Is Rock Guitar Hard To Learn? 111 Guitarists Respond

I can play what most people would consider difficult rock guitar songs, and I’ve been playing guitar for about 5 years. I recently decided to see find out how hard other guitarists find rock guitar to help people just getting into guitar, as well as, people who have been playing guitar for some time. Here’s what I found.

Overall, rock guitar is not hard. A survey of 111 people found that rock guitar is one of the easiest guitar styles to learn. The guitar was also rated as one of the easiest to instruments to learn. Classical, jazz, and flamenco guitar were rated as being the most difficult than rock guitar.

Below, I will show the results of the survey, as well as, provide the main reasons why rock guitar is not hard, and is one of the easiest to learn and play.

Why Rock Guitar Is Not as Hard as Some Other Styles

The main reasons, that rock guitar is not as hard to learn as other styles that were rated as being harder is because:

  • Rock guitar doesn’t require you to know as much music theory as other styles
  • Electric guitar is easier to play than a classical/nylon string guitar
  • Guitar in general is one of the easiest instruments to learn

As a beginner, I found that various famous rock songs were in fact quite simple, and easy to learn.

However, in my opinion I think I found them easy to learn because I was really excited to learn them, and therefore spent a lot of time practicing. 

Whereas, I think if I started by learning a guitar style such as classical or jazz, that I wasn’t as interested at the time then I wouldn’t have practiced as much as it would have been harder to learn.

A posed the question in a Reddit thread about what the hardest guitar style is to learn. I got 111 responses, and here’s a table that shows the results:

Style of GuitarPercent of people who voted it was the HARDEST

From the responses you can see that the hardest guitar styles in order from hardest to easiest are:

Jazz and classical guitar had a similar percentage of votes, and flamenco was rated slightly below that. But, rock was only voted as hard twice as much as jazz guitar. Based on my experience playing guitar, these results are also consistent with what I’ve found.

However, I would rate flamenco guitar above classical guitar. Because it has more techniques that are much more difficult. 

For example, they use a tonne of different strumming techniques, and tapping with the fingers while you strum and play is a big part of flamenco guitar.

Rock guitar doesn’t require you to know a high level music theory

Jazz guitar in particular requires that you know music theory to a very high level. As a lot of improvisation is involved, you need to thoroughly understand time signatures and key signatures. Which is one of the reasons I still haven’t got my head around jazz music to this day.

Interestingly, many famous rock guitarists have also learned aspects of jazz or classical guitar. Or, started with one of these styles.

A well known rock guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen, has elements of classical songs in his riffs. Here’s a quote where he talks about the influence of classical musicians on his playing:

“The main classical composers that had a great impact on me are Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini, Beethoven” [paraphrased]

Yngwie Malmsteen – famous rock guitarist

One of the most well known and loved rock guitarists Kirk Hammett from arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time Metallica, took lessons from Joe Satriani. And Joe Satriani took lessons from famous jazz musicians Bill Bauer, Lennie Tristano.

Who is also a well respected and oftentimes beautiful guitarist. Here’s one of his songs ‘Always with me, always with you’. Here’s a video of it:

Electric guitar is easier to play than a classical/nylon string guitar

The vast majority of people I surveyed said that electric guitar is easier to play and learn than a nylon string guitar. 80.9% of people said that electric guitar is easier than acoustic steel string guitar, and acoustic nylon string guitars. 

Acoustic nylon string guitars are also called classical guitars. And classical guitars are virtually identical to flamenco guitars other than the type of wood that is used, and the way the headstock is made which is used to tune the guitar.

I did a detailed analysis of the survey results and provided the main reasons that an electric guitar is easier to play than an acoustic nylon or steel string guitar. You can read the article I wrote here about whether electric guitar is hard.

Guitar in general is one of the easiest instruments to learn

I asked people to vote what the hardest instrument is to learn. 155 people responded. I compiled the data in the table below:

InstrumentPercentage of people who voted it is the HARDEST type of instrument to play and learn
Strings (not including guitar ) – such as, violin, cello32%
Wind instruments – for example flute, saxophone24.67%
Piano or Keyboard20.67%
Strings – guitar only10%

From the table you can see that guitar got the least number of votes. And therefore, it’s fair to say that guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn.

Caveat – some genres of rock guitar are incredibly difficult

As with all styles of guitar there are some songs which are particularly harder than others. This is because they are played incredibly fast, and/or involve techniques that require extreme levels of dexterity.

Various bands such as Dragon Force, and the genre of death metal as a whole play particularly fast. Others use complicated time signatures that are difficult to keep track of and play in time. For example, music from bands such as Dream Theater and Tool. 

I personally, can play quite a few Tool songs, and don’t find them overly difficult with enough practice. However, I’m a big Tool fan so I know their songs inside out and have almost memorized them. 

Because of that reason and the fact that I started with classical and flamenco styles, which really improved my dexterity and playing ability, it really helped to learn more complicated and fast rock songs.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Rock Guitar?

So rock guitar is one of the easiest guitar styles to learn. But, how long does it take to learn rock guitar?

As a general rule, it takes about 3 to 6 months before you can play rock guitar songs well, and all the way through. Beginner friendly easy rock guitar songs can be learned in about a month of practicing for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Sometimes, in as little as 1 to 2 hours.

Examples of easy rock guitar songs to learn:

  • ‘Come as you are’ by Nirvana
  • ‘Along the watchtower’ – Jimmy Hendrix
  • ‘ATWA’ by System of a Down
  • ‘Highway to hell’ – AC/DC
  • ‘Smoke on the water’ – Deep Purple

Here’s a good video that shows how these songs are played and some others so you can see how easy and simple they are:

For some rock guitar songs the main riff, or the catchy part of the song is very easy. But, to play the full song from start to finish means you’ll need to learn a very hard solo that does take quite a bit of practice to learn.

For example, the main riff on ‘Enter the Sandman’ by Metallica is very easy to learn and play. But, the full song is very difficult. And the beginning of ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica is very easy to learn. But, the entire song is reasonably difficult.

Which Guitar Style Is Easiest?

Each guitar style uses similar patterns on the fretting hand. But, the strumming patterns, and techniques used to play the songs can be more or less difficult. So, which guitar style is the easiest?

Pop guitar is the easiest guitar style. Pop guitar involves basic chord patterns that are relatively easy to play such as C Major, F Major, and G Major. They also generally have slow and uncomplicated strumming or fingerpicking patterns. Rock guitar is considered the next hardest after pop guitar. 

Examples of pop guitar songs are those by musicians such as Ed Sheeran, and bands like Oasis. Jazz, classical, and flamenco are considered to be the hardest guitar styles to play and learn. But, given enough practice they can be mastered by virtually anyone willing to put in the time.

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