If you’ve been contemplating learning a new instrument, then the guitar is likely to be on top of your choice list; and with good reason!
Guitars are incredibly stylish and versatile instruments that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your home or jamming out on a stage.
Are guitars easy to learn? With consistent practice, playing the guitar becomes easier, interesting, and more natural. Practicing for about 15 minutes a day will make learning guitar easier.
Whether the guitar is hard or easy is subjective, as everyone learns differently and what works for one might not work for another.
However one thing is constant, learning any new skill or art requires dedication and hard work, the guitar is no exception. Beginnings are often overwhelming and challenging even the maestros started out just like you!
Are Guitars Easy or Hard to Learn?
How long will it take me to learn the guitar? How long it takes depends on your goal and the level you want to attain. Learning basic chords, easy riffs, strumming patterns and simple songs can take one to a few months, (note that the more time you put into anything, the faster your results)
On the other hand, becoming the next Eddie Van Halen or playing more complex solos, chords and songs is no walk in the park! This requires lots of technique, time, and experience that could take long months and even years to master, this extra step is what separates “the men from the boys”.
Can I learn to play on my own or do I need a teacher?
There is no straightforward answer to this as a lot will largely depend on what options you have available to you, The good news is either one is doable and both have had success stories. Let’s quickly look at both in detail.
Learning without a teacher
We all get Information from someone or somewhere so it is a myth to be completely ‘self-taught’. In this case, you will learn from resources you find online, in DVDs, books, YouTube, or online courses.
Aren’t we lucky to live in times where materials are readily available to learn virtually anything? DIY can be beneficial if you want to learn at your own pace and time at little or no cost. Keep in mind that it takes more discipline and determination to teach your self as a lot of motivation will come from you.
As good as the free videos and lessons are, unfortunately not all of them do a good job. You have to be mindful of the information you take in as bad habits and techniques can slow down your progress.
Also, note that teaching yourself can increase your chances of falling down the “internet rabbit hole”, it is tempting to want to learn everything available at the same time, abandoning lessons and jumping to another without finishing anything, resulting in a lot of wasted time.
The Advantages of a Teacher
Regardless of the free lessons floating around, having an instructor to be accountable to can tremendously make your guitar journey a lot easier.
It is motivating to have someone guide you, pinpoint your weaknesses, evaluate and carve out a syllabus specifically for your learning style to faster reach your goals. This does not mean your work is done and you don’t have to study, it just helps you to be more focused and strategic.
If you have options, make sure to try out a few instructors and choose one who you feel comfortable with, and can understand your specific goals.
Also, take into account their prices and what you’re willing to pay for a lesson.
Acoustic or Electric? What type of guitar should I learn with?
As a beginner, your first guitar is crucial to your long-term commitment and success, choosing a guitar should largely depend on the type of music that excites you, the guitar that draws your attention the most, what style you want to play, and the goals you want to achieve.
For example, if you are into the Ed Sheeran or Taylor swift singer-songwriter style then the Acoustic would be more suitable, but if you want to rip out some blues licks or shred some heavy metal then the electric guitar would better suit this style.
If you’re not sure of what to choose then decide how much you want to spend and work with that. Many beginners choose acoustics because it is fairly cheaper, you don’t need to buy an amplifier or extra accessories to hear your guitar plus you can play where ever you want.
On the other hand, acoustic guitars can be stiffer to play than electrics because of heavier string gauge, electric strings are generally lighter and more flexible.
To finally decide on what you want, you can or go into a guitar store and try out different guitars to see what feels right for you.
Major Similarities Between Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitars
Both guitars are tuned in standard (EADGBE) tuning.
Both have six strings (with the exception of some 7, 8, 12 strings, but don’t concern your self with that for now)
Chords, licks, scales, and musical concepts can be learned on one and applied to the other.
Major Differences Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
Acoustic guitars generally have big hollow bodies, that produce a loud sound from the sound hole without being amplified.
Electric guitars have smaller solid bodies, they don’t produce loud sounds on their own; sounds are produced from the pickups and connected to an amplifier.
What hurdles or challenges do I have to overcome when I start learning?
In your guitar journey, you might come across roadblocks that can seem frustrating and demoralizing but fear not!
It is only a bridge that you have to cross to get into the ‘promised land’. As you jump these hurdles, you will get better and build more confidence to forge ahead.
Here are a few challenges you may encounter along the way and how you can overcome them;
Changing from one chord to another: It is fairly easy to learn chord shapes and names but merging them into effortless transitions like you hear in your favorite songs can be quite an ordeal, It is tempting to want to play along with a track you love at full speed, but this can end up sounding muffled or sloppy. Smoother transitions will come with time and practice but until then, slow and steady is the way to win in this race, It is important to use a metronome and increase the tempo as you get more comfortable, keeping to time is vital to great playing!
Finger Soreness: Holding down strings with your fingers is not as easy or natural as yawning like the pros make it look, your fingers are still sensitive and susceptible to irritation, the good news is this is temporary and usually goes away after some time. The more you play, your fingertips will develop hard calluses that will shield them from soreness and make playing a lot easier.
Learning Barre Chords: Barre chords are essentials for great guitar playing, they are fuller sounding and great for strumming among other benefits, but beginners usually find them quite intimidating as you have to use your index finger across all strings, especially the ‘dreaded F chord’ but do not be afraid! As you know by now, a lot of these problems usually go away with practice, the more you attempt barre chords, your fingers get stronger and you build muscle memory.
Music Theory: Most beginners that have never had prior music experience can see this like rocket science, concepts like major, minor, chords, scales, and other musical terms may sound like complete jargon. Music theory will help you understand the concepts behind what you’re playing and how music works behind the scenes, it gets interesting as you dive deeper into it, lots of ‘Aha’ moments will surface from basic music theory knowledge.
Staying Inspired and Encouraged: When the going gets tough a lot of beginners tremble at the difficulty and quit, It can be a challenge to keep the initial spark that inspired you to start in the first place. Always remember your reason for starting, even the pros feel the same way sometimes, don’t start playing thinking you’ll be Slash or John Mayer overnight! The key is to keep pushing and stick with it to reap the satisfying rewards. Be sure to listen to your favorite songs/musicians to keep your head in the game.
No matter the style you choose to play, get your guitar and dedicate time and effort to your instrument, go easy on yourself, we all have our unique learning styles. Stick with what works for you and you’ll be amazed at what beautiful sounds you are capable of creating! All the best, and have fun!
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.