How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar

I struggle with such questions as “How long will it take me to learn X”

Many years ago I was trying to decide on whether to undertake studies to enable a change in career. Another friend at the same time was going through the same consideration. We were told it would take 3 years and my friend gave up on the idea and complained that it was too long of a time.

18 months later I was halfway there and he was still complaining about the job he was in.

How long something takes in my view isn’t as important as one thinks because that time goes by regardless.

After 3 years I had completed the course and it changed my life for the better in many ways. My friend was still pondering how he could get out of the job he was in. The 3 years still passed for him but with no result because for him the important question was “How long does it take”

Clearly there are cases where the length of time something takes matters. I just did some basic research on how long it takes to become an astrophysicist holding a faculty job at a major research university and the answer was 20 to 30 years. So if I wanted to do that at my current age of 65, the length of time does matter.


The obvious counter points here is at what point is learning finished, this is utterly arbitrary as no decent musician is ever finished growing.

More importantly is what are your goals and is what you are doing going to achieve them


I was just thinking along the same lines Rob. The title doesn’t really click with me as your always learning something new. I also feel that it comes down to, like you say, targeted practice. Like everything in life some folk have that ability to learn things quicker than others.

Is this the answer to life, the universe, and everything?


Only Stephen Fry knows for sure!

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Pretty much :smiley:
In this case weeks if you’re a prodigy, months if you work hard, years if you’re like me :laughing:

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yep, I think it might be that many years for me… I’ll get there eventually :grin:

I feel that when you look at their chart and read the descriptions that as a rule of thumb the numbers are in the right ball park.

Sure there’s a lot of factors that will tweak the number up or down (eg age when starting, quality of practice, motivation levels etc) but it’s a fairly reasonable starting point

I dont really like that kind a chart cause it puts pressure on beginners
A beginner cant and must not do X hours of guitar a day …
It’s not only a matter of hours but also a matter of how you use your practice time and doing it right
Playing 10h of bad habits wont make anyone a better player

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I’d argue the opposite. I think a lot of beginners fall by the wayside because they expect to get good faster than is realistic and then become disillusioned. It would be far worse if the numbers on the chart were really low.

There’s certainly plenty of nuances to it, you can faff about with a guitar for a lot of hours and never really learn anything if you don’t have structure.


I am alway (of course) of a mixed mind about this kind of information.

It brings me to wondering why we choose to start playing, what are our goals and if we really have thought about it much.

The take home from the article for me is that, like any complex and open ended skill, the more you practice it, the better you get and the better you practice it, the more you get from each moment practicing.

But…this “how long to be come good” is a double edged sword. It can help to be aware that we aren’t becoming virtuosos in a span of a few years. We should have a concept of what we are getting ourselves into.

I am sure a large portion of those who give up early do so because of the sudden realization that it isn’t as easy as they expected. Even many of us who still push on went through a “come to Jeff Beck” stage of self examination.

On the other hand, having a goal such as “to be a master guitarist” may be unrealistic and also quite daunting. The idea that I may or should be at a certain level after a certain time is a pressure that may push away from the real main goals.

I feel that in any skill, guitar (instrument) but also art, sport, you name it, having a goal to “be great” or achieve mastery is short sighted and misses the point. It sets you up for failure and fails to carry the passion. What are you going to do when you get there? Mechanically continue your greatness? That isn’t living. That is a job.

These activities are life, they are growing, being. They are processes and the learning is loving the process. Eventually, if we apply ourselves and keep at it, we become better. Some will be professional, some even masters. Most will not, but we will learn and grow and enjoy this part of living and if we don’t, we will probably let it go and move on.

To me, the goal is to grow, to continue to learn and improve and to enjoy music and my personal interaction with it as I do.

Anyway, morning philosophy from Jamolay…:roll_eyes:

FWIW, I disagree with “professional” and “master” in the progression of learning. Professional is a playing for money. People can do that at almost any skill level. Some professionals are not good at guitar, others amazing. What they are good at is finding ways to make a living at what they are able to do. Masters, in my mind, are pretty special. They have whatever it takes to go beyond simply learning and time to become something more. Maybe it is their drive, talent, unique approach, but it is beyond the norm and rare. I hope nobody is practicing with the expressed motivation to someday be a master. They likely will be disappointed.


I’m with you here.

I’ve been learning for 2 years now and approaching the end of grade 2. I have no real idea of how well I’m doing but reading that chart, I get a warm fuzzy feeling that I’m on the right track.

Mind, I’m only learning for myself and my only ‘goals’ are to improve. I’m under no illusion that I’ll be the next EVH or Slash but I’m enjoying the journey and THAT is the important thing.


What a great thread. I loved reading all of the comments and decided then that maybe I ought to read the article. I have no strong feelings about the article, except maybe that I’m the odd one who doesn’t think much about “how long will it take” for much of anything.

I especially appreciated @tony and @Trokey66 's responses. I’m very much of the “it’s the journey, not the destination” mindset. I pursue things because I want the experience of the pursuit. That’s where I’ll be spending much of my time, energy, heart after all, so I think it’s pretty important that the process itself is enjoyable. And I tend to be pretty entertained by learning itself and watching this being that I inhabit pick up new skills. It’s truly fascinating to see that I can be better at something today than I was yesterday. It makes no sense, but I’ve seen it happen over and over, and it never stops amazing

@tony, I actually became an astrophysicist in my youth. Spent 10 years as a college student, learned a ton of amazing things, got my doctorate, and said, “That was fun. I think I’m done with this.” I’d never really set my sights on a career in the field, saw what it would entail, and knew I wasn’t interested.

All my life, I’ve said that I’d trade my mathematical/analytical skills for musical talent. Over time, with other endeavors, I found that there really isn’t much that I can’t learn/do reasonably well if I’m willing to put in the work. Until I quit my job last year, I never had the time to put into learning guitar. When I decided to quit, I knew that was going to be my mission (I prefer “guitar mission” over “guitar journey.”)

I did appreciate the article’s comparison with gardening, because I am first and foremost a gardener. I use the metaphor of “planting seeds” all the time. You have to plant the seed if you want the flower/fruit. Then you have to care for it. I plant a lot of seeds - literal and figurative - knowing that not all will germinate and prosper. Visitors marvel at how great my garden looks. I know all of its flaws and all of the failures that are long gone.

To me, life is about choosing how you want to spend the time you have here and then doing what you can to bring it about. All of us have prioritized guitar-playing as part of that, and we’ve all come here on our own paths for our own reasons with our own obstacles. We’ll do the best we can under our respective circumstances.

I have no idea where it will take me, but wow is it a great ride.


Music is very mathematical. Put those skills to use on the Practical Music Theory course.


I agree with most of what you said there Tony, except for the last bit-

If you are really interested in astrophysics at any age, you should study it, either formally or informally. Like you say the pleasure is in the journey/process/mission whatever you want to call it. Deciding you want to hold a title at a particular institute is not astrophysics. It’s a social construct.
I know I will never become a proficient guitarist, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m having a ball in learning and making music, not to mention the social interactions :smiley:


I’ve done most of Justin’s Practical Music Theory course and various chunks of several others. I very much enjoy that side of the mission, and I find it much easier to learn than the playing techniques and ear training. At some point, rhough, there’s no equation to help me change chords more smoothly (or keep the rhythm). The quantitative side doesn’t get me very far.

I completely agree with @brianlarsen, @tony, and I should have said so, learning astrophysics and being an astrophysicist are different things, and if you want to learn it, you might as well jump in.

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I expect to master quantum physics far quicker than mastering the guitar. And I’ve yet to start that journey ! But its all about the ride. :sunglasses:


Going seriously off topic here, but as a pure mathematician I can’t help myself … David Hilbert (one of the most important mathematicians of the last century) was told one of his students was giving up mathematics for poetry. Apparently he said ‘Good, he didn’t have the imagination to be a mathematician’.
Music and maths go hand in hand.