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FAQ: How long to learn guitar?


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Q: How long does it take to learn to play an instrument properly?  And more specifically, how long to learn guitar?

Playing Basic Chords - This is usually the first benchmark most new players reach:  The ability to strum and switch between the basic guitar chords.  At this point you don't necessarily have the chords memorized and aren't able to play many songs, but you're managing to fret and strum them.  This level can be reached within one week.
Playing easy songs - You've mastered more guitar chords and have been practicing them enough that you've got most of them memorized and are able to strum and switch between them without too much hassle, and without looking at the fretboard when you do.  This means you can play songs!  This level can be reached in two to three weeks of daily practice, though for many it might be longer.
Playing Barre and Power Chords - We're moving right along and you're advancing to a level where most self-taught guitarists never go.  Barre Chords are much more difficult than open chords and learning these takes extra practice and a whole new set of strength in your fretting hand.  It's possible to play most barre chords in two months, quicker for some who practice a lot.
Fingerpicking - The ability to pluck individual strings and play simple riffs (short solo pieces on individual strings) is a new skill your strumming hand needs to learn.  This can usually be achieved in two to three months if you start to learn and play easy guitar tabs.
Lead Guitar - A Lead guitarist is the guy or girl who's got the audience at his/her beckoning.  Playing solo's and using techniques like slurring, vibrato and palm muting is a whole new set of rules and I'd give it three to four months.  This might be way off depending on what kind of music we're talking about - playing acoustic solo's might take less time, but playing rock or metal solo's will probably take longer.
The improviser - A guitarist that can improvise riffs and solos on the spot (and in the middle of a song), have moved from the realm of amateurship to being a pro or semi-pro.  Depending on how much talent you have and what you're musical background is, this might take anything from six months to a year.
Please note that these time lengths are given as a very broad estimate and aimed at people with little musical experience.  If it takes you longer than a week to learn the basic chords, don't get upset.  These times are not set in stone and you have to learn and develop at a pace that's natural and comfortable for you!
A:  My pat-ready answer is 'not very long'.  If you want a more detailed one, it depends on what you mean by 'properly'.  There are a few stages of guitar learning that everyone goes through and each one of these relate to different levels of skill and technique.  Some stuff you'll learn quickly while others will take longer. For example, if your ultimate desire is the ability to strum sing-a-long songs on the beach or around the campfire, you'll reach your goal much faster than the guy who wants to play blinding metal solo's.

Here's a breakdown of the stages of guitar learning and the approximate time it might take you to get there.
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