Fifth, let's talk about motivation for a minute:
Sixth, how do you put the idea of wanting to play guitar into practice? Well, all recurring endeavors, like learning guitar as a hobby, fall into two parts:
- The initial setup project
- Ongoing maintenance activities
For the initial setup project, you basically have three jobs:
- Get a guitar
- Get a learning resource (such as a local music teacher or a site like Next Level Guitar)
- Put together a study plan, which consists of both learning new information and practicing songs & techniques
Because what happens if you do the opposite?
- "I don't have a guitar"
- "I don't have anyone to teach me & I don't have any good resources for learning on my own"
- "I have no plan"
Once you do the initial setup where you get a guitar, a solid learning resource, and a study plan, then you can get into what I call the "maintenance activities", which you can use to grow your guitar skills & develop your talent for the rest of your life. This boils down to two jobs:
- Study at pre-selected times
- Review your study plan on a weekly basis
There's an old saying that goes "compounding interest is the most powerful force in the universe", which means that chipping away on stuff on a regular basis makes it grow & makes you better at it. What that means is that you'll be amazed at how quickly you grow with just a small amount of time put in every day to learn new things & to practice what you've learned. Remember, studying is different than playing! Jamming is for whenever you feel in the mood to rock out, whereas studying is a choice, preferably by design (i.e. a schedule with what to learn plus an alarm to remind you when to play).
So what's the best way to setup a study plan? First, I would split your study session between learning new things & practicing what you know. Second, I would create a simple spreadsheet with a list of things to learn. It helps to have a structured approach to this, either from a teacher or from a website or other DIY resource that teaches you bite-sized chunks of information in a logical order. Third, I would decide on the timing: how often do you want to practice (ex. two times a week with a guitar teacher or five times a week by yourself) & for how long you want to practice. I'd do a minimum of 15 minutes per session, to at least learn one new nugget of information & to spend a few minutes practicing chords or a song or whatever. If you do 15 minutes a day for a year, where you spend 5 minutes learning a single new item about guitars & 10 minutes practicing, then in a year you'll have learned 365 things about the guitar & have practiced over 60 hours.
In addition, I'd schedule a weekly review to update your spreadsheet for what you'll be doing next week & to see if you need to dig up any more information. Sites like Next Level Guitar are really nice because that one in particular has over 2,000 lessons, so if you went nuts & did one lesson every single day, you would have over 5 year's worth of material to work on. Remember, it's important to be realistic about how fast you can learn & how motivated you are; real progress happens from slowly learning & studying over time, because all of that knowledge & practice builds up as time goes on.
So what do you need to do?
- From your selected resource (videos, teacher, etc.), create a simple spreadsheet with a list of things to learn for the next week
- Create a recurring calendar appointment to update your spreadsheet every week; you don't have to sit there & fill it out for months or years to come, just keep adding to it bit by bit on a weekly basis
- Decide on how often you'd like to study
- Decide on how long you'd like your study sessions to be
- Decide on how you're going to split up your study sessions (I recommend both learning & practicing; you can also split practicing into first practicing what you learned that day, and second practicing the current song you're working on)
- Create a recurring calendar appointment for however often you decide to study for & make sure it has an alarm to remind you when to do it
- Set up your guitar for ease-of-access; buy a floor stand or a wall-mount bracket to hang it on, so that you can literally just pick it up & start playing
Ultimately, you should end up with a basic spreadsheet (I just use Google Sheets in my Google Drive, which is free with Gmail) of what to study & practice, plus a recurring calendar entry for reviewing the spreadsheet on a weekly basis to update it & a recurring calendar entry for your study time. Again, look at what happens if you do the opposite:
- "I have no study plan"
- "I never update my study plan"
- "I don't have a specific time to study the guitar & I haven't picked any particular"
In other words, you just randomly pick up the guitar at different times, with no plan in mind, and hope for the best. Sounds pretty dumb, huh? Everyone wants to approach learning the guitar as just sitting down & banging out music & then getting results overnight, but that's not really how it works. Remember, separating out studying from playing is important; you can create a structured study plan while also jamming out whenever you want to, and those are two entirely different things (and both are required!!).
So hopefully that clarifies things a bit for you. The real magic in learning guitar is simply bothering to make a list of stuff to learn (and updating it on a regular basis), and then setting some recurring appointments with yourself to study & learn how to play, so that you actually are forced to put in some practice time & gain some knowledge.
That's not a sexy approach, but if you want to get good, then it's important to realize that every single great guitar player in history had to follow a similar route...they had to put in the time, learn the instrument, learn different songs, and practice. Side note, it's also important to realize that you don't necessarily need to learn music theory or how to read notes or how to write your own songs to get good at playing the guitar...there are tons of famous musicians who have no idea how to do stuff like read music.
In short, it's worth spending a few minutes to think about what direction you'd like to go in the future & how you'd like to setup your learning path. Learning guitar isn't like falling off a log, but it's not rocket science either. Put some real time in consistently at learning & practicing, and you'll be amazed at where you'll be a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now! Good luck!!