If you’re thinking about learning guitar you probably have a lot of questions. It can be daunting taking the first step and committing to learning an instrument.
How hard will it be? Will I need lessons? What do I need to buy first? Where do I begin? And so on.
So before you run out and buy a guitar read this first. I’ll go through some of the most important and often asked questions, including things like whether to learn guitar, the benefits and downsides of learning, how much commitment is needed, the costs and more.
By the end you should be in a much better position to decide if learning guitar is for you.
Should I Learn Guitar?
Only you can decide. Although it should be easy to work out. Do you like the sound of the guitar? Do you listen to a lot of guitar based music? Do you find yourself listening to artists who inspire you and imagine yourself playing those songs?
If so and you find it excites you then guitar could be a good fit. You’re also far more likely to stick with practicing if you enjoy the music.
The reason I picked up a guitar was because I became super interested in music, specifically guitar music. When I turned about 13 I started to become a bit obsessive about music. This was during the days of file sharing programs like Kazaa and Limewire and I used to spend a lot of my time “acquiring” (ahem) MP3’s and listening to more and more music.
I couldn’t get enough. And eventually I didn’t simply want to listen to these awesome bands and artists making these amazing songs – I wanted to replicate them. I wanted to play those riffs that were always stuck in my brain and make similar harmonies I couldn’t stop humming.
And so I did. I got a guitar for my 16th birthday and never looked back.
If you’ve experienced anything similar to what I’ve described then chances are you’ll like learning and playing guitar.
There’s no guarantee you’ll enjoy or stick with it. 90% of people who take up the guitar give it up within a year. It’s not nearly as easy as good guitarists make it look!
But if you’re itching to learn a famous riff or your favorite songs then that’s a good start and will help motivate you when learning gets tough (which it will!).
Why Learn to Play Guitar?
There are lots of really positive benefits you will get from learning the guitar. These are just a few of the top one’s:
- Fun – I would argue the most important reason for playing the guitar is it’s just lots of fun. It feels great when you learn your first song, nail a solo or play with friends. It’s simply a very rewarding and satisfying hobby.
- Relieve Stress – Similar to fun, but playing guitar can be a great stress reliever. You need to really focus when you’re learning and so it’s the perfect way to switch off after a hard day and give your mind a break from the stress of everyday life.
- Build Confidence – Learning a new skill like guitar can be a huge confidence booster. As you see yourself improve you will gain a real sense of achievement and feel your own self confidence improve at the same time. I definitely benefitted from this and found myself with better self esteem and confidence as I got better at the guitar.
- Become More Disciplined – if you stick with it and want to get good you’ll need to be disciplined. You can’t play once a week for half an hour and expect to see results. But if you’re consistent with your practice and really commit you will get better, and in doing so you’ll have proved you have the discipline to achieve something impressive.
- Keep Your Brain Active – this is true for all ages. Learning guitar, or any instrument, helps keep the mind healthy. That encompasses things like coordination and motor skills, memory and the speed you process information. As Neuroscientist John Dani says “It engages every major part of the central nervous system”.
- Helps with Socialising – Jamming and playing music with other people is amazing. It’s a real shared experience that creates some real bonds. And if you learn the guitar you’ll find it easy to make friends and start playing with other people. It’s especially good if you’re that great at making friends or socialising as you can let your playing do the talking!
- Impress People – this is last on this list because it shouldn’t be a major priority for learning the guitar. But lets be honest, most of us would be lying if we said it didn’t cross our mind. Playing for other people and impressing them is a bit of an ego boost but as long as its not your main motivation for learning an instrument then it’s harmless.
That’s only a few of the reasons that playing guitar is so great. I haven’t even touched on the creativity it allows you to express, how it will increase your love and appreciation of music, how it’s a hobby you can enjoy for life etc.
Fundamentally though the reason guitarists, both professionals and amateurs who like to mess about at home, love and continue to play is because it brings them so much enjoyment. That’s what it can offer you.
Why Not to Learn Guitar
It’s not all positives though. While I firmly believe the pluses outweigh the minuses when it comes to learning the guitar there are some downsides:
- Frustration – if you expect to be good straightaway you’re going to be disappointed. What you’re likely to find is that for the first few months you get super frustrated because you are struggling. It takes time and effort to get through this stage, which many don’t manage.
- Pain – at first playing the guitar hurts. Pushing down the strings is painful and your wrist and hand will probably ache from the new positions and stretching you’re doing. Muscles you haven’t used before will be getting a new workout. It’s all pretty uncomfortable! Don’t get me wrong, it’s hardly the worst pain in the world. But considering it’s meant to be a fun hobby you might be left wondering why you’re putting yourself through any discomfort. The only upside is if you persist that pain will pass. You’ve just got to suffer through it for a while first.
- Expense – guitar isn’t a cheap hobby. Even entry level guitars are going to cost you a few hundred dollars. And if you want to play electric you’re going to need an amp on top of that. Accessories like strings, picks, capos etc. aren’t expensive but will need replacing too. It all adds up.
Most of these issues will resolve themselves once you’ve played for a while. The pain and frustration will pass, although you’ll probably find yourself frustrated for other reasons later on (not being able to master new techniques).
How Hard is to Learn Guitar
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – it’s not easy. You will be rubbish to begin with because everyone is, even the best guitarists.
It will hurt too. Your fingertips will sting and have to develop calluses. Stretching to make chords will feel uncomfortable.
And it doesn’t come quickly. You need to have dedication and really commit. That means consistent practice even when it’s hard and you’re frustrated because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
But if you can get through those initial stages it does get better. And you will see yourself improving and finding it easier.
It’s just hard at the start. Which is why lots of people give up.
I think there’s an impression that playing guitar is easy. You see people easily strumming away and believe anyone could do it. And then once you get a guitar in your hands reality sets in and you quickly realize it’s not nearly as simple as thought. The opposite – it’s actually really difficult!
I don’t say all this to put you off. I really hope if you’re on the fence then you decide to give it a go. But I also think it’s better to be honest and not pretend it’s gong to be quick and simple. Better to have realistic expectations when you begin rather than find out the hard way.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar?
There’s no single answer for this unfortunately. It will depend on how much time you put in and how quickly you can coordinate the physical movements and memorize chords/songs.
On average most people take roughly 6 months of regular practice to be able to play basic songs.
Mastering or at least getting to a decent level with the guitar is a lifelong endeavor. But thankfully you can reach satisfying beginner milestones within a few months.
Try to practice often but for shorter periods. Having daily 15-30 minute practice sessions will be much more effective than playing 3 or 4 hours in one go once a week.
For a more in-depth look at this try this guide on how long it really takes to learn the guitar.
What Type of Guitar Should I Learn On?
This depends on what sort of music you play. If you like rock or metal you’re going to want an electric guitar. If you prefer softer, singer songwriter styles then an acoustic is what you want.
You may have heard that certain types of guitars are easier to play than others. And so you should start on the easier one.
But while electric guitars have thinner strings that are easier to hold down and thinner necks you shouldn’t use that as a reason for choosing one. If you like acoustic guitars and that’s what you’re drawn to then that’s what you should pick.
You’ll only end up struggling to be motivated because you’re playing an instrument you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.
If you’re not sure which type of guitar to go for this simple table should help:
|Acoustic||Good for beginners, cheaper than electric. You don’t need an amplifier as it amplifies itself.|
|Electric||Requires an amp to hear sound. Easier to press strings due to thinner neck and lighter gauge strings. Allows effects pedals to shape tone.|
|Classical||Nylon strings, good for fingerpicking. Full-bodied sound.|
My first guitar was a Squier Affinity Stratocaster and I still believe Squier to be one of the best guitars for beginners to learn on. The Squier Sonic range is the most affordable of all Squiers and are fantastic value for money.
You can even get a starter pack that has everything you need to begin with:
- Good quality guitar
- Everything you need in one pack
- Ready to begin playing straight away
- Amp isn't great
If you can afford a bit more then the Classic Vibe range will be a real step up. They’re outstanding for what you pay and more than good enough to be used for gigging. A proper guitar you can grow with.
- Fantastic guitar for the price
- Noticeable improvement on entry level guitars
- Will be good enough as you grow and improve
- Gig ready
- More expensive than most other beginner guitars
For acoustics Yamaha do some great entry level acoustic guitars that are far better than most of the competition. The Yamaha FG800 is a brilliant Dreadnaught sized acoustic. If you want something a little smaller the Yamaha FS800 is just as good too.
The most sensible thing you can do though is to try out different styles to see what feels and sounds best to you. If you can then get to a store and hold loads of guitars, play them and see which feels right.
And don’t rule out buying a used guitar. You can find amazing bargains if you’re willing to get something that isn’t completely brand new.
How Much Does Learning Guitar Cost?
It’s hard to say exactly because guitars, amps, accessories and lessons all vary in price. As a rough guide:
Guitar: $100-$1000+ depending on quality. Expect to pay $250+ for a decent beginner instrument.
Amp (electric guitar): $50+ for practice amp, $200+ for gig-worthy amp.
Accessories: Capo, tuner, picks, strap, case/gig bag, cable etc. Around $50-100 total.
Lessons: In-person lessons are around $25-50 per hour. Online video lessons will be less at something like $10-20 per lesson.
You’ll probably start off at the cheaper end for things like the guitar and amp. But if you stick with it there’s a very good chance you will end up spending more on better gear.
Can you Teach Guitar Yourself
Yes, many people have learnt to play the guitar to a very high standard by self teaching. With the internet there are so many quality courses and videos available, both free and paid, that can help you to learn by yourself.
I personally think that getting a guitar teacher will help you to learn faster. It’ll also mean you avoid any bad habits as a teacher will be able to notice and correct them. This guide goes through whether guitar lessons are worth it.
You need to have more self disciple if you’re teaching yourself too. Without a teacher to motivate and provide lesson plans and a guide it’ll be completely down to you as to what you learn and how often you practice. So if you think you won’t be motivated enough to do it yourself a teacher might be a good choice.
But it’s definitely not a necessity. As I said many people teach themselves and there has never been more ways to do so. There are a huge range of course available, YouTube has everything from song tutorials to deep dives into music theory.
If you’re properly committed and use the right resources (this website is a good one, if I do say so myself!) then you can teach yourself guitar as well as someone who learns from a tutor.
Can you Learn Guitar if You’ve Never Played an Instrument Before?
Absolutely! There’s no need to have played another instrument before learning guitar.
I had never so much as picked up a guitar let alone played one or any other instrument before. In fact I can imagine that the guitar is probably one of the most popular ‘first instruments’.
Having some experience with an instrument may give you a little extra help to begin with. But you definitely don’t need it and can comfortably learn to play the guitar without any previous musical experience.
What If You Have No Musical Talent or Ability
Doesn’t matter! While I believe some people have a natural aptitude for certain things I don’t believe you’re born with some innate ability to play an instrument. Or vice versa; you are born without the ability to play an instrument.
Everyone can learn a musical instrument. Even if some people pick it up faster than you that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. You 100% can. Everyone can.
If you’re talking yourself out of learning because you think you’ll be rubbish, you can’t sing or think you’re tone deaf then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
How Much Time Commitment is Required
Learning guitar does require a regular time commitment. In the beginning you’ll want to aim for at least 15-30 minutes of practice every day. Ideally an hour.
Consistency is absolutely key when it comes to learning an instrument. Shorter daily sessions are better than long periods just once a week.
Once you get familiar with the guitar and your hands are hurting less you can increase your practice time.
What Skills Do You Need to Learn?
As a beginner the areas you will need to focus on are:
- Correct posture and hand and wrist positioning
- How to hold a pick (if you’re planning on using one)
- Single note melodies
- Basic beginner chords like G, C, D, A, Em, Am
- Strumming or fingerpicking techniques
- Being able to read tablature
- Basic music theory/counting rhythms
- Coordinating both hands simultaneously
That looks like a lot but don’t be overwhelmed by them all! It will all start to come together with regular practice.
What Should you Learn First?
The first thing you should learn when playing guitar is how to hold the guitar the right way. If you’re playing with a pick then holding that correctly is very important too.
Once you feel comfortable with those then start on some simple single note melodies. It may be boring at first but getting used to playing a single note is going to be really important.
You can also try out the basic open chords at the same time. A and D are good places to begin (don’t try the F chord for a while!).
Look for exercises that help with both of those. Justinguitar has a 1 minute chord change exercise which is great when you’re starting out.
Beginning Guitar Tips
If you are going to learn guitar then follow these tips to get off on the right foot:
- Try to practise for at least 10-15 minutes a day. Consistency is key even if you can only manage a short session.
- Alongside learning chords, scales etc. learn songs you love and want to play. It will help keep you motivated.
- Use a metronome when practising. Play slowly at first.
- Record yourself often to hear your progress over time. It helps to see how far you’ve come.
- Take a few lessons at first. A teacher will prevent bad habits.
- Play with others if you can. You’ll improve faster and probably enjoy yourself too.
- Be patient with yourself. You’re learning a new language. Becoming proficient takes time.
Common Beginner Mistakes
These are some common mistakes beginners make that you should avoid:
- Not practicing daily and then wondering why you’re not improving.
- Pressing too hard on strings due to a lack of calluses. This will increase pain and your injury risk.
- Strumming with a tense shoulder, wrist or hand. Try to stay relaxed.
- Not using a pick/fingers correctly. Hold the pick gently and keep your wrist straight.
- Placing fingers down imperfectly on frets. Accuracy is vital, even if that means changing chords slowly at first.
- Playing with a poor posture. Your. Ask should be straight, shoulders relaxed, with the guitar neck angled up in the “classical position”.
- Trying to learn advanced techniques way too early before you’ve mastered the basics. Don’t run before you can walk!
- Getting frustrated and losing motivation due to feeling overwhelmed.
- Spending too much on fancy gear rather than investing that time and money into proper lessons/learning. A new guitar or amp isn’t going to improve your technique.
So, after reading all this you’ve decided that the guitar is for you – what next? Well first you’ve got to choose if you’re going to go for an electric or acoustic.
Depending on which you go for you’ll need some accessories. See this guide for everything you need to play electric guitar.
After that you can get stuck in. If you’re going to have a teacher then you’ll want to spend some time finding one. Do some research and choose a teacher that will teach you what you want to learn.
If you’re going the self taught route then pick a course to follow to begin with. Justinguitar is a brilliant (and free!)
I think Justin’s beginners course is more than good enough. But there’s also the likes of Fender Play, Yousician and Guitar Tricks, amongst many more.
Find time to practice every day. An hour a day would be great if you can manage it. If not aim for 15-30 minutes. Just try to be playing consistently.
Start with single notes. Nursery rhymes or easy riffs are a good place to begin. You should also be looking at the first few open chords and getting used to simple strumming.
Other than that you just have to be patient and stick with it.
It all starts with the first step. There will be a lot of challenges and frustration along the way. But if you do persist I feel confident saying that guitar will quickly become a hugely important and enjoyable part of your life.
What is Harder Piano or Guitar?
It’s difficult to compare them as they’re so different. In my experience there are some elements of learning guitar that are harder than piano but then there are other elements of piano that are tougher than guitar.
All you really need to know is that learning any instrument is hard. They will both need lots of commitment and time dedicated to getting good at them.
So if you’re trying to decide between the two don’t do so on the basis of which is harder. Make your decision on which you really want to learn. Which motivates and excites you.
Because it’s far more likely you’ll stick with the one that you’re most interested in rather than the one that is easier to play.
What Age is Best to Learn Guitar?
There isn’t a best age to learn guitar. There are 5 year old kids learning all the way through to people in their 70’s.
Anyone at any age can learn. It’s probably slightly easier to learn when you’re younger, not least because you have far more free time on your hands. But really age isn’t a factor and definitely shouldn’t put you off.
This guide looks at whether you’re too old to learn guitar (hint: you’re not)
Is 30 Minutes a Day Enough to Learn Guitar?
If it’s 30 minutes of proper, focused practice every single day then the answer is yes. If it’s mindless noodling without any structure then no.
Playing without any aim or goal is unlikely to help you improve. If you simply play the same songs you already know or mess around for a few hours you probably won’t get any better.
But if you have a proper idea of what you want to learn or improve and you work through exercises to achieve that then 30 minutes can absolutely be enough.
Is an Electric Guitar Easier Than an Acoustic?
Sort of. The strings are generally thinner and closer to the fretboard on an electric guitar, which makes them easier to press and hold down. They also usually have thinner necks which can be easier to get your fingers round and form chords on.
But when you’re starting out both will feel awkward and difficult. And many people begin on the acoustic and don’t have any problems.
So you should pick the type of guitar you’re most interested in and that appeals to. Not the one you think will be easier to play.
How Many Guitar Chords are there?
Too many! There are an almost limitless number of chords. But don’t let that frighten you as most music will only use a small number of the chords available.
It’s why you might have heard people talk about learning 3 chords and being able to play thousands of songs. And it’s true!
Some of the most famous songs only use a few chords and once you’ve got the basics down you’ll be able to play them.
So as a beginner you will want to learn the basic open chords that will open up a whole world of songs to you. And as you improve you’ll pick up more chords along the way.