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There are dozens of popular instruments out there, and you might be wondering is it really worth your time to pick up and learn to play the guitar? Or is it like math homework where it’s only fun for a very small group of people?
Guitar is incredibly rewarding because of the huge versatility of the instrument, but learning it is not always fun, especially initially, because of the difficulty of many essential guitar techniques.
So… it’s not fun to learn the guitar? Well, yes and no. Let’s find out when guitar is fun to learn and when it is not.
When The Guitar Is Fun To Learn
I’ll let you in on a secret. Learning the guitar is not fun to learn for a long time. If you are casually trying to learn (let’s say, an hour of practice a week), you should be prepared to really not enjoy playing the instrument for six months.
The reason for this is because the guitar is a challenging instrument--it’s hard for many reasons which I go into much more detail here, but I’ll sum up by saying that the techniques for playing the guitar are complex and are physically demanding. You likely won’t be able to play for more than 15 minutes because of pain in your fingertips for a few weeks of practice.
If, however, you practice every day for an hour a day for 2 months, guitar will start being fun after only 2 months of tough practice. That’s right, after putting in the hard work for only 2 months, and you can actually start enjoying the guitar, and maybe even loving it!
If you are interested to know what skill level you can be after only 3 months of consistent practice, check out my post here.
Suffice it to say, guitar is difficult and not very fun at the beginning because you can’t really even play a song until a month or two of hard practice.
You’ll be able to play extremely simple songs within a couple weeks, but that’s not where the fun is at, the fun is being able to pull down a tab from the internet and jamming out with your favorite songs with your friends.
How Playing The Guitar Can Be Incredibly Fun
So, hear me out--I just told you that learning the guitar isn’t super fun at the beginning--remember though, this is true for most musical instruments. There’s a learning period--a block of time where you have to put in the work and patience to break through before you can really enjoy playing.
This is the difference between you and the rest of the herd! You are going to be able to stick with it and make it through to the other side.
Once you do--man… guitar is fun. How fun?
Like blow your mind fun. Like melt your face off fun. Like lose track of time for hours soloing fun. Like feeling the music and rhythm jamming with your friends fun.
You see, the guitar is incredibly powerful because it is both a musical instrument and a rhythm instrument. Using one or two strings at a time, the guitar can play melodies across a huge dynamic range. Using chords, the guitar can support the song and provide rhythm and structure to the song.
You can be a band all by yourself with just a guitar (and especially if you can sing!) So many bands are just that--a human, and a guitar.
This is not true for most instruments. You don’t see a band of just a drummer--you don’t see a band of just one trumpet. Sure, all these instruments have solos, but they never can do it all.
But the guitar can.
I’m telling you, the guitar is one of the most rewarding instruments because you have an incredible power to create rhythm and melody.
How To Make Guitar Practice More Fun
Well, first off, I have to say that effective guitar practice is not always going to be a rollercoaster of awesomeness--sometimes it takes some hard work and determination to master some songs and skills. It’s worth it, but it takes some hard work.
However, there are a couple things to do to make your guitar practice more interesting.
- Practice etudes rather than just scales: An etude is a piece of music meant to stretch you as a player while at the same time is often more musical than a regular scale.
- Reward yourself at the end of practice time with songs: It’s easy to let practicing your favorite songs and pentatonic grooves take over your whole practice time--and there’s nothing really wrong with that except you won’t make as much progress. But, it’s important for yoru sanity to spend at least some of your practice time on the fun stuff which is the music.
- Improvise: Rather than playing up and down a scale, try using the CAGED system to jump from position to position and make a song out of it. This will help you learn the patterns of the fretboard and improve your dexterity.
If you don’t know what the CAGED system is, allow me to introduce you to the most awesome YouTube video on the matter. If you don’t understand it, make sure you save it to watch later because it is incredible and will help you so much down the road.
How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice Guitar?
So, how long do you need to practice before guitar starts being fun?
Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s pretty much impossible for me to tell you when it’s going to start being fun everyone is different. Many people don’t enjoy things they aren’t good at, so I can generalize and say that guitar probably won’t be super fun (but definitely intriguing) day one. But, you might be one of those people who loves learning and a challenge. In that case, fun starts day one for you!
I’m going to base this of my own experience playing the guitar and from those I know who have sought to learn:
If you’re just starting out with music your mileage may vary, but after about an hour a day of focused practice (via a teacher or a book… not random YouTube videos), it will take about 2 months to reach big fun.
If you spend half an hour a day, it may take 3 or 4 monts.
If you spend half an hour every other day, it will take 6-8 months to really enjoy the instrument.
Can You Practice the Guitar Too Much?
Is it possible to speed up the process by practicing 5-8 hours a day?
Well, it turns out your learning effectiveness goes down the more you practice in a day. In fact, you could be learning bad habits as your posture and mental focus drops which could even set you back instead of forward.
In other words, the last hour of practice is less effective then the 1st hour.
Many professional musicians practice anywhere from 1 hour a day to 3 hours a day. Some practice more, and undoubtedly some practice less.
If you want to see how long some of the best guitarists practice, check out my post here that talks about this (and also talks more about the dangers of over-practicing the guitar)
Is Guitar Losing Popularity?
Something you might be concerned about is whether the guitar is losing popularity. Is the guitar going out of style? Is it still worth learning?
Well, I tried to do some research on this, and I found some conflicting data:
According to Google Trends, the electric and acoustic guitar is a less searched about topic today than it was in 2004.
However that number doesn’t take into account guitar retail sales – which has almost doubled since 2009.
So, guitars are definitely not dead. Try to see if a day goes by when you don’t hear a guitar--and it’s hard!
Here is a decent article from RollingStone.com that discusses the whys of perhaps the perception of guitars losing popularity.