How Long Does It Take To Learn Classical Guitar? Guitar Tutor Explains

I’ve learnt classical guitar for about 5 years, and when I first started I also wanted to get into other styles. I’m now good enough that people would hear me play and wow you’re good, but if you’re just getting into learning guitar it’s common to want to know how long it will take. 

So, below I’ll share how long it took me to learn classical guitar, as well as others I know who learned to play classical guitar.

As a general rule, it will take about 6 months to a year to play classical guitar songs that sound really good. This is if you practice for 15 to 30 minutes a day. At this level of skill you can begin learning very difficult songs from the most well known classical composers.

The main drawback as a beginner is that it takes quite a while to learn your first piece. But, once you learn one song, learning new songs gets easier and faster. 

Because of that if you attempt to learn the hardest songs from composers like Albeniz you will get discouraged as you progress will be incredibly slow.

Below, I will explain the different levels of classical guitar songs, some of the best classical guitar songs for beginners, as well as, more detail on the timeline for getting good at classical guitar.

How Long Does It Take To Get Good at Classical Guitar?

The main reason it’s difficult to get a very precise time frame from classical guitarists is that most guitarists – and people – are inconsistent in their playing. 

They may get really inspired and spend all day or many hours practising, and then the next day only play around a bit for 5 minutes every now and then throughout the day. So take the timeframe of 6 months to a year to play well by practicing 15 minutes a day with a grain of salt.

In my experience, eventually I get frustrated with my current level of playing and then decided to spend some time improving my skills. With that being said, here’s a table that shows the progression of a classical guitarist over time if they spend 15 minutes a day practising.

TimeframeAbility
First monthGetting familiar with:
– Holding the guitar
– Hand positioning
– Learning very simple songs very slowly.
3 monthsCan play a few complete songs from start to finish very well. 

But, songs are very simple and slow.
6 monthsIncreased repertoire of songs you can play. 

Start developing more difficult pieces that have fast sections. 
1 yearAware of most of the techniques involved in playing classical guitar. 

Know how to improve your skills on your own. 

Very comfortable and confident to learn any classical guitar songs.
Beyond 1 yearIncreasing your repertoire of songs.

Can play intermediate difficulty songs from start to finish that sound really good. 
Can decide what you want to learn, and have no issues teaching yourself everything you need to learn.

When I first got into classical guitar I began idolizing famous classical guitarists such as John Williams, and Andres Segovia. The main thing I learned that really improved my playing was focusing on being as relaxed as possible when playing.

There’s an old saying when it comes to learning classical guitar that:

“Playing guitar badly is really hard, and playing guitar well is very easy”

This sheds light on the fact that when you play very poorly and can’t play songs without mistakes, or can’t play fast enough it’s because you have a lot of tension in your shoulders, arms, hands, or anywhere else in your body.

Focus on playing without tension in your muscles

The body has a natural tendency to tense up when you really concentrate. But, you generally don’t notice that you’re tense, and you only experience the end result which is it’s really hard to play.

It’s very helpful to sit with your guitar without playing and mentally check different parts of your body for tension. Your stomach can get tight, you can hold your breath, your shoulders can tense up.

If you observe the playing of what I would consider one of the best classical guitarists of our era – John Williams you can see how relaxed he is. His fingers only press exactly how much they need to, and no more.

Focusing on removing tension in the muscles of your hands and body makes your classical guitar playing:

  • Faster, because your hands constricted by tense muscles
  • Easier, and you can play for longer because you’re exerting less effort
  • Better sounding as you can create more nuance in the individual notes

Best classical guitar songs to learn as a beginner

The best classical guitar songs to learn as a beginner are those that have 1 or 2 bass notes followed by a run using the higher strings. For example, they would go:

  • 1 note with the thumb
  • 3 notes with each of your fingers
  • 1 note with the thumb
  • 3 notes with the fingers

This is a very simple pattern to learn, and most beginner classical guitar songs will have a sequence like this. Some of my favourites are the studies by Fernando Sor. Here’s Julian Bream, one of the most well known classical guitar and lute players playing his study in B minor.

Fernando Sor has a tonne of beginner friendly studies, and also has very difficult pieces. A really good resource I found that has the tabs and the sheet music for all of Fernando Sor’s study is this website.

I always try to find a recording of the song first, to see if I like the way it sounds. Because if you just get the sheet music and start learning you, you can find that once you hear how the song sounds, you might not actually like it.

As a beginner, you may be wondering what guitar is best to get, and my general recommendation is to get a cheap guitar to begin with. I’ve also heard this from other experienced guitarists. There are a few reasons why which I explain in this separate article, about whether cheap guitars sound bad.

Classical guitar songs that you should avoid as a beginner

Generally, the well known songs that classical guitarists love to play such as Carpricho Arabe by Tarrega, and Leyenda by Albeniz. They involve techniques that are too difficult to learn in a good amount of time. So, you’ll end up getting discouraged and give up.

It’s best to start to tackle these songs once you’ve been playing for about a year, and are very familiar with the guitar, and have developed the dexterity and strength in your fingers. 

Is It Hard to Learn Classical Guitar?

There are a few different guitar styles and choosing an easy style of guitar means you’ll learn faster. But, is learning classical guitar hard overall?

As a general rule, learning classical guitar is not hard. But, it is harder than other styles of guitar. A survey showed that 80.9% of guitarists said that the easiest style of guitar is electric guitar, However, classical guitar is the second easiest.

One of the reasons that electric guitar is easier than classical guitar is that the amp masks a lot of errors you make. Especially, when you use effects like distortion. Whereas, on classical guitar every sound you make can be heard, as it comes straight out of the guitar, rather than going through an amp first.

I presented the results of the survey in this article that explains whether electric guitar is hard. And explain why electric guitar is hard and how it compares to other instruments.

Is It Too Late to Learn Classical Guitar?

As you get older, your body does start to wear down and you don’t recover as quickly. This is especially evident in physical activities. But, should you still learn guitar if you don’t start when you’re very young. Here’s what I found.

As a general rule, learning classical guitar over the age of about 70 isn’t recommended. After that age the fingers can’t fast enough or with enough dexterity to play classical guitar songs as you would like. But, you can get a lot of enjoyment from classical guitar if you start before then.

Many people start classical guitar in their teens, thirties, and forties without any issues. And you can also start much later than that. 

But, I have observed the most accomplished and well known guitarists like Andres Segovia and Julian Bream were unable to play classical guitar well once they got into their 70’s and beyond.

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