chords will take you quite far. “A Thousand Years” is a good song to get started. You could easily be proficient (with that song) within two or three weeks (including singing a long)!

  • Tyler April 17, 2017, 3:02 am

    Hey bud just wondering how long it will take me to play country music, and some classic rock? I know my d, g, a, e, em, a minor, c and card9 chord getting OK at changing chords but a little slow still. I practice 4 days a week 10-15 minutes

    • Jake April 17, 2017, 12:50 pm

      Hey Tyler – those chords should get you there pretty fast. You may want to thrown in some 7 chords (D7, C7 G7, A7, etc.). However it really depends on the kind of country music you like. Contemporary country is a little more pop/rock based. Older country music is probably a little more blues based. If you’re just singing and strumming along you should already be good to go. Don’t worry if the chord changes are slow…. it’s better to make shitty chord changes (in time with the song/music) then to pause… switch your chord…. and then resume playing. Good luck man!

  • Satoshi April 21, 2017, 2:08 am

    Hey Jake, first of all, thank you for this article. Despite being rather simple, it sure gave me a little insight. Secondly, wow, after almost 4 years you’re still replying to posts here, I’m impressed, amazed and thankful, way to go my man!

    I acquired an acoustic guitar 18 days ago and so far I’ve learned quite a bit, but I feel like I’m starting to stagger… You see, I know how to play the CAGED chords, including Em, Am, F (despite still having a fuggin hard time barring chords), and I know the notes progression, as in I know how they are distributed on the guitar. I can play the keyboard so I have good musical theoretical knowledge and a very sharp ears (perfect pitch)… But… It feels like I haven’t had much progression for a few days now. I understand it has been a very short time since I started learning the guitar but I felt like advancing constantly, each day. Now? I feel like I’m stuck. What should I aim for? I wanted to learn fingering (is that the correct term?) but it is so difficult, especially when I haven’t even mastered quick chords switching… Am I being too hard on myself? What do you think my next step should be? My end goal is to be able to play whatever the heck I can play, including solos, folk music, metal, rock, everything I possibly can. Should I keep insisting on the CAGED chords until I master them and am able to quickly switch between them? Should I insist on trying to master barring as a total beginner?

    Haha sorry for such long post, I just figured I might try and grab as much information as I can while someone is offering… Again, thank you very much!

    • Jake April 21, 2017, 12:22 pm

      Hey Satoshi – It sounds like you already have a really good foundation. I think it’s time to work on some specific songs. Pick a few songs that you’d like to learn and start work on them.

      There’s only so much progress that you can make by simply learning chords and practicing fingering (as a new guitar player your fingers will get tired quickly and you just won’t be able to progress as quickly as you have been until your fingers get stronger… which takes persistence and time).

      Unless there is a specific song/piece of music that contains them…. what’s the point in learning bar chords at this stage?

      Find a few songs and learn them.

      If that doesn’t appeal to you, you may want to learn some scales (minor pentatonic is a good start). But again… learning all of these things (scales, CAGED, Chords) won’t do much unless you can apply them to a piece of music.

      Lastly – check out this old and kind of sketchy video of this guy teaching bar chords. It changed the way I think (and teach) bar chords. It’s all about using leverage and the correct muscles to aid in barring with your finger.

      Good luck… and keep me posted on your progress! Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Satoshi April 22, 2017, 1:08 am

        You’re the best man, thank you!

        I realized that I only struggle with barre chords on the first fret (F chord, for example). From the second fret on it’s really easy.
        The video was helpful and it went straight to the point, thanks!

        Another goal of mine I forgot to mention is to be able to play songs by ear, instead of having to go online and looking for their tabs and whatnot. Do you think one will eventually memorize which string in which fret plays which note, or do you think proper study is required? I’d like to also be able to improvise, which means I won’t rely on tabs as much (I think?).

        I’ve been practicing for a few hours today, just playing the first 4 frets of each string (using 4 fingers) in order to develop agility and better finger positioning notions. I guess this will be useful soon.

        I’ll try to find a few songs and master them before moving on, as you suggested.

        Thanks again man, if there is anything I can do in return please let me know!


        • Jake April 23, 2017, 10:54 pm

          Hey Satoshi – I’m just ok as far as playing by ear goes… and I definitely don’t have perfect pitch. If you’re ear is already well trained… learning to play by ear shouldn’t be as difficult. It’s really a matter of understanding (or at least) knowing the intervals on the guitar.

          Learn the pentatonic scale as well as the major scale. Learn the different positions (also known as “boxes”) of these scales. Even just learning box one of the minor pentatonic scale should get you well on your way to improvising. Just match the scale to whatever key a particular song is in and you’ll be good to go.

          If you aren’t taking lessons, you may want to consider that. If you can’t make the time or swing the cost…. try something like JamPlay or Guitar tricks (I’ve reviewed both on this site). If you still can’t swing the cost… keep searching YouTube (I like Justin Sandercoe’s guitar lessons). Good luck! Keep me posted!

          • Satoshi April 26, 2017, 4:51 am

            I’m actually waiting on a job application I submitted so that I may be able to afford proper classes and, eventually, a proper electric guitar (I only have a very cheap acoustic one) and an amp.

            I’m taking all of your advice, so I’ll start trying to master pentatonic scales. So far I only managed to barely understand what a pentascale is, but then again, I hadn’t really given it much thought until now. Starting tomorrow I’ll delve deeper into the subject.

            You’re being of great help, and as always, thank you very much for your tips!

            Cheers, man!

  • praveen April 22, 2017, 12:10 pm

    I learn guitar before 3 months nd practicise 2 hours daily or more than….
    Now I can play lead song easily.. And quite pretty chord progression.. Is it all going good????

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