A common question among beginners picking up the guitar is how quickly they’ll be able to play it properly. Generally speaking, it won’t take that long – but you’ll need to put in quite a bit of effort and be persistent throughout the learning process to ensure that you take in all the important bits properly.
Learning the guitar can be split into a few stages which pretty much everyone goes through, and each of them is related to different skill levels in general. Some things can be learned quite quickly, while others take more time – those who just want to learn the instrument for brief entertainment will have it a lot easier than those aspiring to play metal solos.
The important steps in learning the instrument can be divided as follows:
Playing basic chords – this tends to be the first important skill most beginners learn; you must learn how to strum and switch between the basic guitar chords. You may not have the chords memorized and can’t play many songs from memory, but you’ll still be managing to fret and strum them. This shouldn’t take more than a week to accomplish.
Playing easy songs – the next level involves playing some easier songs that you’ve practiced hard enough and have memorized them to a good degree, able to strum and switch between them easily; you should be able to do that without keeping your eyes on the fretboard all the time. With a lot of practice, 2-3 weeks should be enough to get there.
Playing barre and power chords – next up, you’ve got a bit more advanced style where many who teach themselves never manage to go. Barre chords tend to be really difficult compared to standard ones, and you’ll need to practice extra hard to get the hang of those. Expect to spend at least 2 months getting there.
Fingerpicking – you must be able to pluck individual strings and play some simple riffs to get here, and this can be typically done in 2-3 months of solid practice.
Lead guitar – this is a big achievement, as being the lead guitar gives you all the focus you can dream of. You must be able to play solos and use various techniques like slurring, sliding and vibrato – and there are various other rules to adhere to as well. Playing acoustic solos is easier to learn compared to metal ones, but in general you’re looking at 3-4 months of practice for this.
The improviser – the final stage of your skills is where you’re able to improvise riffs and solos during a live performance, something which you’ll need a lot of skill for. It might take you anywhere from 6 months to a whole year to get there, and some people need even longer than that!
Of course, all of these are just estimates and some people need a lot more time than that to learn the appropriate techniques – while others get the hang of them quicker. Try and see for yourself!