A Comprehensive Guide to Learning Guitar – Stages and Timelines

The stages and timelines of learning guitar

When it comes to learning an instrument or learning guitar, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of “How often should I practice?”. Just like our individual musical tastes, our learning journeys are unique, and the right pace for mastering the guitar can vary significantly from person to person. In this guide to learning guitar, we’ll review the steps and stages of the learning curve and what you should be doing at each level. So, if you’ve ever wondered how much you should actually practice, we’re here to give you ideas that will direct you.

In the following sections, we’ll shed light on the various considerations that come into play when deciding how often to attend classes, learn new concepts, and practice the guitar with or without an instructor. We’ll explore the factors that influence the frequency of guitar lessons and their impact on your learning to play the guitar. Then you can go check out our guide to beginner guitar chords that includes a list of 50 songs to practice with!

Guitar learning curve

The learning curve for the guitar depicts the journey’s highs and lows, challenges, and achievements. When you first pick up a guitar, you journey through several phases, each defined by a unique set of experiences and accomplishments. Knowing what to anticipate at each level will make it simpler for you to prepare.

The beginning stage: Laying the groundwork

What you will learn: Fundamental chords, fretting techniques, and strumming patterns. Every note you play carries a sense of accomplishment and excitement. During this stage, practice is focused on developing muscle memory and finger strength and becoming acquainted with the anatomy of the instrument. 

Check out our Beginner Guitar Chords Guide to learn easy chords and strumming patters

Common challenges: You might face trouble with finger soreness, chord transitions, and maintaining rhythm. However, every small accomplishment, such as nailing your first chord progression, feels monumental. These early successes serve as motivation to continue pushing forward.

The intermediate stage: Expanding horizons

What you will learn: You refine your technique and experiment with more complex melodies and chord progressions. This stage is about expanding your repertoire, exploring different musical genres, and developing a stronger connection with your instrument.

Common challenges: You may face challenges such as mastering barre chords, fingerstyle techniques, and more intricate strumming patterns. Breakthroughs become more nuanced, such as switching between chords smoothly in a fast-paced song or nailing a tricky riff.

The advanced stage: Mastering the craft

What you will learn: You fully grasp various techniques, scales, and playing styles. This section will teach advanced concepts such as improvisation, composition, and intricate fingerpicking patterns.

Common challenges: Advanced players face challenges that require finesse, such as refining tone, mastering complex solos, and achieving seamless chord changes under challenging progressions. Breakthroughs at this stage are marked by a greater understanding of music theory and the ability to incorporate personal expression into your playing.

What to consider for different levels

Several helpful guitar tips can be useful when navigating the guitar journey. Picture these tips as friendly companions on your guitar expedition – they won’t promise an overnight transformation, but they can make your journey smoother and more rewarding. 

These pieces of advice serve more as tools in your toolbox, allowing you to navigate the difficulties of learning the guitar with greater skill and proficiency while acknowledging that there is no quick fix for fast mastery.

1. “How much and how often should I practice guitar?”

When it comes to making progress on learning to play guitar, there’s no substitute for consistent practice. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or more experienced, maintaining a regular practice routine is essential.

Think of it as nurturing your skills over time rather than aiming for instant mastery. The key is to balance the frequency of your guitar practice and your time on effective practice.

Beginner guitar players

For starting out, like kids or adults, it’s wise to kick off with shorter practice sessions. Aim for 15-30 minutes of focused practice per session, multiple days a week. Shorter, more frequent sessions are practical for building finger strength, dexterity, and muscle memory (and callouses!).

Intermediate players

As you get more comfortable with the instrument, consider gradually increasing your practice time. Aim for an hour of practice per session. Focus on refining your technique, practicing scales, mastering chords, and playing simple songs.

Advanced players

Advanced players might dedicate anywhere from 1 to 3 hours or even more daily, depending on their goals and commitments. Their practice sessions could be split into focused segments, such as technique exercises, learning new songs, improvisation, and diving into music theory.

2. Quality of practice

Remember, it’s not just about how much time you put in but how effectively you use that time. Engage in focused learning strategies during your practice. Identify areas that need improvement and work on them systematically. Having clear objectives helps you stay on track. This is something a guitar instructor can help you with, as well as outlining goals and checking your progress.

For instance, set goals like mastering a particular song section, nailing a new chord, or refining your strumming technique.

Pro tip: While you’re practicing, using a metronome can help maintain a steady rhythm and tempo.

Consider recording your practice sessions using a recording device or smartphone. Listening back can help you identify areas that need work, such as timing issues or uneven execution. Remember, precision matters more than speed, especially during the initial stages.

3. Prior musical experience

Having prior musical training can be advantageous when learning the guitar. If you’ve explored other instruments or understand music theory, certain aspects of guitar playing might feel more familiar.

A student playing a yellow guitar

 Learning the guitar becomes like building on a foundation you already have.

However, don’t worry if you’re starting fresh. Learning the guitar without any prior experience is entirely doable. Online tutorials, instructional videos, and interactive apps provide valuable tools for beginners to learn independently.

Dedication, practice, and a genuine passion for the instrument are the driving forces behind mastery, regardless of prior musical background.

4. Learning goals

Setting clear learning goals can be a powerful motivator. Specific goals give your practice sessions a sense of purpose. Break larger goals into smaller milestones and celebrate your achievements along the way.

For instance, instead of a broad goal like “improve fingerpicking,” aim for something specific like “execute a strumming pattern seamlessly at a tempo of 35 beats per minute.” Quantifiable goals make tracking progress more accessible and more effective.

While challenges are exciting, ensure your goals are realistic and achievable. Slow, steady progress results better than setting unattainable goals and facing disappointment. Establish timelines for your goals to create urgency. Set a target, like getting comfortable with a new chord progression within a week.

5. Guitar practice schedule

Practical time management is crucial. Create a schedule that aligns with your daily routine, allowing consistent practice without overwhelming yourself. Assess your daily responsibilities and allocate dedicated time for practice.

Consider various options for fitting in guitar practice. Schedule practice times on your calendar, treating them as essential commitments. You don’t need long, extensive sessions – short, focused bursts of practice throughout the day can be highly effective.

Utilize breaks or spare moments to squeeze in practice. When disturbances are minimal, early mornings or late nights can be ideal for uninterrupted practice.

Ultimately, your practice routine should suit your lifestyle and commitments. Balancing your time effectively ensures consistent progress on your guitar learning journey.

Beginner guitar players

For beginners of any age, attending guitar classes once a week for about 30 minutes to an hour can be a good starting point. 

This frequency allows you to establish a foundation and practice regularly between classes.

Intermediate and advanced students

As you progress, you might consider increasing the frequency or duration of classes. Two or three times a week, each lasting around 45 minutes to an hour, can be beneficial to deepen your skills and work on more advanced techniques.

Try practicing with some of the 50 songs in our beginner guitar chords post for easy playing. Or if you are into Taylor Swift, here are 10 Taylor Swift songs to learn on guitar.

6. Age 

The learning process and the rate at which people pick up new skills are directly impacted by age when learning to play the guitar. Even though anyone can learn to play the guitar at any age, understanding how age affects learning may benefit students at all levels.

Younger people typically have higher neuroplasticity, a term used to describe the capacity of the brain to reorganize and adapt by forming new neural connections.

This can speed up learning new skills, such as playing the guitar. As we age, our neuroplasticity declines, making learning new skills more challenging.

Regardless of being 20, 40, or even 80, age should not deter you from learning and expanding your knowledge. While learning guitar might present more challenges as you age, your determination matters most. 

Children (Ages 5-12)

Because children’s attention spans are shorter, sessions that are shorter but more frequent (e.g., 20-30 minutes, two to three times a week) may work effectively.

Fun and interactive activities can keep children interested.


Because teenagers can withstand longer sessions (30-60 minutes), they may benefit from a more disciplined approach to studying music theory and technique.

Student learning guitar


Because adults have greater control over their schedules, they can participate in longer, focused sessions (45-60 minutes) addressing technical and theoretical topics. However, the speed should remain pleasant and in line with personal obligations.


Because older persons may have various physical abilities, class duration should consider comfort levels. To meet their demands, flexibility exercises and adaptations might be introduced.

Moreover, practice is the key to success. Attending 60-minute classes several times a week is pointless if you don’t put enough work into reviewing what you have learned.

How an instructor can help you learn to play guitar

With the vast availability of online tutorials and self-teaching resources available to those eager to learn the guitar, the appeal of the DIY approach is undeniable. However, there’s evidence stating that a seasoned and professional guitar teacher can be a practical resource capable of significantly accelerating your journey:

  • Learning effectively: A skilled teacher can identify your areas of strength and development needs, enabling your practice sessions to be painstakingly tailored to produce the best results in the shortest amount of time.
  • Structured learning path: This approach ensures a smooth transition from beginner to accomplished player by offering a clearly defined trajectory. It serves as your navigational compass in a sea of information.
  • Immediate feedback: Among a teacher’s wide range of benefits, real-time feedback is a cornerstone. Quick corrections to posture, hand positioning, and technique not only prevent the formation of negative habits but also provide a robust foundation for more intricate skills.
  • Accurate assessment: Beyond self-assessment, a teacher possesses the expertise to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, and untapped potential, offering insights that may otherwise remain obscured.
  • Tailored curriculum: The personalized instructional method guarantees that time is not wasted on already mastered concepts or concepts that prove too intricate for your current level of mastery.
  • Adaptive learning: As you progress, your guitar skills will evolve. A teacher can adapt the lesson plan accordingly, ensuring you continue to be challenged without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Targeted skill developmentWork in progress signA customized lesson plan focuses on specific skills you want to acquire. Whether mastering intricate chord progressions or refining fingerstyle techniques, your teacher will guide you systematically toward achieving your goals.
  • Progress tracking: Working with a teacher allows you to track your progress more effectively. You’ll be able to see how far you’ve come from your initial skill assessment, which can be incredibly motivating and satisfying.

You can find excellent guitar instructors on Lessonpal with experience with all skill levels. They know various genres, styles, and techniques and can help you learn!

One-on-one interaction with an experienced teacher can help you get questions answered quickly, receive immediate feedback, and learn from a skilled guitarist.

Frequently asked questions about learning guitar

How many guitar lessons do you need?

The duration of guitar training varies based on your desired skill level. For basic chord playing and strumming with singing, expect around 4-8 months. For advanced proficiency, anticipate over 2 years or more, influenced by the abovementioned factors.

Are 30 minutes of guitar lessons enough?

While 30 minutes of guitar lessons can be beneficial, the effectiveness depends on factors such as your learning pace and goals. Consistency and quality of practice matter more than just the duration. Consider supplementing lessons with regular focused practice to enhance your progress.

Is 20 too late to learn guitar?

It’s never too late to start learning the guitar at 20. Age is just a number, and many successful guitarists began later in life. Your dedication, practice, and patience matter most. You can still achieve proficiency and enjoy playing the guitar with focused effort and guidance.

Why do beginners quit guitar?

Beginners often quit guitar due to unrealistic expectations, lack of consistent practice, and early frustrations. Finding enjoyable songs to learn, setting achievable goals, and maintaining patience can help overcome initial hurdles and motivate beginners on their guitar journey.

How long should I practice guitar every day as a beginner?

As a beginner, quality matters more than quantity. Aim for around 15 to 30 minutes of focused practice each day. Gradually increase practice time as you become more comfortable. Consistency and regular practice sessions yield better results than occasional lengthy practices.

What is the fastest way to learn guitar?

Learning the guitar quickly involves a combination of effective learning strategies. Focus on learning basic chords, simple songs, and essential techniques. Combine structured lessons with consistent practice. Consider seeking guidance from experienced teachers or online resources to accelerate your learning curve. Remember, progress takes time and dedication.

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