How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar

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.


Haha, that’s fascinating and funny to me. I used the astrophysicist example in my comment as it was something that would take SO much longer than my studies did. Didn’t expect to find one here. Perhaps I should have been more open to that considering Brian May of Queen is also an astrophysicist.

When I first tried to learn the guitar 30+ years ago I didn’t succeed and I think part of the reason was my goal was too vague, it was just to “learn to play guitar”. 12 or so years ago is when I tried hard the 2nd time and it stuck, a good part of that was having a more specific goal “Play songs people will sing along to around a campfire” and also I’d seen a good friend go from not playing at all to holding his own with a song that made me realize it was very attainable with a bit of focus.

Having been a perfectionist for much of my life I now realize what a curse that is for anywhere one applies it to. With my perfectionism I tend to set unattainable goals and it burns me.

I guess it comes down to my favourite philosophical question… If you have a choice between being happy or being right, and you can only have one of them, which would you choose?


Hey, fully agree with you Brian. My example was contrived to make a point while attempting to be accurate. Sigh.

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All you need to do is swap the rabbit holes for wormholes. One devours time, the other saves it :wink:


Happy of course! :grinning:

Unless your Donnie Darko :thinking:

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Strange James has found us… :notes:

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Good one. I posted that question some time ago on social media, the responses where fascinating. Far too many saying but you can be happy and be right. While I don’t disagree, that was not the question. I grew up in a family / culture where being “right” was of the utmost importance and guess what, a lot of that family / culture were not happy. But hey, they were right.

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Well it’s a mad world :wink:

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I know for me, yes I’m preoccupied with getting good because I’m so bad. Many many months have passed and I’m so bad. Sure I know it will take a loooong time to get good. Once I got over the initial shock of that realization (which I still get reshocked with regularity), it was better.

But what’s even more preoccupying to me is the amount of time I “waste” not working towards getting good. Not my choice, hell no. I’d practice for hours if I could. But it’s going to take sooooo much longer than a loooooong time because I struggle to find the time. Work, chores, family commitments, all take precedence, which is necessary, I get it. But it is so defeating to know I can pretty much quadruple the length of time I’ll take compared to what it should take. Or quarter the amount of progress I’ll be able to make.

Lately I’m replacing practice with exercise. I hate it. It makes me tired. My calluses are gone, I forgot what lessons I did last. My motivation is zapped. But it is what it is, if I ever get good, it’ll be a miracle.

But there really isn’t a standard of “what it should take,” or even necessarily what’s “good” - it’s so individual! And I think that can be empowering!

Was it initially a little discouraging to look at the chart and realize it doesn’t even consider me a beginner yet? For sure, but I’m still proud of how far I’ve come in the last 14 months since starting with Justin, and look forward to continued improvement as I continue to practice and learn new things. I think in setting your individual bar for what “good” means, you have some control over your motivation and mindset - I’m out to get better than I was yesterday, a month ago, last year, etcetera and to be able to play recognizable songs, maybe someday with other people…not to get as good as -pick your favorite guitar virtuoso-.

It’s like in running a race (5k, half marathon, pick your distance)…assuming you are not a professional runner leaning on race winnings to finance your life, race for your own personal best, not to beat anyone else. I’m not a fast runner, if I set my sights on running a 1:30 half, define that as “good” and let it dictate my self worth, I’m going to be disappointed. But if I set my sights on a PB, even if that means just shaving a minute off of my own (much slower) best time, I’m more likely to achieve it, and with each incremental gain, feel more motivated and empowered to continue on to the next PB.


I’m with @southpaw6 .

Who says you are bad? I would argue that you are as good as where you are and that is better than you were and an appropriate place to be.

By judging yourself harshly and comparing yourself to a fanciful “wish you could be” or worse “ I think I SHOULD be”, you set yourself up for disappointment and discouragement.

I too feel like life continuously gets between me and my guitar. Practice is less than I would like, less efficient than I would like. I often just barely pick up the guitar I am so tired from the day and if I do, it is better than nothing but not really a coherent practice.

Disappointing, frustrating, absolutely. However, this is life right now for me, guitar is a super supportive practice for me, and I remind myself daily that I AM AS GOOD AS I SHOULD BE” for the effort I am able to muster, the time I can make and the talent (lack there of…:roll_eyes::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) I innately have.

I also remind myself that life is like this because I built my life this way to support my family and the other values and interests I have. It is good, life is good and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I won’t practice much guitar this weekend because I am going skiing with my daughter. That is fine, better than fine, even.

@southpaw6 You do make great points. I suppose I never was the type to set personal goals, so that is definitely a hinderance to me keeping the mindset of being better than myself yesterday.

@Jamolay Yeah, I mean, you’re right. I’m where I am supposed to be for the amount of practice I’ve been able to do. My vision of good isn’t even that good compared to what other players typically say is good, so for me to not even be at my own definition of good tells me I’m bad.

I find the whole concept of being “good” among guitarists so interesting. Like why do they always say they suck even when they don’t? I know the answer to that, but the concept is still interesting. As a society, we bring so much attention to the idea of it taking a lifetime to get good, that nobody ever feels like they can achieve it in less than that. It’s beat into us from day one. But why? Do we do that to comfort ourselves so we don’t feel bad for starting at 40 and having to live life instead of practicing 8 hours a day, and taking half a lifetime to become good? It shouldn’t take that long. It takes half a lifetime to get unreal or better than unreal IF we do play 8 hours a day. I just want to be good.

I guess good guitarists consider themselves to be “just okay”, the greats “good”, and the 1% incredible virtuosos “great”. To me, good guitarists are literally everywhere, there’s many great ones among us peasants, the rock gods are unreal, and for the virtuosos I can’t even think of an adjective to describe how incredible they are. There’s not enough time for me to get to unreal. I’ll be lucky if I can get to great. I can probably achieve good one of these days. But if I could play a rock song the way the band guitarist played it, how it was written, then I might think I did something amazing and can at least smell what amazing must be like. I find it so interesting, the mindset of never wanting to play a song note for note, the way it was written. I mean, I get the concept of not wanting to be just like another guitarist and wanting to make songs your own with your own creativity, but at the same time I feel like that’s a mindset for good or better guitarists. They actually can play well enough to make a song their own.