How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar

11th September

Learning electric guitar – how long does it take?

How long does it take to learn guitar?Answering this frequently asked question is almost like answering “how long is a piece of string?”

There are so many variables involved that it is close to impossible to say how long it will take for any individual to get up to a certain level.

And also, what will it say to having learned something after all? Is this a level where you have the minimum of basics down – like knowing a few chords and being able to strum along to a simple song? Or, is it more like having mastered the task at hand?

If you are more thinking along the lines of having mastered the art of playing guitar then a likely answer to “how long does it take to learn guitar?” will be something along the lines of “all your life … and then some”.

Keep it real – keep it simple!

Some of the best things you can do to yourself is to keep things in perspective – I call this to keep it real. Such perspectives will include the realizations that A. Learning guitar takes an investment of time and effort, and that B. There are no short-cuts.

You will inevitably also be aware of the fact that it is easier to become good at anything when you start at a young age. Does this mean that you can not become proficient or learn guitar at all if you start at a later stage? Not at all! The only thing to remember is that it likely will take more efforts on your parts – again: remember to keep it real :-)

It should also be fairly obvious that the more concentrated effort you put into it (noodling around and just browsin for something to learn i not a concentrated effort), the better off you’ll be.

When you want to learn electric guitar (or any type of guitar for that matter), keeping it simple involves doing the steps which will ensure you get the most out of your time and efforts. This again revolves around the points discussed below.

Doing it all by yourself?

One of the most persistent myths is how “easy” it is to teach yourself guitar.  Is it possible? For some folks, absolutely. However, let us look at the flip side of the coin.

Is this really the best investment of your time and efforts to try and piece together this highly complex task on you own? I dare say no, not at all. Also, browsing through all the free stuff available online and picking up bits and pieces of information from friends here and there is no way to guarantee that you’ll avoid picking up bad habits and counter productive information along the way.

Furthermore, this “jumping about” and “take it as it comes” way of learning is lacking the all important structure which is needed if you want to make sure that you will succeed with the best possible result in the shortest amount of time.

Getting help – the easy and cost effective way

Make no mistake about it. The best and most efficient way, bar none, to help you reach your goals is to take lessons from a qualified and dedicated guitar teacher. However, this is also the most expensive route to take. You will also have to find someone who is somewhat on the same wavelength as yourself, someone you will trust, respect and like.

A good compromise is to take one of the better online courses available, such as Guitar Superstars, Next Level Guitar or Guitar Success. You will be amazed by the content these course have and how inexpensive they tend to be. This is a far, far better investment of time and energy than going through all the hoops to try and find some golden nuggets for free.

Setting your guitar playing goals

Another way of making sure you learn guitar with easy and efficiency is to set goals for yourself. From the perspective of learning how to play guitar, setting goals has two sides as I see it. One is how often and how you practice guitar. The other is what you intend to learn in a given period of time.

It is without a doubt far easier to achieve something when you have a clear goal of when you will have achieved it! Just ask any athlete. If you say to yourself that “by Christmas I shall have learned all the open style chords and the basic barre chords”, then chances are much better you will do just that. Just to remind you – please keep it real :-)

As far as practice schedule goes, you will again be best of by keeping it real as well as simple. Set a time which you know you can have as yours – 20 minutes, half an hour, one hour – close the door and make that a no interruption time! Work on the things you want to learn and keep at it. This is in essence the only way to become good at anything.

The tools of the trade

Having a properly adjusted guitar which is a breeze to play will ensure that you “stick to your guns” and don’t give up on your dream of learning the guitar. Far too many people give up simply because they forget the importance of having a good beginner electric guitar which has been set up properly. You can read more about the importance of a proper guitar set-up here.

The “final piece of the puzzle” (if you learn on an electric guitar) is to have some sort of of practice amp or practice tool to plug into and maybe even jam along to. What is the best tools for your need? Hard to say for sure, but you can search more here for the best practice amp. Just be aware that you can also practice your guitar plugged into a smart phone, with software on your computer, through headphones and a multi-effects units, as well as with a practice amp.

Sounding off

Rather than asking “How long does it take to learn guitar?”, it may probably be a far better idea to ask yourself “How do I make sure I’ll stick to my guitar playing for the time it takes to learn it?”

Hopefully, you will have picked up some tips above. Still, in the end, I tend to believe the best answer to that is found within yourself. Just be certain about this simple fact: If you want it bad enough and you give it enough time and effort, you will achieve it!

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Strumming Patterns

3rd August

Strumming patterns for guitar beginners

One of the very first things – if not the first thing – you want to wrap your hands around as you begin to learn electric guitar, is to understand and be comfortable with some basic guitar strumming patterns.

And sure enough, one of the most common questions you can come across on places such as Yahoo Answers, goes something along these lines: “Can someone please help me with the strumming pattern to … I can’t figure it out.” (included is one or more songs the asker wants you to explain).

Often times the same people have tried to decipher a guitar tab for the same song/s without getting any closer to nailing the fundamental strum pattern of the tune.

Before we go any further with our guitar strumming lessons, there are two things first to be aware of…

The problems with guitar tabs

Tabs (short for tablature) for guitar can be understand as a simplified notation system and a visual representation of the notes on the fretboard. When done correctly by someone with experience and knowledge, a tab can provide you with a good, basic overview of how to play a song.  So far so good.

However, there are at least to things which often creates problems for a beginner on guitar. One is the fact that guitar tabs many times have been written by people who doesn’t “quite” get it right. At times there are so many mistakes in the tabs you find, it is not even funny.

Another thing is that the tabs miss one very important thing, the rhythmical values – the element of time and timing. These are things which is integrated in proper musical notation.

In short, you will either need to learn how to pick up things and play by ear, and also learn proper musical notation. Tabs will only get you this far, and can in fact become a real stumbling block as you begin to explore the guitar.

You have to hear as well as see the strumming pattern!

The thing that often amazes me, is how some folks think they can fully explain a rhythmic figure in words – like down, down, up, up, down, up. Seriously, how do you explain rhythm in words? It will fail miserably … unless of course it is accompanied by the proper visual and auditory representation (sight and sound) from a video or guitar teacher :-)

Picking up a basic strumming lesson

Here are some things to get you on your way to learn guitar strumming.  First pick a song which has clear sound as well as picture. It should also be pretty straight forward, slow to mid tempo, without too many instruments and complicated vocal arrangements and rhythm or tempo changes.

Now, let us assume you have learned the guitar chords to the song and can play them effortlessly. Without being concerned at all about chords or notes, begin to listen to the rhythm and how the main rhythm guitar is being strummed. Now, while you mute the strings with your fretting hand, use your pick and try to follow that rhythm! Just remember, no notes, just the pick making rhythmic figures across the strings…

If you are uncertain or confused at this point, then simply watch the great, first video below from the good folks at Next Level Guitar – it’s very informative and to the point. Oh, and even though some of this stuff is played on an acoustic, it is equally important and may just as well be done on an electric guitar :-)

Now, as you tag along, you may begin to notice how there are certain accents or rhythmic shifts- places where the chord or notes seems to be hit a little harder? For instance (in a basic 4/4 song pattern), is the first beat being more accented? This is very common… Again you will notice how this may be done in the below video.

Here are more informative and easy to follow guitar strumming lessons form the good folks at Next Level Guitar, remember to check them out when you have the time! There really is a huge amount of good, solid stuff to be picked up there.

More guitar strumming tips

Some other points to remember is to use the arm more than the wrist when you do basic strumming patterns. However, you need to be loose in the wrist so that you also involve the wrist in the strumming! If your arm and your wrist is rigid, then your strum patterns will be stiff and rigid too…

If you begin to be tired as you play along, then just take a short brake  and shake loose. It helps to let your arms hang down while you shake your hands and fingers lightly for a period of time. Remember also to do some fingers and hand stretching exercises form time to time!

The pick should be held firmly, but not overly tight, between your thumb and first finger. Too tight and you become rigid and tired fast – too loose and you’ll likely drop the pick and also have problems driving that steady rhythm home. Like everything else, this is a matter of practice over a period of time.

Like one of the above videos mention, you will eventually need to learn how to dampen the strings. Both hands can dampen the strings in various ways, including also palm muting. String damping techniques is used amongst other things to create accents and variations, and thereby interest, to your guitar strumming.

Keep it simple! Remember, some of the patterns used to strum a guitar in certain song can be very complex and have many shifts and variations. Don’t be afraid to keep things more basic and to simplify things if you get overwhelmed or confused!

Happy strumming and humming :-)

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Guitar Questions and Answers

9th December

Hello Fellow Guitar Player!

In this section I will try try my best to answer various guitar related questions I have received over the years.

This is often times questions related to learning how to play guitar. However, there will also be the odd question about guitars in general, such as guitar maintenance and repair.

Do you have a question? Do feel free to contact me, or post it in the comment box below!


OK, let’s dive into some guitar related Q and A, shall we?

An Easy Way to Learn to Play Electric Guitar

Q: I’m a teenager and have very little experience with guitar playing. I just want to know how to play a couple of notes.. Can you help?


A: If your on a budget, the easiest way is probably to have a guitar playing friend showing you some simple tricks and tips. I will guess you even know a guitar playing teacher at your school or perhaps a relative which can help you out for free.

There are also quite a good number of beginner guitar videos to be found on YouTube…

I will have to advice you that you will be far better off if you can afford some qualified instruction. It is quite common to pick up bad habits, and these habits is always harder to correct later on. Do it proper, right from the start and you will be on your way in no time!

Maybe you have someone who can help you find (or borrow) a beginner guitar book or DVD, or better still buy one of the many good online guitar courses?

Without a doubt , the best (and subsequently most expensive) is to be have a private guitar tutor.

My best advice is perhaps to never give up and do your best with what you have. Remember, some truly great guitar slingers are self taught :-)

Sore finger tips and callouses

Q: Any tips about ways to build callouses?


A: Perhaps the best tip in my opinion, is to make a commitment to yourself  – telling yourself that you’re going to stick with it until you’ve learned how to play the guitar. Like anything else, this takes time.

Then, you should consider how to set a schedule for regular practice. I always recommend that – when ever possible, you practice at the same time every time. It is very important to get into the habit of practicing!

It is never wise to practice playing guitar in long passes without rest. 30 to 40 minutes and then a short break tends to produce better results.

Remember to have some reachable goals for your playing. When you have found exactly what you want to learn — which licks, styles, songs etc.) it is just a matter of practicing those until you have them nailed.

Above anything else, do make sure you’re having fun and that you’re playing the type of stuff you really dig yourself.

As for your question about sore fingertips and callouses – these things will be fixed over time with regular playing. You will remember to take regular brakes, right?

You might consider using a guitar capo on say the second fret. This will make your guitar easier to play when you’re starting out.

Another useful tip is to have your instrument looked at by a qualified person to figure out if it might benefit from some minor adjustments. A better playing comfort will be helpful both in the shorter and longer perspective!

Help with guitar teacher

Q: Help, my guitar teacher has my doing scales and stuff, and I only want to learn how to write songs!


A: Have you taken the time to explain to your guitar teacher what it is that you really want to learn?

Often times we assume that people really ought to know what we want. However, no one are mind readers – at least not as far as I know. So you definitely want to sit down and map out a plan of what it is that YOU want and need.

If there is no such communication between teacher and student, then the teacher will begin showing you stuff he/she knows will be beneficial to you in the long run, chords, scales … that kind of stuff.

Again – you must be absolutely clear about your goals! If you want to learn how to write songs, say so! Others want simply to learn a particular style of playing, some folks want to join a band. There are many reasons why people want to learn electric or acoustic guitar and your teacher should definitely be made aware of them.

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Beginner Guitar Lessons

5th December

Your First Guitar Lessons

When you’re starting out with electric guitar, it is always beneficial to consider early on what type of beginner guitar lessons you could see yourself having on a regular basis. As with everything else in life, it is fare more likely things will go according to plan, if you have a plan to begin with :-)

Your options are more or less these:
- Doing it all by yourself, “happy-go-lucky style”
- Using on-line tools, such as the much applauded Jamorama or Guitar Superstars
- Picking up stuff from friends
- Playing along to free on-line video on YouTube and similar places.
- Taking guitar classes at a school or institute
- Learning from guitar books or DVD’s
- Hiring a private guitar tutor
- Any combination of the above

beginner-guitar-lessonLearning on your own

Honestly, the only advantage I can see here is that you’d probably be more inclined to develop a unique style – for better or worse.

Seriously though, this is not something I would even consider. It is so easy to pick up bad playing habits. And if you want to learn electric guitar properly, bad habits and sloppy technique is the last thing you want to have!

Learning from a friend or with free video

This is an OK option I guess … if you have absolutely no money at all to spend on tuition. Still, you would need to consider this: How much real life skill and teaching qualifications does this other person have?

When you’re starting out it is a real challenge to be able to spot these things. And – the difference can mean a world of difference to your future ability as a guitar slinger. Sure enough, when you have gained quite a bit of experience, it is absolutely crucial to learn from others – left and right. At a more advanced stage, you’ll be able to pick up things and adapt the major or minor stuff you see fit.

Another thing to think about is the structure – or rather: lack thereof. Proper on-line or off-line guitar learning tools take into consideration a proper sequence and schedule. Without these guiding principles, you will likely, sooner or later, become stuck and frustrated. What you really need is a tested system, not videos or friends showing you some random cool licks…

Learning from guitar books and DVD’s

There are heaps of guitar books and DVD’s out there – some great, some not so great. If you find a book and/or DVD that is specifically geared at beginner guitar lessons, you can’t go much wrong. I would personally take a DVD over a book any time. It is much easier to see a playing sequence on video than than it is in a static book format.

However, the same DVD tends to be kind of boring and stale after a while, and it can be expensive to buy new ones all the time. Also, you don’t have the option to get feedback on your playing with these learning tools.

On-line guitar learning

This is where special tools such as the earlier mentioned Jamorama course (perfect for beginners) and Guitar Superstars come into play. Here you have on-line video, Jam tracks (play-along possibilities) proper learning structure laid out, feedback systems in place, fresh content being added, varied learning styles and more.

If you can’t afford a private teacher, this is the route I would advise you to take. I have tested both the above places, and they are both totally cool!

Guitar school or private teacher

Some schools (public or private) have classes or courses designed for teaching guitar. I would absolutely check this out if I were you!

Then you have of course the advanced, specialized institutions like LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) in Liverpool, UK; Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California – as well as a host of other, similar places. Here you will definitely need some skills before you apply though!

If you really want to be as good as you can be in the shortest amount of time, then nothing can beat a professional guitar teacher. Whether you want to learn classical, blues, rock or anything else – this is the way to go.

However… Having your own teacher will cost you – not an arm and a leg – but still, it’s an investment. Think of it more in terms of the time you will save!

If you choose this route, then do make sure you spend enough time to check out qualifications and if that persons style and personality is something you can be happy with.

Sounding off

Hope you’ve found some of this information helpful? I will come with more information on the issue of having a plan, as well as other stuff. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Happy hunting for proper lessons in beginner guitar skills!

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