How Long Does It Take To Learn Acoustic Guitar?

how long does it take to learn acoustic guitar - man playing acoustic guitar

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If you have been watching your favorite musical artists play guitar for years, you’ve probably wondered, “How long does it take to learn acoustic guitar?” The good news is that the acoustic guitar is a great instrument for musical beginners. Even if you don’t have any musical training, you can learn to play the guitar!

What Will I Need to Know?

To get started playing the guitar, all you really need to learn is a few chords. Chords come in two varieties, open and barre chords. When you’re first learning, focus on open chords. Barre chords require you to cover all the strings at once with your index finger while pressing other strings with your fingertips, which is difficult as a beginner. Open chords just require you to hold down strings with the tips of your fingertips.

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Chord?

It won’t take you long at all. Really! You can learn a simple chord in just a few minutes. Of course, it can take a few days for you to commit it to memory and then a few weeks for you to get actually get good sound from the chord.

Tips for Learning Chords

  1. Focus on One Chord at a Time: Pick one chord, and learn it well. Try C, D, or Am for simple chords.
  2. Play on Your Fingertips: When you start trying to play chords, it may seem more natural to play with the pads of your fingers. However, to get the best sound and pressure, it’s best to play with the very tips of your fingers. Cup your hand toward the fret like you’re holding a ball. If you’re having trouble pressing down, you may need to clip the fingernails shorter on your left hand.
  3. Apply Firm Pressure When Playing Chords: Get your fingers into position for the chord, then press down. Make sure your fingertips are pressing the strings flat against the fretboard. Then, use your right hand to pluck each string. If each string doesn’t make a clear sound, try re-positioning and pressing down again.
  4. Remember It Takes Time to Build Callouses: Your fingertips are going to hurt when you first start playing. It’s a fact of life when playing the guitar! However, don’t worry, after a few weeks, you’ll build up callouses on your fingertips that will protect them while you play, limiting pain.
Open Chords - C - D - Am
Open chords: C – D – Am

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Scale?

Learning a scale is a bit more work. For one, learning scales is easier if you know how to read music, though not absolutely necessary. More to the point, you have to learn the notes on the fretboard, so you know what you’re playing. If you’re dedicated, you can learn the notes and a scale in a couple of weeks, though, of course, it will take longer to play really well.

Tips for Learning Scales

  1. Play on Your Fingertips: Just like with chords, you want to play scales on your fingertips. Remember to cup your hand, so your fingers are rounded, making it easy to play on the tip. You’ll get much better pressure that way.
  2. Work on Playing the Scale Slowly without Mistakes: It’s tempting to go as fast as you can with a scale, even when you’re learning it. However, it’s more important to do it at a steady pace with no mistakes. Tap your foot at a slow pace and play one note at a time. Once you get it at that pace, you can increase a little bit. Speed will come naturally as you practice over and over.

How Long before I’m Playing a Song? 

You may not believe it, but you’ll likely be able to play a simple chord song in a week or two. That’s because many songs only use 3-4 simple chords, or they can at least be simplified to that. If you learn those chords and how to strum, you can be playing that basic song in no time. Learning to pluck a song will likely take you a little longer, maybe a month for a simple song, but it likely won’t take as long as you’d think!

Tips for Learning Songs

  1. Don’t Go above Your Skill Level: It may be tempting to try that super complicated song with 10 difficult chords, but you’ll only get frustrated. Stick with songs that only use three-four chords or that have a simple melody for plucking. You can work up to more difficult songs later!
  2. Work on Chord Changes First: That is, start out slowly. Start by playing the first chord, then counting four beats. Play the next chord. Play all the chords this way, counting four beats each time. Don’t try to rush this process. Once you can play through all the chords without mistakes, you can move up to changing chords in time with what the song calls for (some may need two beats, for instance), though always go slowly while you’re learning!
  3. Wait to Add in Strumming Techniques: It’s important to solidify those chord changes first. That way, your left hand will have the music committed to muscle memory, and you can focus more on strumming with your right hand.

How Long Will It Take Me to Learn Other Basics?

It really depends on how much time you put into practice and how dedicated you are. An online guitar course, like Guitar Tricks or Fender Play, is great for helping you figure out what you need to know and get you started in the right direction. Video tutorials are also helpful, as are apps that help you learn different chords.

More importantly, you also need to learn things like how to hold the guitar, the names of the different parts of the guitar, and how to tune your guitar. Those tasks can be covered in a few short lessons, though they can take longer to master, particularly holding your guitar and getting the right posture.

In addition, it can help to learn to read music if you don’t know how to already. While it’s not absolutely necessary, reading music will help you pick up new songs more quickly. You can learn the basics of reading music in a week or two if you really dedicate yourself to the task. Use online resources and apps, like games, to help you do it, and you’ll be understanding what all those lines and notes mean in no time.

If you’re still wondering, “How long does it take to learn acoustic guitar,” keep this advice in mind. Overall, learning the basics of the guitar likely won’t take you very long – under a month. However, like any instrument, truly mastering it can take years and years. Don’t get discouraged, though. It’s a fun hobby, and you’ll likely develop proper playing techniques more quickly than you think!

Photo of author
Rick is the founder of All Stringed. He started playing with a classical guitar when he was 10, but changed soon to electric guitar and later also to an acoustic. You can find more about him here.