How to: Become an Expert Guitar Player

Posted by Brian on 13th April 2011 in General Music, Guitar, How to:..., Practice

They say that it takes ten thousand hours of working on something to become an “expert”. (I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’ve heard it a number of times and have no reason to doubt that number, so we’ll go with it.) The average full time job occupies roughly two thousand hours a year, so I suppose that this is why most job postings are looking for someone with at least five years experience.

Now, lets consider what it takes to become an expert guitar player. Let’s say the budding young guitarist has half an hour a day set aside for practice, and by “practice” I don’t mean playing a favourite riff repeatedly, I mean working on scales, building repertoire, studying theory, ear training, etc. Lets assume that our budding young guitarist manages to practice five days a week on average – so two and a half hours of practice a week, or, assuming two weeks of vacation each year, 125 hours a year. Only seventy-nine years to go before receiving “expert” status. (For the record, its a rare “budding young guitarist” who even practices this much.)

Let’s say that our future expert decides that, yes, music is something that (s)he wants to get serious about. (S)he decides to practice an hour a day, 6 days a week and joins a band that rehearses for 2 hours every Thursday night. We’re now up to 400 hours a year – and a mere twenty-five years away from “expert” status. But take heart, we can get there five years sooner if we can book a 2-hour gig every weekend…

Clearly, this is going to take some time…

Better get started.




6 Responses to “How to: Become an Expert Guitar Player”

  1. Artur Faria says:

    That’s funny im 15 years old, i love guitar playing and i have many influences !
    And im no expert and u are right but everything that u said we had to do to become experts actually i already do but u arent refering to music theory u are talking about guitar theory are you ?

  2. Brian Brian says:

    Thanks for your comment Arthur.

    As far as theory goes, I don’t differentiate between “music theory” and “guitar theory”. Music theory applies equally to all “tonal” musical instruments. (As opposed to atonal instruments – i.e. percussion instruments. With most percussion instruments, some aspects of music theory won’t apply – but are still worth understanding).

  3. rafi says:

    So I’ve been playing for 17 years. But I would say these years are the equivalent of 500 hours of the 10000 required at best. At the young age of 34, I have realized if I don’t become an expert guitar player I will never be happy so this is a must for me. Lets say at best I can accomplish this over a 10 year period which averages at to 3.5 hours of dynamic practice and learning per day. You have to start with baby steps right?
    I figure the first thing that needs to be known is every note on the guitar. once this is accomplished, I dont know what would be the next step. I think it would be a good idea to keep a journal or excel schedule for amount of time spent on improving in a day and the progress made so that the constant spinning of the wheels comes to an end because its so easy to just pick upa a guitar and play without actually improving. Its the equivalent of going to work but not getting any work done.
    cheers Bri

  4. Kane says:

    This is helpful, I am also 15 and have been playing for about 2 years. I play and practice about 2 hours a day so this will help a little thanks.

  5. Ian says:

    Well, no doubt it is a large time commitment, but you probably don’t have to be a virtuoso to play what you want to play. I’m probably somewhere around the 1.5k-2k hours mark, 25 min a day been playing for 7 years. Sounds about right. I’m not an expert yet, but I am a lot closer than I was even 1 year ago. The improvement continues to happen if you put in the time.

    Here’s my recommendation: Write out exercises (tab is fine) over problem areas, in keys you have not yet studied. This is like killing 3 birds with one stone, you get to work on your music writing/creativity, your playing technique, as well as your music theory knowledge/repetoire. This doesn’t even take that long timewise, once you have done it once or twice. It’s so, so much more interesting than

  6. Ian says:

    Than following a book 🙂

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