I’ve been learning, playing, and teaching guitar for over 5 years. During the beginning stages I would often struggle with learning guitar, and I would often wonder whether it gets easier to learn to play. So, today I thought I’d share my experience as well as the results of a survey I did.
Overall, guitar gets easier. After 6 to 12 months of practicing for 15 minutes a day on average, guitar gets easier. Before that, holding the guitar, using a pick, playing with the fingers, music theory, and certain chords are difficult and require consistent practice.
In this article, I will explain what aspects are particularly difficult, as well as, whether learning new songs is always hard. And give some tips about how to make learning guitar easier.
Aspects of Playing and Learning Guitar That Get Easier
One common frustration I had when learning guitar is that everytime I would begin learning a new song I would almost have to start from square one again. However, I noticed that the more I learned about the different chords, scales, and time signatures the more the pieces started to fit together. And I began identifying patterns.
These patterns started to make learning guitar easier and easier. On top of that, there are various techniques I learned to really help the actual physical playing of the guitar. That are counter-intuitive, and without someone telling you, you wouldn’t necessarily discover on your own.
I also wanted to see how other guitarists found learning guitar, and about when they found that it started to get easier. So, I did a poll, and 333 people responded. The results showed that the majority of people said that guitar starts to become easier after about 1 year. Here’s a table that shows the results:
How long it takes for guitar to get easier poll:
|Timeframe||Percentage of people who voted|
|1 to 3 months||9.01%|
|3 to 6 months||16.82%|
|6 to 12 months||20.42%|
*Number of people who voted, n = 333. Survey date – October 2021.
So, here’s the major aspects of guitar that are difficult in the beginning and that get easier. As well as, some tips to speed you along.
Barre chords get easier and effortless
Barre chords for a beginner are particularly challenging. The reason is the fingers don’t have calluses on the front. And the pinching action of the hand requires muscle strength that you don’t have unless you play guitar.
Over time, though and with a few tips they become effortless to the point where you don’t need to think about it. And can do barre chords of all different shapes with hardly any effort.
How barre chords get easier:
- Calluses develop on the front of the index finger
- The pinching strength of the thumb and index finger get strongs
- You learn to relax the shoulder and pull down with the arm
The last point – where you learn to relax the shoulder, and pull down with the arm doesn’t come naturally. And needs to be explained. The motion is the same as if you are doing a pull-up.
Where you pull your elbow back towards the body. This pulling motion uses the strength of the arm to pull the index finger against the strings. Doing it this way means you need to use much less hand strength.
With practice you learn to time the pulling motion of the arm as you need it, without pulling down the whole time which makes it difficult to move your arm freely, and play across the whole fretboard.
Partial barre chords can remain hard depending on your finger type
There are two types of fingers that people have that I’ve noticed. The first are those that can bend easily back against themselves at the knuckle. Whereas, the type I have which are also very common don’t bend backwards at the knuckle.
As you may know, there are partial barre chords. The A major chord is the best example of this. The A major chord has 3 frets that need to be pressed and the rest of the strings are open. The frets can be held with three fingers. Or, can be held with one finger making a partial barre chord. Where it bends in such a way that it doesn’t mute the rest of the strings.
Some people have fingers that can do that, whereas others don’t. Based on my observation it’s a genetic trait. Similar to how some people’s thumbs curve back a lot – known as hitchhikers thumb – whereas, others don’t have this trait.
Many people wonder whether long fingers are better for guitar. And whether short and thick fingers are a hindrance to playing the guitar. I did an in depth analysis of this topic in this article that explains if long fingers are better for guitar.
The more music theory you learn the easier learning new songs gets
Learning music theory seems a bit of a waste of time to start with. Because it’s hard to know where learning scales, and how to read music fit into getting better at guitar. It is true that learning to read music isn’t absolutely necessary. And you can pick up the timing and how to play just from listening to a song.
However, the chords, and scales you learn. As well as, the relationship between chords is very beneficial to learning new songs.
As you can identify the pattern they are using. And rather than needing to learn each note one by one. You can see that it is all part of one chord that has a corresponding scale, which makes learning new songs much easier.
This is also really helpful for learning to improvise songs you do know, and composing your own songs. In music theory there is nothing new under the sun. And good sounding music always follows particular rules. Similar to how plants grow in a fibonacci sequence.
Learning remains hard but playing gets easier
Related to expanding your comfort zone it’s important to note that learning new skills on the guitar is consistently hard. But, your overall playing of the guitar will get easier. Over time you won’t struggle to form chords, and strum evenly. Or, play with your fingers well. The main thing that holds most guitarists back is learning to relax the muscles in the body.
As well as, taking the time to play a song slowly using a metronome, and then dialing up the speed slowly. It’s common that guitarists will try to play a song fast, which makes it harder to learn.
With that said there are some genres of music on the guitar that are more difficult than others. For example, pop songs are generally easier than classical songs. I did a survey of guitarists and asked them what genres of music are the hardest on guitar, and ranked them in order from easiest to hardest.
I presented the results of the poll, and some of the reasons why certain genres are harder than others in this article about the easiest and hardest music genres on guitar.
Fluidity and ease with guitar requires expanding your comfort zone
But, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour along the way. To get better at guitar, requires you to practice techniques or learn music theory that isn’t in your comfort zone. As these are things you can’t do, or know already.
The main thing is how long it generally takes before you can play well, and find it easy to play and learn any song. I personally find myself at this point now, and there’s nothing I can’t learn myself without much effort. So, I did a poll to find out how long this generally takes for most guitarists.
There’s no rule that says you have to be good at guitar
Some people learn how to play the basic chords, and strum reasonably well. And that’s fine. There are only so many hours in the day, and there are lots of fun activities to do. Guitar is fun, but getting slightly better requires you to push through some discomfort.
Then when you come back to it you remember the discomfort which can be a bit unmotivating, and you’d rather go get ice cream. So, it’s perfectly understandable why people remain at their current level of guitar playing. To get better does require you to push yourself.
But, there is a rewarding aspect to being able to do something you weren’t able to do before. And this is what makes people impressed when they hear you play. Essentially you’ve pushed past the point where people normally give up, and have transcended to a higher level.
Anyone who is good at guitar has gone through a lot of frustration
Some people are naturally competitive, and hearing someone else play well motivates them to get better. Others can get a bit disheartened when others are better at them at an activity like guitar.
This to me appears to be a fact of life. In general, you have one of two options 1) you can let it demotivate you or 2) you can use it to motivate you to get better. However, anyone who has gotten good at guitar has spent many hours playing and practicing and being uncomfortable and frustrated. So, they understand where you’re coming from.
How Long Does It Take the Average Person To Learn Guitar?
When first getting into guitar it’s important to know what you’re getting into, especially when you’re spending some money on buying a guitar, or thinking about dedicating some time to practicing. So, I thought I’d answer how long it takes for the average person to learn guitar.
On average, 1 year before a person can play guitar with fluidity and ease. This is if a person practices for around 15 to 30 minutes a day. Before 1 year, a person can play songs and get enjoyment from the guitar. But, will find various aspects such as music theory and certain chords challenging.
Some people are naturally talented at certain activities and can get better faster. Also, if a person spends more time practicing they will get better faster. There is a difference between practicing and playing. Practice is generally frustrating, and difficult.
Whereas, playing involves playing things you already know how to play which doesn’t improve your skill level. But, it is good to keep the dexterity and strength in your fingers.
Do Guitar Chords Get Easier?
When I first started learning guitar and playing chords, like most people I found playing them very difficult. Now that I’ve been playing guitar for over 5 years I thought I’d explain whether guitar chords get easier.
Generally, guitar chords get easier. As a person develops increased strength and coordination in their fingers, as well as calluses, playing guitar chords becomes easier and a person can play them with ease without thinking about it.
The main cause of difficulty in playing guitar chords are tension in the arm, shoulders, hands, and fingers. It’s common for beginners to have what is called sympathetic tension. This is where muscles that aren’t related to performing the movements tense up.
It requires mental focus to identify where there is sympathetic tension by ‘mentally’ feeling your body as you hold a chord and consciously relaxing these muscles.
The muscles of the hands, and arms that are needed to play guitar aren’t developed through normal activity. So, through playing a little bit each day you strengthen the muscles required to play chords with ease.
Why Is Learning Guitar So Hard?
Learning guitar is hard, and to get to a good level of proficiency around a year or more. So, I thought I’d break down why learning guitar is so hard.
Overall, the dexterity required to move the fingers independently and precisely, using two hands to play, as well as, learning music theory which includes rhythm and music structure, make learning guitar hard. But, compared to other instruments, most people rate guitar as the easiest.
Therefore to get started playing a few chords, and playing simple songs takes longer and is quite hard. However, with enough practice playing and learning the guitar gets easier after about a year or two. And becomes very easy and effortless.