Learning how to play the acoustic guitar is a journey marked by both triumphs and challenges – and we have the real-life data to prove it.
In our recent Acoustic Life survey, we delved into the real challenges and motivations that shape the path of aspiring guitarists.
We asked 2076 guitar players in our community questions about their journey since picking up the acoustic guitar. We wanted to know what prompted them to pick up the guitar in the first place, their experiences and frustrations, and how guitar playing has enhanced their lives.
This isn’t just another set of numbers – it’s a real set of experiences, frustrations, and dreams that every player can resonate with.
So, put on a record, settle into your favorite chair, and let’s uncover the secrets of the guitar learning adventure!
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What’s the Biggest Challenge to Picking Up Your Guitar?
Getting from amateur to guitar god is anything but a linear journey. Like trying to achieve anything difficult, you’re going to encounter tons of obstacles, setbacks, and frustrations.
Don’t get stuck if you’re facing one or more of the challenges you see below. Everyone who answered our survey found a way to keep learning despite challenges. So if you think you’re too busy, too old, or too scatter-brained to ever be a “real” guitar player, think again!
Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges:
1. Lack of Focus and Direction
Ever felt like you’re stranded on a musical island, not sure which direction to sail? You’re not alone – a whopping 25% of respondents shared this sentiment.
That’s exactly why I created Tony’s Acoustic Challenge – so you never have to feel lost when you sit down to play your guitar. And, you’ll consistently build the core skills that take you from novice to proficient.
2. Motivational Challenges
I think it was Stephen King who said that talent is as cheap as table salt; the only thing that separates the successful from the not is a boatload of hard work.
The trouble is that staying motivated to do that hard work doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, around 15% of respondents confessed to wrestling with this particular gremlin.
I figured out years ago that sustainability and fun are essential for staying motivated. Learning guitar doesn’t require grinding through long, boring practice sessions! Short, daily challenges lead to consistent progress, which naturally motivates you to keep playing.
3. Physical Limitations
If you’ve never played guitar for an extended period before, you might not know what physical limitations I’m talking about here, but around 20% of respondents are familiar with the physical difficulties that come along with playing guitar.
Whether it’s calloused fingers, a stiff wrist, or having hands too small for the guitar you’re trying to play, there are several different physical challenges to be aware of!
Many of these issues evaporate with consistent playing, especially if you stick to bite-size sessions as you build up hand strength, mobility, and calluses. Again the “all or nothing” approach to practice is not your friend!
4. Time Constraints
There’s never enough time in the day, especially when you’re juggling work, family, and a fervent desire to play the guitar.
12% of our respondents echoed this sentiment. Unfortunately, finding time to play the guitar is non-negotiable if you’d like to improve your skills. This is precisely why at TAC we break out our lessons into bite-sized chunks that allow you to improve in as little as 10 minutes of playing a day!
5. Technical Skills and Learning Methods
While acoustic guitar is as simple or as complex as you make it, several technical skills require some finessing to master.
So much so that 10% of our respondents said that it was something they actively struggled with.
6. Financial and Resource Constraints
Money can’t buy you love, and sometimes, it can’t buy you all the guitar gear you desire.
About 5% of respondents highlighted financial constraints as a hurdle. Now, of course, you might dream of owning the most expensive Martin or Gibson on the market.
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need the latest and greatest fancy guitar to get into playing – there are plenty of budget options available that do the job just fine! Here, for example, are the top 5 best acoustic guitars for under $500.
Your surroundings shape your musical journey more than you might realize. Social and environmental factors, mentioned by 5% of respondents, were a significant impediment when it comes to learning how to play guitar.
This is why it’s so important to have a supportive musical ecosystem and something we actively nurture in our thriving online community of like-minded players!
Are you ever too old – or too young – to pick up the guitar? According to 3% of our respondents, age can be a perceived barrier.
But as someone who has taught people of literally all ages, I’m here to tell you – there’s no wrong age to pick up the guitar. As you’ll see later on, many of TAC’s students are in their golden years and getting better every day!
9. Progress and Plateauing
Every guitarist encounters plateaus – the dreaded flatline in skill improvement. In the case of our survey, around 3% of guitars we spoke to shared this sentiment.
Guitars have personalities, quirks, and challenges of their own. Whether it’s choosing the perfect guitar or troubleshooting common issues, about 2% of respondents voiced concerns related to their instruments as one of their chief frustrations.
Never Too Old to Rock: What Age Did You Start Playing?
As I mentioned above, there’s no right or wrong age to pick up the guitar. The diversity in the starting age of guitarists is proof that playing the guitar really is for everyone:
- Older than 50 Years (34.7%)
- Under 15 Years Old (21.8%)
- 15-20 Years Old (19.9%)
- 36-50 Years Old (9.9%)
- 21-25 Years Old (6.7%)
- 26-35 Years Old (5.3%)
- Haven’t Started Yet (1.7%)
Procrastination: How Long Have You Been Thinking About Picking Up the Guitar?
There’s no expiry date on your dream to play the guitar. If you’ve been thinking about starting (or dusting off your old axe), jump in whenever you’re ready. As you can see from these numbers, our community can relate!
- 10+ Years (43%)
- Under a Year (25.7%)
- 1-3 Years (15.5%)
- 5-10 Years (8.2%)
- 3-5 Years (7.7%)
There Are Tons of Great Reasons to Learn Guitar. What’s Yours?
Now that we’ve examined the frustrations that accompany learning the acoustic guitar, let’s talk about why people want to learn in the first place.
The reasons are varied but every single one is valid. And if the reason you want to play guitar isn’t on this list, that’s no reason to not do it!
1. Personal Fulfillment and Lifelong Dream
There’s a certain magic in fulfilling a lifelong dream, and for 40.7% of respondents, playing the guitar is the symphony that turns dreams into reality.
Maybe it was hearing the guitar solo in Stairway to Heaven or the hauntingly beautiful intro to Wish You Were Here. Regardless, something sparked that first desire that ultimately led to them picking up the acoustic guitar.
2. Retirement Activity
Retirement doesn’t mean slowing down. In fact, for many, it was the perfect time to pick up the guitar. As we saw above, many people felt that they didn’t have time to learn an instrument.
Retirement, however, is the perfect time to return to a long-lost hobby or embark on a brand-new musical adventure.
3. Creative Expression
Music is a universal language, and for 27.6% of respondents, the guitar acts as a vessel for creative expression. From learning how to write a song to experimenting with soloing, guitar playing provides an outlet for artistic expression that goes beyond words.
4. Stress Relief
A significant number of participants – 22%! – cited stress relief, relaxation, and emotional release as major benefits. This includes using the guitar as a form of meditation, a calming effect, and a means to unwind.
5. Sense of Achievement
Learning the guitar isn’t difficult, but it’s not easy either. It can take years to become a professional musician – and it’s a never-ending journey of learning – but you can get started playing songs pretty quickly!
Every chord learned is a milestone achieved and the pursuit of mastering a musical instrument contributes to personal growth and a heightened sense of accomplishment.
So it makes sense that 20.4% of the players we asked said that feeling a sense of achievement was part of the reason why they wanted to learn to play the guitar in the first place.
How Does Playing the Guitar Enhance Your Life?
Many people pick up the guitar because they want to learn a couple of their favorite songs, only to be surprised by the huge positive impact it has on their lives.
As you’ll read below, consistent guitar playing went beyond simply learning a new skill and ended up changing our players’ lives in all sorts of unexpectedly wonderful ways.
Here are just a few of the benefits that you can expect from playing guitar:
1. Personal Fulfillment and Satisfaction
25% of respondents found immense personal fulfillment and satisfaction from the simple act of playing the guitar.
It offers profound fulfillment through creative expression, emotional release, and a sense of accomplishment.
And it’s no surprise really – the journey to mastering the guitar brings a sense of achievement, while the cognitive benefits and joy derived from playing favorite tunes contribute to a stronger self-identity and confidence.
Overall, it’s a journey that encompasses art, personal growth, and a deep connection to music, offering both tangible skill development and intangible emotional rewards.
2. Stress Relief and Relaxation
For 20% of our community, playing the acoustic guitar serves as a way of mitigating stress and kicking back after a long day.
The reason it works as a stress reliever is because of its immersive nature. Focusing on music tunes out distractions, promotes mindfulness, and reduces stress.
15% of the TAC crew found that playing the guitar fosters social connections and makes them part of a community.
This totally makes sense when you consider how jam sessions, band practices, or even casual performances like open mics create shared experiences through music.
If you’re ever in doubt, check out the TAC forum, where we have an incredibly vibrant and active community sharing knowledge and songs, or just hanging out and talking about all things guitar!
4. Therapeutic and Health Benefits
Texas-based guitar player Gary Clark Jr. sang famously, “This music is my healing” and 10% of the people we asked agreed with him.
The therapeutic effects of music are profound, stimulating cognitive functions and emotional well-being.
In fact, studies have found that musical training could have promising effects on memory, neuroplasticity, neuro-education, and rehabilitation. On top of that, music’s emotional release aids in stress reduction and relaxation, positively impacting mental health.
5. Skill Development and Learning
Deciding to pick up the guitar means taking your first step on a lifelong journey of learning – and 10% of our community found immense meaning in this continuous improvement.
Whether it’s learning new songs, mastering new techniques, overcoming challenges, or improving your speed and accuracy, there’s no shortage of ways to improve in your lifetime!
6. Creative Expression
As humans, we need a creative outlet, and for 10% of the TAC crew, this is the primary way in which playing the guitar enhances their lives. We already touched on it above, but the guitar, like many other instruments, is a vehicle for artistic expression and producing unique musical creations.
7. Career and Professional Development
For some, the guitar isn’t just a hobby; it’s a career. About 5% of individuals leverage their guitar skills for professional development, from playing in bands to incorporating music into their professional lives.
Some benefits don’t fit so neatly into a specific category. About 5% of the players we asked said that guitar playing helped them due to unique personal reasons, spiritual connections, and other miscellaneous factors not covered in other categories.
Playing the Guitar Is a Wild Ride: Here’s How to Get On
Learning the guitar is more than a musical pursuit; it’s a journey that touches on personal fulfillment, creative expression, and even health benefits.
Whether you’re battling frustrations, looking for motivation, or wondering if it’s too late to start now, remember: the guitar is your companion on a unique journey, and the only wrong note is the one left unplayed.
If you’re reading this and still unsure about how to take the first step, then check out this FREE guitar class, where I introduce you to three secrets that will get you playing guitar in just 10 minutes a day!