The future of music

Is Guitar Hard to Learn? Honest Answer

July 21, 2023
Is guitar hard to learn

You’ve surely heard that learning guitar takes a lot of time and effort. 

And you’ve probably heard that with the right approach, the guitar is not that difficult to learn.

So, which is it? 

Is guitar hard to learn? 

Let us give you an honest answer. 

How Hard Is It to Learn Guitar?

Just like any other instrument, learning guitar is hard. But it’s hard in a way that learning guitar requires time, focus, dedication, and practice. From that perspective, learning any new skill can be viewed as difficult. 

Also, the difficulty of learning how to play guitar depends on several factors. For instance, it depends on your previous experience. If you played the piano as a kid, you’ll surely pick up the guitar more easily than someone who has never played an instrument. 

It also depends on how you approach your guitar learning – the quality of your learning source, the amount of time you invest in guitar practice, and so on.

So, the burning question “is playing the guitar hard” doesn’t have a simple answer.

However, if we take into account the most important factors, it’s possible to find an answer. And one of the ways to do this is to take a look at the most common reasons why learning to play guitar can be so hard. 

guitar on the sofa

Challenges of Learning Guitar 

There are several reasons why many people consider learning how to play guitar quite difficult.

1. Note Layout 

One of the challenges guitar beginners usually deal with is a complex note layout.

The thing is, the guitar might look confusing at first. And it will take you some time to adjust to its numbering systems.

For instance, the string closest to the floor (the thinnest string) is the first string. Beginners usually think it’s the opposite. So the thickest string is actually the 6th string. 

Besides string numbers, you also need to memorize guitar notes. In standard tuning, from low to high, the guitar string notes are E, A, D, G, B, E. The 6th string is tuned to E, and it’s usually called the low E string. 

guitar strings

Honestly, learning the notes on the fretboard is challenging. Whether you’ve played another instrument before or not, it will take you some time to get a hang of it.

To avoid difficulties memorizing all the notes on the fretboard, many guitar learners rely on learning chords. Many guitarists don’t even read music. 

So, do you have to learn how to read music to play guitar?

As we’ve just mentioned, many guitar players don’t bother to learn how to read guitar sheet music. They simply memorize chord positions and learn how to read chord charts and guitar tabs.

However, becoming familiar with standard notation is crucial if you want to reach advanced levels and become a complete musician.

After all, standard notation is the main language of music, and understanding it will ultimately help you become a better guitarist. 

Guitar sheet music is generally more complex than tabs and charts because there are more symbols for you to memorize. And although it has a reputation for being hard to learn, sheet music is also quite logical, and you’ll just need some time to get used to it. 

woman playing guitar

2. Difficult Techniques 

As a guitar beginner, you’ll have to learn how to read guitar tabs and/or guitar sheet music. You’ll also learn how to hold the guitar properly and how to strum.

During your first weeks of practice, you’ll also learn how to play your first chords. This will also introduce you to rhythm and basic strumming patterns.

Eventually, you’ll come across more challenging techniques and musical concepts. And that’s when most guitar students start to worry.

But if you take it to step by step, without skipping lessons, you’ll be able to tackle difficult guitar techniques as well. 

Some of the techniques you’ll have to master to learn how to play guitar include:

Playing open chords 

Open chords are not hard to play, but they are one of the first things you’ll have to master as a beginner. An open chord (an open-position chord) is a chord that includes one or more strings that are not fingered. 

Playing barre chords 

Barre chords are the opposite of open chords. They are movable chord shapes that you can play all over the guitar neck. They are challenging to play for beginners because they require you to press multiple strings at once with the same. 

Picking 

Picking means simply picking the notes in the chords you play separately rather than strumming them. It takes some time for every guitar learner to get used to it and do it seamlessly. 

Fingerpicking 

This technique involves playing the strings with the right hand’s fingertips. 

Hammer-ons 

Hammer-ons involve picking one note and then hammering a second finger down onto the same string to get a second note.

Muting 

Muting techniques are used to silence the vibration of the string. For example, the goal of palm muting is to silence the strings to create a rhythmic effect.

man playing electric guitar

3. Other Difficulties 

One of the difficulties of guitar practice is that it can be painful. In the beginning, strumming can cause your fingers to develop calluses. That said, don’t let sore and painful fingertips scare you. It’s not pleasant, but it’s very common.

But over time, you will build strength in your fingers. Until then, you’ll need to have shorter practice sessions or take short breaks while practicing. 

Developing muscle memory is another challenge every beginner must face. This is not actually a challenge though, but it’s something that takes time to build up.

At first, you won’t be able to play songs or practice chord changes effortlessly. But the more you practice, the more natural it will feel.

Benefits of Learning Guitar 

Besides guitar learning challenges and potential disadvantages, learning how to play guitar also comes with numerous benefits.

Guitar is convenient 

The guitar is a popular instrument to learn because it’s very convenient. Since it’s easily portable, you can travel with it or carry it around and play it at your friend’s house, on the beach, or on a picnic.

Learning guitar is popular 

The fact that the guitar is one of the most popular instruments to learn is a big advantage because that gives you many learning options.

Even if you live in a smaller town, there’s probably a guitar teacher in your area. Alternatively, there are many guitar teachers who offer online guitar lessons.

Moreover, there are numerous guitar tutorials, online programs, and learning apps you’ll have at your disposal.

Learning guitar comes with physical and physiological benefits 

Learning guitar also comes with numerous health benefits. Guitar playing can improve your memory, concentration, and hand-and-eye coordination. 

Playing guitar is also a great way to relieve stress and reduce anxiety levels, so it’s ultimately good for your mental health as well. 

guy playing guitar outside

At the end of the day, learning guitar might be a long process full of challenges, but it’s also very rewarding and ultimately worth the effort. 

And it’s true – if you approach your guitar learning process in the right way and find a good learning source, all challenges and obstacles will be negligible. 

The Best Way to Learn Guitar 

The only way to make your guitar learning journey easier is to find a learning source that fits your needs, goals, and learning habits.

There are many options to choose from nowadays – online guitar lessons, guitar learning apps, traditional lessons…

So how to find the right learning program for you?

First of all, you should think about your goals. Do you want to reach advanced levels? Or do you want to learn the basics and learn how to play your favorite tunes?

Online guitar programs and apps are ideal for people looking for a flexible and affordable way to learn guitar. Most programs and apps are designed to teach guitar in a quick and effective way.

That said, some of them don’t teach in-depth theory or advanced techniques, which can be a disadvantage for some people.

person playing guitar with piano

On the other hand, traditional in-person lessons usually have a well-structured curriculum and standard teaching methods. In-person guitar lessons also have the advantage of clear guidance and quality feedback, both of which are very important.

But it all comes down to your preferences. If you want to learn from home and have the freedom to choose your own learning material, we suggest checking out online guitar lessons

However, learning guitar online can also be a more challenging way to learn because it requires self-discipline and focus. 

With in-person lessons, you’ll have a teacher by your side, and they will be able to answer all of your questions and help you improve your weak spots. On the other hand, the traditional way of learning is a longer and less flexible option.

Regardless of what you choose, if you want your learning process to be smooth and effective, you need to establish a practice routine. 

How Much Practice Does Guitar Require?

One of the things that impact the difficulty of gaining guitar skills is the quality and frequency of your practice.

Ideally, you should practice at least 30 minutes each day. As you progress, you can prolong your sessions and practice for an hour.

However, try to avoid long and unbroken practice sessions of longer than one hour at a time. If you want to practice for longer than 20 minutes, split up your practice sessions by having short breaks. 

Either way, you need to practice regularly and consistently. It’s better to practice for 20 minutes a day than for 3 hours on a Sunday. 

And once you establish a guitar practice routine, everything will be much easier. 

black guitar in living room

What is the Best Age to Learn Guitar?

With strong motivation, regular practice, and good learning resources, learning how to play guitar doesn’t have to be difficult.

But does your age also affect how hard is it to learn guitar?

Well, both children and adult learners have their advantages.

As an adult, you’re used to having responsibilities and you know how to stick to your schedule. So taking guitar lessons and maintaining regular guitar practice won’t be so challenging for you. 

Also, adults usually have a strong motivation to learn something new, and inner motivation can be a deciding factor in whether you view something as difficult or not.

But kids are also great learners. Learning guitar can be challenging for young kids though, and many sources suggest that the best age to learn guitar is around age 7. 

Also, children who continue their practice as adults are more likely to become great guitar players.

Even if you don’t touch a guitar for a couple of months (and even years), if you learned how to play guitar in childhood, it will all come back to you very quickly – you’ll have it in your fingers.

guy playing the guitar

Is Guitar a Good First Instrument to Learn?

If you’re wondering if the guitar is a good first instrument to learn, the short answer is yes. 

Guitar lessons will introduce you to music theory, rhythm, dynamics, and many other elements important for learning other instruments. 

Playing guitar will also improve your finger dexterity, coordination, and strength. 

So if you decide to pick up another instrument in the future, it will be easier for you to learn it. 

Guitar Learning Tips 

As we’ve already pointed out, learning how to play guitar requires focus and physical dexterity. It can also be confusing and even painful initially, and it’s definitely not a hobby for everyone.

On the other hand, the guitar is such a beautiful instrument to learn, and it will all be worth it in the end. 

But it’s also important to enjoy the process. If you make your guitar practice engaging and versatile, you will be looking forward to every session.

Another way to make your practice more enjoyable is to play the songs you love. So, pick some easy guitar songs you like, but also make sure it fits your skill level. 

Also, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Once you reach a certain level, try to explore different genres and playing styles. That’s how you’ll expand your repertoire and grow as a musician.

And although you’ll probably want to learn everything all at once, try to take it slowly. Take your time to master the basics. Don’t skip lessons, and don’t skip warm-up exercises. 

We also suggest studying basic music theory, especially if you want to reach advanced levels. 

And don’t forget about learning tools and accessories. Practice with a metronome and take advantage of online tools.

Finally, don’t give up! Learning how to play guitar well comes with many obstacles. But if you have the right learning source, you’ll also know how to overcome them.

Before wrapping up, let’s summarize our guitar learning tips:

  • Don’t rush
  • Learn music theory
  • Use a metronome
  • Explore different genres and styles
  • Play the songs you love
  • Warm-up first 
  • Practice consistently
  • Don’t give up

Final Thoughts 

Just like any other instrument, learning guitar takes time and practice – especially if you want to become good at it.

However, with the right learning tools and methods, that process doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact, it can be fun and enjoyable. 

That said, make sure to find a good learning program or a teacher who will help you achieve your goals.

And once you start making progress, you’ll realize it’s all worth it. 

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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