If you’re thinking about learning guitar, it can be a hard decision whether to start or not. Learning a musical instrument like guitar takes a lot of time and effort.
In this guide, I will answer the most common questions people have about what it is like to learn guitar, benefits of learning guitar, and other common questions to help you make a decision.
There is a lot of conflicting (and bad) advice online about learning guitar, so this guide will try to answer as many questions you may have as possible.
Once you have decided to learn guitar, find out the 8 Steps to Learn Guitar here. The guide contains lessons and everything you need to know to go from knowing nothing to playing your first full song.
Should I Learn Guitar?
You should learn guitar if you have an interest in guitar. If you listen to music that uses guitar and you ever imagine yourself playing those songs, that’s a good sign you should learn to play guitar.
Being interested in guitar-based music is the strongest sign that you might enjoy learning guitar.
If you don’t listen to guitar-based music, what would you play if you learned guitar? How motivated would you be to keep practicing if you don’t really like guitar-based music?
There are other reasons you may want to learn guitar (as covered in the other answers), but being interested in guitar-based music is the first thing to consider.
What are the Benefits of Learning Guitar?
Here are some of the benefits of learning guitar:
- Improves co-ordination. Everybody sucks at guitar at first. But with practice, you develop a very strong co-ordination between your hands. This co-ordination carries over to other areas of your life
- Enhances concentration. Learning to play guitar requires a lot of concentration. Every time you sit down to practice, your concentration abilities will slightly improve. This is why school children who learn guitar see improved scores in other subjects. Their concentration improves for everything – not just guitar
- Keeps your mind sharp. Whether you’re a child, teenager, adult, or older person, learning guitar will help improve mental clarity and keep your mind sharp. You may not notice any change at first, but your mental sharpness will gradually improve the more you practice guitar
- It’s fun. Being able to pick up your guitar at the end of a stressful day and enjoy playing music is a massive benefit. Jamming with your friends, giving a performance, or writing your own music are all incredibly rewarding experiences
- Deeper appreciation of music. If you enjoy listening to music, learning to play guitar gives you a seriously deeper understanding and appreciation of music. Your ears will start noticing more details in the songs you enjoy
There are many more benefits you can enjoy when learning guitar, but the above benefits give you a general idea of what is possible.
The reason so many people stick to learning and playing guitar for their entire lives (I’m one of those people) is because it is such a rewarding hobby.
What are the Disadvantages of Learning Guitar?
While the benefits of learning guitar are really worth considering, there are some disadvantages to consider.
Here are the main disadvantages of learning and playing guitar:
- Everybody sucks in the beginning. Nobody picks up the guitar for the first time and is amazing. It takes time and effort before you start to sound good. This can be frustrating and you need to put in a lot of hours of practice to overcome this stage
- Growing pains. When you first start learning guitar, your fingers and hands may start to hurt. You’ll be using muscles you’ve never used before and pressing your fingers down quite hard. The good news is that these pains go away. But it still sucks
- Time commitment. To become a good guitarist, you need to practice a lot. If you’re a busy person and can’t free up thirty minutes per day for practice, then learning guitar may be an issue for you
- GAS. A lot of guitarists suffer from GAS: Gear Acquisition Syndrome. There are so many different guitars, pedals, amps, and gear you can buy as a guitarist. While it’s great to be able to buy a new effect pedal and use it to create new and interesting sounds on your guitar, this gear does cost money and take up space.
Most of the disadvantages of learning guitar come at the very beginning. It’s important to keep in mind that the growing pains and frustration you feel are temporary.
The more you practice and keep pushing yourself, the sooner these disadvantages disappear and you can start to really enjoy playing guitar.
How Hard is it to Learn Guitar?
Guitar is hard to learn in the beginning, but gets easier the longer you stick with it. The more you practice, the easier guitar will feel to play.
This is why most people who quit guitar do so in the very beginning. Learning guitar feels hard at first. so they mistakenly think that they’re not good enough to learn guitar. But if they were to keep practicing, they would have overcome this difficult stage.
The key to remember is that guitar is only hard in the beginning. The longer you stick with it and the more you practice, the easier it gets.
If you want to learn guitar, make the commitment to push past the difficult early stage. If you can get through the first six months’ worth of practice, you’ll notice it becomes easier.
Is Learning Guitar Good For Your Brain?
Learning guitar is very good for your brain. Learning anything new helps your brain discover new ways of thinking. There are so many different skills and concepts to learn on guitar, so your brain has a lot of great opportunities to grow.
The good news is that all of these benefits from learning guitar carry over to other areas of your life. Learning guitar doesn’t just make you good at guitar, it helps you think clearer in other areas of your life.
A great example is when school children learn guitar. It is very common for school scores to rise in other areas such as Mathematics after learning guitar.
Many studies have concluded that learning a musical instrument can have a significant positive impact on a child’s development. But similar benefits are available for teenagers, adults, or older people.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar?
How long it takes to learn guitar depends on what you want to play. Learning simple strumming songs can take a few months, while learning complicated solos and riffs may take years.
This is an important topic to understand, so I’ve written an entire guide about it here.
If you are worried about how long it might take to learn guitar, read through that guide. It includes examples of different scenarios so you can get a realistic idea of how long it might take you to learn guitar.
Is Guitar or Piano Harder to Learn?
In some ways, guitar is harder than piano to learn. In other ways, piano is harder than guitar to learn. The two instruments are completely different in how you play them, so it is difficult to compare them.
I’ve seen long articles written about this topic before, but the important point to keep in mind is that this is the wrong question to ask.
If you’re trying to decide whether to learn guitar or piano, don’t ask which one is harder to learn. Instead, ask yourself which one you’re really interested in learning.
Assume that both will be equally hard to learn and both will require the same time commitment for practice. Now think to yourself which one you are willing to put the effort in to learning and stick with.
If you’re trying to decide between any two musical instruments, don’t try to figure out which one is easier to learn. You’ll end up quitting. Instead, look for the instrument that interests you the most.
Is Musical Talent Inherited or Learned?
Despite popular belief, music talent is a skill that you can learn with practice and effort. While some people may develop this skill faster than others, everybody can learn a musical instrument with enough practice.
People who never commit to learning a guitar because they think they’re “tone deaf” or that they don’t have the talent are missing out.
As a guitar teacher, I have never seen any evidence of inherited talent in the last 15 years of teaching. My students who work hard and regularly practice improve. My students who don’t practice, don’t improve. It’s as simple as that.
Whenever you hear somebody say “I tried learning guitar, but I didn’t have the talent for it and I quit”, those people didn’t quit because of a lack of talent. They quit because they weren’t willing to push through the initial hard stage of learning guitar.
If you really want to learn guitar, make the commitment to push past the initial stage when guitar feels almost impossible to learn. Once you get past that stage, you’ll realize that inherited talent is a myth. Practice is what creates talent.
Should I Learn to Play Acoustic or Electric Guitar First?
The type of guitar you should learn on should match the type of music you want to play. If you want to play music meant for electric guitar, you should learn on an electric guitar. If you want to play music meant for acoustic guitar, you should learn on an acoustic guitar.
The advice that some guitar teachers give to start on one type of guitar because it’s easier on the fingers and move to your preferrred type later on is terrible advice.
If you really want to rip into some heavy metal with a cranked amp, would you really want to start learning on a classical guitar that you can’t even plug into an amp? Of course not.
Find out about the different types of guitars here and what they’re like to play. Pictures and explanations are given for each type of guitar to let you know whether they’re suitable for beginners to learn on.
Can You Teach Yourself Guitar?
Yes, you can teach yourself guitar. There are many great online resources that will help you learn guitar on your own. While it may be harder to learn guitar without a guitar teacher to guide you, you can definitely teach yourself.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning on teaching yourself to play guitar:
Quality of learning resources. There are a lot of websites and YouTube channels dedicated to teaching you how to play guitar. Unfortunately, they’re not all good.
Some sites and videos will do a great job at teaching you different skills and concepts. Others will do a bad job and leave you with bad habits or a wrong understanding of topics.
Self-discipline. Without a guitar teacher to guide you and motivate you, you’re on your own. That means you need to have the discipline to regularly practice. Even if something is boring or hard to learn, you need to push yourself to do it.
It takes longer. Teaching yourself guitar takes longer than having a teacher. A guitar teacher can quickly work out a step-by-step plan on what to practice to help you reach your goals.
When you’re on your own, you need to figure it all out by yourself. That means it takes longer to learn guitar when you teach yourself. If you’re not willing to deal with a longer period of being a beginner, get some guitar lessons with a teacher to start you out.
The good news is that if you have discipline and use the right resources, you can become a great self-taught guitarists.
Many of the guides and lessons on this website are written for self-taught guitarists. If you find the guides and lessons on this website helpful, subscribe to updates here.
Does Playing Guitar Make You Smarter?
Studies have found that learning a musical instrument does make you smarter. The cognitive skills you can develop while learning guitar will benefit other areas of your life.
The reason playing guitar makes you smarter is thanks to what is known as brain plasticity. This study explains how learning a musical instrument positively impacts brain plasticity.
The plain English version is that when you learn guitar, your brain learns new ways of thinking about problems and identifying patterns. While these new ways of thinking were created by learning to play songs on guitar, they are useful in other areas of life.
This doesn’t mean that everybody you meet who plays a musical instrument will be super-smart, it does mean that learning to play an instrument can give your IQ a slight bump and help you with other areas of your life.
What is the First Thing To Learn When Playing Guitar?
The first thing to learn when playing guitar is how to correctly hold the guitar and play single notes. Learning to play single notes correctly will set you up for all the other skills you might want to learn.
Learning to play a single note is a skill you should work on before you consider learning chords or riffs. You can’t play a chord until you can play one note, so when you first start learning guitar, focus on playing single notes as cleanly as possible.
The finger exercises in this lesson are a perfect starting point for anybody learning guitar.
Start with the easiest finger exercises and use them to practice playing single notes. Once you can play single notes with ease, you can move on to other skills such as chords.
How Many Guitar Chords Are There?
There are countless chords you can play on guitar. While this might sound intimidating, most music only uses a narrow range of possible chords.
As a beginner, learning five to ten chords is more than enough to be able to play countless songs.
As you develop as a guitarist, you will learn more chords. But don’t worry about learning a lot of chords in the beginning. Start off by learning some basic open chords and practice using them.
Check out this lesson for easy chord-based songs for some easy chords and strumming patterns you can learn.
Have a Question About Learning Guitar?
The above questions and answers should give you a good idea of what it’s like to learn guitar and why you might want to consider it.
If you have a question about learning guitar not covered above, ask it here.
When you’re ready to start learning guitar, check out these useful guides:
- Ultimate Guide to Guitar Sizes: this guide will help you find the right size guitar for you
- Ultimate Guide to Types of Guitars: find the right type of guitar for you
- How to Learn Guitar: 8 steps to go from knowing nothing to playing a full song
- How to Read Guitar TAB: once you learn the basics of Guitar TAB, you’ll be able to learn countless songs
- 14 Easy Guitar Riffs to Learn: learn some fun-to-play and easy guitar riffs