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You just bought your first guitar, and now you want to know how much work you need to put in to get good at playing it.
The time needed to invest in practicing the guitar is completely dependent on your goals. Serious guitarists who want to play for a career need to practice around 4 hours a day, while a casual player who wants to learn fast needs only half an hour every day.
Maybe you haven’t set your goals quite yet, and you’re not sure where you want to end up. Don’t fear. Although guitar is a challenging instrument, you can reach your goals (if they are reasonable), if you set the proper expectations for yourself and practice. Let’s find out how to do both of those.
Find How Long You Need To Practice the Guitar
So… the answer to how long you need to practice can vary from 10 minutes a day to 4 hours.
How can that be? Well it all depends on your goals.
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
Before deciding how much you need to practice, you need to understand your goals.
- A: You are interested in playing the guitar as a hobby just for your own personal enjoyment and wouldn’t mind impressing your friends
- B: You’re not so much interested in learning the guitar’s ins and outs as you are learning a particular song
- C: You may be required to teach others the basics for the guitar but you don’t need to be an expert
- D: You want to be in a band or otherwise play the guitar in a professional sense
- E: You want to master the guitar
These are just a few examples of some goals that you may have--your goals may vary! I’ll be using these goals though to try and give some realistic expectations of how long it will take to reach that goal.
No Need to Play All Day! Practice the Right Amount Consistently
Now that you know your goals, now you can try and find the right amount of practice.
One huge caveat: The guitar is a physically demanding instrument (see here for another post I wrote that has some additional reasons why the guitar is hard)
As a total beginner, you may find that you can only really practice for 5 minutes in one sitting--because your hands will not have the strength to do any more. This is perfectly normal. So, if you can’t practice for as long as you want to, don’t fret (ba doom psh)--with less time than you think you can play for long periods of time.
The assumption is that you are practicing every day for the more time intensive categories, for the more casual goals this assumes at least 5 practice sessions a week.
|Goal||Time Practicing Every Day||How Long Before Reaching Your Guitar Goal|
|Hobby||30 minutes||Really enjoying playing will take around 4-6 months|
|Want to learn a particular Song or Two||10 minutes||Learning to play a particular song with chords could take as short as 30 days (your next songs will take much less time), and learning a challenging solo could take 3 or more months|
|Teach Basic Guitar||1 Hour||Being able to teach confidently will take 6-8 months|
|Play in a Band||1-2 Hours||2-3 years|
|Master the Guitar||3-4 Hours||10-15 years|
It’s really impossible for me to know what this journey will be like for you--I’m only figuring these numbers on my personal experience (I belong squarely in group A to be honest), and from my research on what professional guitarists have to get to where they are.
In real life your life circumstances will fluctuate and especially if you have a more casual interest in the guitar, these time frames could vary wildly.
But, with focused and consistent practice, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
There’s Practice, and Then There’s Practice
Recently, I decided to spend 30 days of focused practice on the guitar--instead of just playing songs I liked I actually tried to focus on the fundamentals and technique. I was pretty astounded at what focused practice can do.
The biggest thing I learned from this is that since I had been playing guitar for years (extremely casually), that if you practice playing your favorite songs for 3-4 hours a day you aren’t on your way to mastering the guitar. The #1 best thing you can do to improve your practice is to get a good teacher who can help coach you through your practice.
The next best thing is to buy a guitar book. Books can help you walk through the process of learning an instrument. YouTube can be frustrating to learn an instrument because you’ll be jumping around so much among so many different teachers.
It’d be like building without drawing out a blueprint to follow first. You definitely can throw something together, but you’ll have much more of a successful practice if you are following a structured learning system.
Can You Practice Guitar Too Much?
Indeed, you can overpractice guitar, just like any other instrument.
The absolute maximum, even for serious musicians who want their instrument to be their career shouldn’t practice more than around 4 hours a day.
In fact, K. Anders Ericsson, who has performed many studies on music and music practice has found that the maximum amount that expert musicians can play in a focused way seems to be around 4 hours. (source)
There are major two problems that can come up from overpractice:
- The amount of benefit decreases the more time you practice over the sweet spot of practice time (If you practice guitar for 8 hours, the last 4 hours are MUCH less valuable than the 1st 4 hours)
- Playing guitar while mentally and physically fatigued can encourage bad habits.
- Playing for extremely long period of time encourages mindless practice which doesn’t push you forward as quickly.
- You can hurt your hands and your back if you practice the guitar too long
Itzhak Perlman, a famous violinist adds his opinion on the matter, that the amount of benefit from the last hour of practice isn’t as valuable as the first hour--he specifically says that the absolute maximum practice time is 4 to 5 hours:
Ultimately, one of the biggest reasons why students feel like they are not meeting their goals is that they are not practicing enough--but usually those who are practicing 3-4 hours a day don’t feel that way.
The biggest danger, especially for a new player is to not burn yourself out. If it’s miserable forcing yourself to practice, then you are not going to last long.
Be patient with yourself, and work with your current abilities. Eventually your practice times will lengthen as you get better habits.
Should You Practice Guitar Every Day?
If you are planning on playing guitar professionally or even to master the guitar, you definitely need to be practicing the guitar every day.
If you are starting out on your guitar journey, this may just be 10-15 minutes. The key is to get a consistent habit that can repay you for years to come.
If you are playing the guitar casually, it’s completely up to you! You will see results much faster with daily practice--but ultimately the only thing limiting yourself in reaching your goals is being able to devote the time. If you want to get better at the guitar, but you also have many other goals (family, friends, job, other hobbies), it’s completely fine to practice 4-5 times a week.
Not practicing every day is definitely more difficult because it’s harder to do any habit consistently only a few days out of the week--but you don’t have to feel bad if you miss a week, because you aren’t playing to land a gig, you’re playing for fun.
In short, daily practice will help your learning to sink in much more effectively than intermittent practice, but it mostly depends on your goals if you need daily practice.