Good things take time. So, I’m a little bit reluctant to give you a definitive answer to the question: “How long does it take to learn guitar?” Anyway, rather than giving you an exact number in terms of weeks, months or years, let me share with you what I’ve been seeing in my experience in teaching guitar beginners.
In a first step we need to clarify on what you understand by saying “learning to play guitar”. Do you mean developing enough knowledge and skill to learn a basic guitar chord vocabulary so you can play a few dozen of tunes? Or do you want to possibly become and advanced or even professional player? Well, you might simply not know at this point. But in all likelihood, the question as to how long it takes to learn the guitar is usually asked by someone who has some general interest in the instrument and wants to find out what it would take in terms of effort and time.
As a general rule – and you may or may not find yourself falling into this rather broad time spectrum – based on what I’ve seen in teaching guitar starters, you will need a minimum of anywhere from 3 to 9 months. The vast majority of my guitar students were able to obtain a solid, albeit rather basic, set of skills on the guitar. Now, all that strongly depends on one’s commitment and discipline; my rule of thumb is 20 minutes a days, 5-6 days a week of focused guitar practice for a guitar beginner. That will give you results. However, that only works it this practicing time is spent as quality time, where the student stays focused on the task. Cleaning the guitar, watching TV while practicing or posting on Facebook does not count as guitar practice.
On that note, I encourage you to check out my article on the Best Ways To Learn Guitar. This may help you to figure out what works best for you, because there are obviously pros and cons to each method.
As said it many times before and I’ll have to say it once more: the Internet is a blessing and a curse for a guitar beginner. On one hand, there are many good resources online that are very helpful to learn how to play the instrument. On the other hand, there’s a plethora of product advertisers who with shady offers, suggesting that it doesn’t take long to learn guitar if you buy their product. Or you don’t even have to practice, because if you sign up with them, you can learn to play guitar in your sleep. Others try to convince you that they found a revolutionary new method of learning guitar, which turns the whole exercise into a piece of cake. The fact is, I assure you that’s all non-sense. Learning to play guitar takes time and effort. While the resources available these days (the reputable ones) can make things easier for you, there are no shortcuts. That’s the reality.
My last point on this is important. I just told you that it will typically take anywhere from 3-9 months to learn the guitar basics. However, that should only be viewed as some sort of general guideline. Who cares if it takes you longer than that? What if it’s going to take you two years? The point is, the question as to how long it takes to learn guitar is in my opinion practically irrelevant. The bottom line is that you need to get started and if you stick with it, you will never be really satisfied and there will always be something new to learn for you. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now and I still have A LOT to learn.