Great question! You’re beginning with the end in mind!
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with your question.
It is absolutely normal to want to foresee the road to success.
If you know how long it will take to play the guitar well, you can adjust your expectations accordingly.
I think it’s a wonderful question, and I think you have the right to know.
Unfortunately, it is not always a straightforward question to answer well.
I will do my best to help you in this article and to motivate you to keep going for it!
So that you can become the guitarist that you’ve always wanted to be!
You see, I truly believe that inspiration and motivation is paramount.
When you are motivated to succeed, practise simply becomes effortless.
Once you have a clear blueprint towards successful guitar playing then you will be willing to take MASSIVE action!
Even in the best military schools in the world, soldiers are all always lifted up (mentally) so they can perform at their best.
In it my intention to inspire you to go for your boldest goals and beyond in this article!
It all depends on what you call ‘play the guitar well’!
It is true – it depends on what you call “playing the guitar well”.
If playing the guitar well means strumming some chords around a campfire and singing songs, then you should be able to achieve that within a year.
If however you would like to play on the level of Yngwie Malmsteen or Shawn Lane, you’re going to have to do a LOT more work.
Also, keep in mind that different guitar styles require different skills.
If you would like to become a virtuoso metal guitarist – you will inevitably have to work a lot on your picking hand technique. (As well as your left of course)
If you want to play the blues well, you probably do not need to spend as much time on speed picking as you need to speed on getting the right emotion and tonal qualities.
Should you want to learn how to play jazz – you will need to understand the theory behind improvisation and understand how to superimpose chords, scales and arpeggios across the neck.
In addition, you will need to be able to play through chord changes and understand structure and comping!
If you want to learn how to do sweep picking properly – you have to work a lot on your right and left-hand synchronisation and timing.
There are a 1000 ways to play the guitar – and nobody has all the answers…
The point is you need to do the best that you can do!
You need to spend time learning and becoming YOUR best.
So to sum it up it depends on what you call “play the guitar well”.
Let’s for the purpose of this article say that playing the guitar well would be for someone to play at a very proficient level and able to improvise with other musicians in a professional studio setting.
The ‘three to five’ year theory
This is my own proprietary theory.
In my opinion, if you spent 3 to 5 years with a great practice routine without compromise you will definitely become a proficient guitarist.
Of course, I am generalising as we all have different abilities.
You may very well develop faster than your peers.
The point is though – that if you practice for 3 to 5 years for an hour a day without compromise you will make tremendous progress.
The most important keyword here is consistency.
By being consistent you will achieve so much more than others who are not consistent.
The three to five-year theory can help you structure a SOLID practise plan with goals along the way.
Most enthusiastic beginners without a solid foundation could start to fade away after a year and a half.
That is if they are not truly serious about playing.
If you have achieved the three-year mark – then you’re well on your way to achieving success.
There is a caveat in this:
You need OUTSTANDING guitar instruction to help you become great in such a short space of time.
If you spend 3 to 5 years teaching yourself how to play the guitar without any proper instruction and you only practice on an occasional basis, then I doubt you will become a proficient musician during that time.
A great instructor can help you get there so much quicker and that is why it is always important to get proper mentorship.
The ‘10,000 hours’ theory
Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ has brought the 10,000 hours theory to the masses.
Today it is the accepted fact that 10,000 hours is the benchmark for anyone to become an expert.
I would say the 10,000 hours is a tremendous amount of hours.
However if you want to become proficient, I believe that you can achieve that with only 3000 hours.
3000 Hours works out at about 20 hours a week for three years if you include holidays.
That comes back to my 3 to 5 years theory.
All things being fair, you need to practice with passion and enthusiasm and you need to practice with diligence.
Each hour needs to be spent with vigour otherwise you will not get the results you hope for!
If you spent 10,000 hours strumming an E major chord, I doubt you’ll be able to play a jazz standard.
That is why it is vital that you get proper instruction help you maximise the hours that you spent.
So go for it, but do not get too bogged down with the 10,000-hour theory.
Yes, once again if you want to become a virtuoso guitarist – I would say 10,000 hours will only lay the foundation.
It will probably take 30,000 hours+…
Yes – it’s not cheap! (BUT Worth it!)
Do you want to become a pro guitarist or a world-class guitarist?
I always believe in starting with the end in mind.
If you have a set goal and a plan, then you can work towards that plan in an intelligent manner.
Someone wants to become a professional guitarist or a semi-professional guitarist do not need to put in the same amount of time and effort as someone who wants to become a TRUE world-class guitarist. (Think Pat Martino)
At the upper echelon of guitarism, a tremendous amount of effort needs to be made! (It’s the same in the world of golf, investing, trading, business and even dentistry!)
If you are prepared to put in the effort – then you can join a small group of ELITE world-class guitarist.
Whatever your goals are – you can achieve them, but it will require tremendous amount of work and EXCELLENT input!
The great news is – you can actually do it.
Just get started and you will see how fast you get there!
Do you get world-class tuition on a weekly basis?
Did you know that if there was one secret to getting to your goal of playing the guitar well faster, it is getting outstanding mentorship as soon as possible.
Starting with a great guitar coach WILL give you a head start in to become a successful guitarist.
You can get there so much quicker than studying by yourself.
History has proven this fact:
- Kirk Hammet studied with Satriani.
- Franz Liszt studied with Czerny.
- Mozart studied DAILY as a boy with his father Leopold. (He was an EXCELLENT musician)
Make sure you are part of the small group of individuals which truly excel in their guitar journey.
Make sure you study with a world-class guitar coach on a weekly basis.
A great guitar mentor can help you develop excellent habits, outstanding guitar tone and a great musical mind.
Winners of international guitar competitions all have the best coaches at their side.
If you look outside of music to sport, you will find that the best golfers have the best coaches.
Tiger Woods even re-learned his entire style in order to become the best of the best.
Where ON EARTH did he find the inspiration?
Of course the power comes from within – but the POWER also comes from an excellent coach who can motivate you and inspire you to greatness!
If you want to find out about what I offer in terms of guitar coaching – please visit my online guitar lessons page.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you get excellent quality guitar tuition.
Also – DO NOT study with multiple guitar teachers at the same time.
You need to stick to one coach and work with him or her to become the best that you can be.
You can have multiple instructors for different styles of course, but stick to one PRIMARY instructor and learn EVERYTHING that you can from him or her!
Make sure that you follow this point as you will make your journey SO much quicker!
The importance of being part of the 3% of adults with clear, written, concise and time-bound goals
I love Brian Tracy.
Brian Tracy is the world’s leading authority on setting goals and managing time!
According to Brian Tracy, only 3% of adults have clear, written, concise and time-bound goals!
Now this would not matter, except for the fact that the 3% achieves TEN TIMES MORE than the adults without goals…
Therefore, it is imperative that you have clear, written, concise TIME-BOUND goals to move you forward in your guitar journey.
EXAMPLES OF SUCH GOALS:
- Learn all minor triads across the neck on String Group 234 by the 27 of March. (Or any other date)
- Master the fast bits of Metallica’s ‘One’solo by the 14th of April. (Or any other date)
- Practice bending and playing a vibrato at the same time and become proficient at this by the 16th of June. (Or any other date)
- Perform my first ‘SERIOUS’ live gig on the 10th of November. (Or any other date)
The point is, you need to be specific in your goals.
Your goals need to be written down and concise.
They need to be time-bound.
If you have a goal such as “I want to learn how to play the guitar fast”, then don’t expect it to materialise any time soon.
It’s much better to have the following goal: “I want to learn how to play sixteenth notes by the 1st of December at 165 BPM”.
Of course, you need a plan to then support that plan.
Having the goal itself is not enough – you also need to have a daily goal in order to achieve the bigger goal.
So it is vital that you have clear, written and concise goals.
It is vital that you have a TIMELINE for it to be completed by.
If you do this, you’ll be part of the 3% who achieve 10 times more than all the others!
Love your guitar teacher, follow his or her advice, BUT question everything!
When you study with your guitar teacher, follow his or her advice absolutely.
Be the best student that you can be.
Come back every week and complete the work that they have asked you to do.
Basically – be a dream student!
Having said this, you should also question everything. (Inside of your mind)
Never question them personally in a disrespectful way.
What I mean with question everything is the following:
If your teacher tells you that you cannot play jazz and rock guitar at the same time and that you need to choose between the two styles, do not take that as a fact.
That is their (false) opinion.
If you want to play both styles you can most certainly learn how to play both sides.
You do not need to argue with your teacher, but simply proceed and do both styles. (Do not necessarily share this with them)
If your teacher tells you that you’ll never be able to play at the speed of Shawn Lane, once again you cannot take that as a fact.
You need to question why not!
Once again, be very polite and do not say anything, but in your free time go for it and reach the stars.
You see I have a theory on this.
A lot of teachers are not able to play at the highest level of musicianship themselves.
The teacher will then reflect his or her ability as the ultimate level that you can reach.
Remember that your teacher may not necessarily be a visionary.
Your teacher may be a wonderful teacher, but he or she may not have your mindset.
Therefore – it is imperative that you believe in yourself and go for the stars.
Of course, if your teacher is constantly belittling your abilities I would STRONGLY suggest you change your teacher.
Unfortunately, 99.99% of guitar teachers do not have the faith and gumption required to go to the highest level.
There are only a very small number of guitar instructors who will push you to the max of your ability and beyond. (YES, THEY ARE A RARE BREED!)
I suggest you search them out.
At the same time, always show the greatest respect for your teacher.
Remember that they have invested a tremendous amount of time, money and resources into getting to know music well.
If you ever change your teacher, do it in a very polite manner and give them proper and ample notice.
Treat others as you want yourself to be treated.
But at the same token if your teacher cannot get you where you want to go – there is nothing wrong in changing.
Nobody sees things in the same way.
That is exactly why we have many different ways of seeing the same thing!
Think about soloing over jazz chord changes and the methods that can be used… or sweep picking or FAST picking…. NO ONE has the absolute truth…!
Some think they do.
Make sure that your teacher suits your unique personality!
Make sure your teacher is a believer in YOU!
Being enthusiastic without a solid foundation is the road to failure
You cannot build a house without first laying the foundation.
Laying the foundation is often a heavy investment requires lots of time and tremendous effort.
In my private guitar studio, I have encountered numerous cases of students who start out very enthusiastic.
I was obviously very impressed with their enthusiasm and excited to work with them to help them achieve the goals.
Unfortunately, after a year passed, their enthusiasm seemed to wane.
The issue was, they did not want to do the foundational work.
They were not prepared to do the groundwork in order to go to higher things. (Faithful over little… faithful over much!)
They simply got fed up when it came to doing the exercises necessary to achieve excellence.
That’s why want to warn you about being enthusiastic about playing the guitar without a solid foundation.
Yes, be enthusiastic – it will certainly help you to get to your guitar goals much quicker.
But DO NOT NEGLECT the groundwork – the boring picking exercises or scales.
And when I use the term ‘boring’ – I do not really mean ‘boring’.
You see the foundational work should never be seen as boring.
The foundational work should be seen as a lot of fun.
Each part of your guitar journey has a different flavour.
That is exactly why you need to enjoy the foundational work.
If you’re able to lay a solid foundation for the first three years of your guitar playing, then you can enjoy tremendous fruit for years and years and years to come.
So make sure that you are enthusiastic about doing the little thing.
Make sure that you are faithful and continue to be faithful.
The faithful will always be rewarded.
The one who continues, will be the one wins the war.
Have a solid practice routine and stick to it!
To help you achieve your goal of becoming a top-notch guitarist, you need to stick to a solid practice routine.
If you want to be one of the guitarists who achieve proficiency within 3 to 5 years, then a solid practice routine is simply a must.
Without a solid practice routine, it will take you much longer.
In order to develop a solid practice routine, please view my article on how to practice the guitar effectively.
Practising, goal setting and planning is a MAJOR PART of shortening the length it takes to learn how to play the guitar.
So right from the word go, create a proper practice plan and stick to it.
You will be pleasantly surprised to see how quick you develop and move ahead with a solid system.
Nothing will beat that!
Spend time in some of the most beautiful locations on earth: have fun out every six months
As learning how to play the guitar is a journey, I recommend taking some time out every six months.
I actually recommend not playing the guitar for a week or two. (If you practise more than 2 hours a day)
Now you may think that a week or two weeks of no practice is far too long, but if you practice diligently 48 weeks a year with the schedule and no compromise, I guarantee you that a two-week holiday without a guitar will actually help you achieve more.
You do not need to practice 52 weeks a year.
It’s far better to practice 48 weeks and have some time out.
I recommend going to a beautiful location where you can refresh your batteries and get started again.
Be proactive – participate in seminars and events and play with others
It’s a proven fact that the top of the top always study with the best and participate in seminars and events.
If you want to be part of the elite group of guitarists who play the guitar exceptionally well, then you need to attend seminars and events.
The price you may pay for a weekend guitar seminar in comparison to the reward you will get will be insignificant.
You see, seminars are amazing as they will motivate you to go SO MUCH further.
They will motivate you to go to the highest levels!
You will also have the opportunity to play with others in a formidable setting.
Each and every year I host a guitar seminar dedicated to you as a guitarist.
Contact me to find out more if you are interested.
So be proactive – you will get so much better if you are.
I cannot emphasise this enough. The more knowledge you acquire that can be applied to your guitar playing, the greater you will become and the better you will play.
Don’t be mediocre.
Decide exactly what you want for your guitar playing. Set goals for your playing and stick to them.
Be part of the 3% of guitarists who change the landscape of guitar playing.
Even if you only play guitar for your own pleasure, be part of the 3% of adults who play at an EXTREMELY proficient level.
Decide to throw your entire being into learning.
Be part of those who will do whatever it takes to become excellent.
Keep knocking on the door will eventually open
“Knock and the door will be opened to you” – Mat 7:7
There is a principle that applies to all endeavours.
Success comes to those who persist.
Success comes to those never give up!
Success comes to those who keep on knocking – even in the face of adverse circumstances.
It’s those who keep knocking (when the going gets tough) that get the goods.
So it is absolutely imperative that in your guitar journey, you keep on going no matter what!
You need to keep on knocking on the door of the mystery of ‘how to play guitar fast’.
Remember, a teacher can only help you so far – it is the knocking that actually does the work.
It is the daily habits of quality guitar practice that will take you to the stars and beyond.
By doing the same thing each and every day, you ensure that you become a great guitarist in the future.
Therefore – knock and knock, knock and knock again – until the door breaks down.
NEVER NEVER NEVER give up – that’s how you are going to become a great guitarist!
Advice from a master pianist – Dinu Lipatti: Time doesn’t respect that which have been done without it!
The Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti has stated that time does not respect that which has been done without it.
Therefore, the question of ‘how long does it take to play the guitar well’ is in itself perhaps not the wisest of questions.
The answer to the question would be – Time does not respect that which has been done without it.
In order to become an excellent guitarist, you have to put in the time and effort.
Yes, even if you practice 10 hours a day you can achieve a certain level within 5 years, but true mastery will only come after many, many, many years.
It is with MASSIVE time and effort that you will achieve your goals.
Along with believing.
So take that advice to heart – and stop being frustrated about how long it takes to play guitar.
Rather focus on enjoying the process.
When you open your eyes again, you will have done another part of the journey and get so much closer to your goal of playing the guitar well!
You are a genius and have the ability of 100 lifetimes within!
According to Brian Tracy, you have inside of you more potential than you can use up in 100 lifetimes.
It is absolutely essential that you understand the power of YOU!
You may not believe in yourself just yet, but I guarantee you that you have more power within than you realise.
All your goals can be achieved.
Within your brain, you have the capacity of 100 lifetimes and more.
You need to bring out the GENIUS within!
Sometimes it’s a matter of getting help from a mentor to extract your unique genius.
The most important thing to remember is that you have the ability within yourself.
That is why it is essential that you surround yourself with positive forward-going people and material such as this material to help you believe in yourself.
Do not hang out with people who are negative.
Spend time with people who are believers.
Spend time with people who believe that the impossible is possible.
Your life is a gift – use the power within.
Just do it
After all is said and done, it is the doing that will actually bring results.
So just do.
Take your guitar and practice.
Spend time every day and do the exercises necessary to achieve great success.
- Be willing to put in the extra hours required to achieve your goals.
- Be willing to go the extra mile.
- Be willing to play with others.
- Be willing to participate in seminars and workshops in order to become a better guitarist.
- Be willing to spend money on excellent education and mentorship in order for you to become the best.
- Be willing to shoot for the stars and land beyond them!
- Be willing to be the best that you can be.
None of this will mean anything unless you just do it.
So go out and just do it!