I have been learning guitar for over 6 months now and have recorded my time spent using a log and my YouTube channel to help document my progress. When I first started learning to play guitar, my biggest questions related to how long it would all take.
I have previously answered questions, in separate posts, on how long it takes to learn guitar, if it is possible to learn to play later in life and does learning guitar get easier.
In this post, I will break down how long it takes to learn a song on guitar for an absolute beginner. Important areas to cover are what you know right now, the songs themselves, at what point you have mastered them, how you can learn songs faster and some super easy guitar songs to get you started.
How Long Does It Take To Learn A Song On Guitar As A Beginner?
If you are an absolute beginner with no prior musical experience what so ever then firstly welcome to the club, (I was in that position when I started) you have chosen to learn a wonderful instrument and from my experience, it has been one of the best things I have ever done. It has provided me with an excellent way to spend time and given me a sense of fulfillment and achievement and above all has improved my mental health.
Secondly, the guitar itself is going to feel very strange in your hands for quite a while, before you even begin to learn a song on the guitar and this is completely normal.
Once you do start learning your fingers will begin to hurt, particularly if you are learning to play on an acoustic guitar but this should pass after the first two weeks of playing.
If you learn two or three chords during these first two weeks then you will be able to play hundreds of songs. Sometimes they will be simplified versions of the original song and sometimes it will be just that those songs are simpler than you may have realized.
Learn To Play 10 Songs with 2 Chords
If for example, you learn to play two open chords, first the Em chord and secondly the A chord then you will be able to learn many songs, for example below are how to play those two chords plus 10 songs.
Once you have learned those two chords from Andy then here are the YouTube links to play those 10 songs.
- For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
- Silence Is Easy – Star Sailor
- Three Is A Magic Number
- U.N.I – Ed Sheeran. You will need a Capo for this one, check out my review where I tried and tested the best capos under $20.
- Achy Breaky Heart – Bill Rae Cyrus
- Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
- Paperback Writer – The Beatles
- Love Me Do – The Beatles
- You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
- Elevation – U2
Learning these simple songs will give you some ‘easy wins’ which will help grow your confidence and spur you on to learn more on guitar.
How long will each of these simple songs take to learn?
Well if your fingers can stand the pain from the strings and they can stretch into position then learning songs with 2 chords should take you about an hour, if you are an absolute beginner.
This would be an hour split over 4 days of 15 minutes of practice. A good idea would be to spend 5 minutes of each of those practice sessions doing the chord changes and one of those minutes should be timed. Below is a good way of learning these songs.
|Practice Em Chord*||2 mins|
|Practice A Chord*||2 mins|
|One minute Chord Changes (Record how many you do)**||1 minute|
|Practice The Song||10 Minutes|
|Total Practice A Day||15 Minutes|
|Total Practice For 4 Days||1 Hour|
*When playing each chord for the 2 minute period, each chord should be reformed so that your fingers get used to creating the position and so that you start to build muscle memory.
**The one-minute chord changes above I have taken from Justin Guitar’s Beginner Course and they are an excellent way of practicing any chord and changes between them. By recording how many you do each time you play you can measure your progress and this helps you keep motivated.
Once you have completed this hour you will likely be able to play the first song. This will be to a point where you can play along to the song Andy is showing you and it sounds ok to your ear. To get it to a point where it sounds perfect will take a lot longer than this but my advice would be to move on once you have the song sounding a bit better than ‘ok’.
The reason I say this is so that you keep motivated and also because learning and improving on guitar is a compounding effect. Every little bit you learn piles on top of the last bit and over time you make progress over many different aspects of playing guitar.
For example, you may learn 5 of these songs above but find that some sound better than others even though they all have only two chords. Why is this? Well, for example, it could be because you are likely playing songs with a different bpm (beats per minute) and this means your timing needs to be matched to the songs. One that has a lower bpm will be easier to match (in many cases) when first learning but by learning songs with different bpm’s and timings then you will also improve the way that you change between the two chords often without realizing.
Once you have learned the first song then after this you may find the others a little quicker to learn because you are able to form the two chords and will not be learning them from scratch. From my experience, it takes 2 to 3 practice sessions of 15 minutes, so a total of 30 to 40 minutes to learn a song with 2 chords when you first start.
These numbers will be different for many and learning guitar is no race it is all about the journey. The key is to enjoy the time you spend learning it and this for me is done by focusing on the areas of weakness and making them a strength.
All Songs Vary In The Time They Take To Learn
The complexities of a song will dictate how long it takes to learn them, it is simple as that.
The example I gave above was for simple songs and once you have learned the two chords in the first song then learning the others in that list of ten will be a lot quicker.
But what about more complex songs? Well in my experience when there are new techniques to learn it can take a lot longer and you can’t really put a set time on it.
For example, when I started to learn the simple blues shuffle in the video excerpt below, it took me two weeks to get it sounding consistent. Which felt like a long time at that point in my learning because most of the songs I was learning prior to that had techniques that my fingers quickly got comfortable with.
As another example, the hardest song I have been learning to date, I still haven’t completed all the way through. Admittedly I have been learning it intermittently over the last 6 months but there are SO many new techniques for me to learn and the bpm of the song is high that it has proved difficult to learn.
I keep coming back to it, but here is a quick excerpt of where I got to when I last recorded it for YouTube, the song is Anji by Davy Graham and was covered by many including Simon and Garfunkel. This was the song from the book Guitar Man (well worth a read if you are just starting to learn guitar, click the link to read my quick review) that inspired me to learn to play guitar and record my progress on YouTube and here on my blog.
The song includes an independent bass line with the thumb, hammers on’s, pull-offs, bends, difficult finger stretches, movement across the fretboard and a bpm of 166 beats per minute. Not easy! which is why it is my ‘Project Song’ i.e. one that is taking a long time to learn.
The point I am trying to make if it isn’t clear is that there is no exact amount of time to learn any song.
However, what I can categorically say after my time learning is that the more techniques and theory you learn, the quicker it will take you to learn a song. This goes back to the compounding effect I mentioned earlier where each new skill learned layers on top of the previous. You are building a range of transferable abilities when learning a song that has new elements and this can help you tackle increasingly complex songs.
What you don’t want to do though, is try and tackle an extremely complex song when you have little ability unless you have excellent discipline. This is because it can be extremely frustrating when learning to play and by learning a song that is way above your current ability it can destroy your habit.
There is a reason so many people quit learning guitar in the first 6 months to a year of learning guitar and one of the major reasons is not knowing what to learn or finding the whole thing too frustrating. Fortunately, I know exactly how this feels and have worked through this feeling many times now. Because of this, I have created 11 sure-fire tips to help you deal with guitar learning frustration, check them out here 11 Tips To Beat Guitar Learning Frustration
So is there any way you can learn songs faster and avoid this frustration? Let’s get into that now.
How Can I Learn Songs Faster?
The two best and most effective tips I have learned that I can pass on is to practice areas of the song that you are weakest and also to follow a structured form of learning.
I previously touched on practicing the area of the song you are weakest on. This is extremely effective in correcting any mistakes and speeding up your learning. If it is an introduction, verse or chorus for example then concentrate on it. It may only be a bar but whatever it is, focus on it, practice it and get it 100% accurate even if it feels like it is taking you a long time to do so (in the scheme of things it won’t be if you do this). Then once you have it accurate then you can speed up slowly using a metronome for example and then practice the transition to it and away from it.
Before long you will have eliminated that issue and sped up the learning of that song. Too often we play the part of a song that we know, that we can play well and avoid the part that we struggle with and then rinse and repeat this without making any real progress.
I also have an article on other guitar tips for older beginners here 14 Guitar Tips For Older Beginners. I dive in and explain how to make learning and playing the guitar easier and more effective. Essential reading for the beginner.
A structured form of learning will help build your all-round skills, techniques, and abilities when it comes to learning guitar. By learning these techniques it makes it so much easier to tackle songs that may have these elements within them.
The beauty of learning through the free Justin Guitar Beginner course was that at every stage there is a great number of songs to accompany it. This means that you can put the things you have learned straight into practice. It means that you can learn those songs faster.
If you are wanting to learn guitar it is the best way to get a solid foundation and achieve some great success. Justin provides so much value and asks for absolutely nothing in return, he is one of the heroes of the online guitar world.
I bought two of his guitar songbooks whilst working through the course because I believe in the good karma he is putting out there and wanted to pay it back. However, the truth is that the course doesn’t cost you anything and he is even currently in the process of updating it.
You can get access to both the ‘classic version’ which I learned through and the new course here Justin Guitar Beginner Course
How Often Should A Beginner Practice Guitar?
Regular, consistent and focused practice can expedite the learning process but exactly how often should a beginner practice?
I have written an entire post on this to make sure you are covered when learning and looking to be the most efficient with the time that you have. As a Dad with a full-time job and two young daughters, no local family support and not living in my native country I know exactly what time-poor feels like.
To give you the quick answer, you should practice a minimum of 15 minutes a day at least 5 days of the week. However, if you want to see some decent progress then I would recommend 1 hour a day for 4 to 5 days a week.
This is exactly what I did and while I am no virtuoso, I did make some quite rapid progress. Below is my progress after 5 months of playing guitar. If you are not aware, I have been recording my guitar progress from the start all on YouTube for my own records and to help and inspire those of use learning later in life.
So if you are learning as an adult then it would be great to have you along on the guitar journey, so please hit the subscribe button and notification bell. I release journey videos once a month currently and will be doing a lot more tips and reviews as time goes on.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar? The 6 Stages
Before I started on my guitar journey I did a lot of research about how long it would take to learn guitar and if I could really get any good starting as an adult later in life. In fact, I probably spent time doing that when I shouldn’t have but hey I needed to be sure about what my chances were.
The short answer is yes, of course, you can learn later in life and get good at playing guitar and I was able to split the time down into 6 stages. I go into full detail on those stages in my post here How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar? The 6 Stages Explained. It’s a great read if you want to get some perspective if you are learning guitar and particularly later in life.
This article was posted before I started learning and because I have been tracking my time learning and recording my progress on YouTube I have been able to measure myself against it.
Within that post, the first stage is called ‘The Basics’ which takes you from knowing absolutely zero to being able to play a handful of songs all the way through. I had established a figure of 150 to 300 hours.
When I recorded my own progress against this I found that I had completed the Justin Guitar Beginner course in 5 months and it totaled approximately 130 hours with a possible another 20 hours spent watching guitar-related ‘stuff’, YouTube, blog articles, etc. The Justin Guitar Beginner course has a consolidation phase where you have to be able to play through 10 songs in their entirety in order to pass the final stage.
So I had managed to complete the first stage ‘The Basics’ at or just under the originally stated amount. I was astonished to see that I had actually achieved it all earlier than projected and also surprised to see that my projection in the number of hours was accurate.
This isn’t rigged by the way haha, I published the original article on the 28th February 2019 and started recording my first week of progress in the last week of April 2019.
That final accomplishment you can see in the video above in my 5 months progress log.
Here is an infographic that I created that will help explain the hours with a brief description of what you can expect to have achieved by the end of each stage.
Oh and if you want to know why you are better off learning guitar later in life than when you were a child then read my post 17 Reasons Why You’re Never Too Old To Learn Guitar. People often think they are worse off when learning a guitar later in life but I have some truths to set you straight and make sure you realize that there are plenty of strengths that you bring to the table with more years on the clock which will help your guitar learning be more successful.