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iPhone app helps you become a real guitar hero

How do you get to Madison Square Garden? Practice. For guitarists, a new iPhone app called iPractice can help.

So you finally got tired of faking it and bought a guitar. Congratulations! Now what do you do? Most beginners start with some basic lessons to learn how to hold the thing and finger some very simple chords. So far so good. Then they buy a tablature book, which shows you how to finger chords and scales. This is where a lot of would-be guitarists give up and decide they'll become lead singers instead.

Hey, that sounds like Jimmy Page.

A new iPhone app called iPractice can make the chore of learning and practicing your fundamentals a bit more fun. It's a lot more workmanlike than the Star Guitar app I tried out a few months ago; Star Guitar teaches you the names of chords and lets you string them together into song ideas, but assumes you already know how to play them. iPractice actually helps you learn how to play in the first place.

I tried the free light version, which contains five basic lessons, such as C major scale and G pentatonic scales. (Pentatonic scales are the cornerstone of blues and classic hard rock guitar.) First, you set a few parameters such as how fast you want to practice. Upon starting, the first screen shows you a picture of a guitar neck and explains which finger to put on which string for the starting position. After giving you a few seconds to get your fingers in place, the app displays a simple tablature chart. As the numbers light up, you put your finger on the indicated string and fret and play. A click track keeps you at a constant speed, and an optional background piano track lets you hear whether you're in key.

It's not going to make you a rock star overnight, but it's more engaging than a book of scales, and more convenient than computer-based guitar lesson programs--your iPhone's probably already with you when you pick up your guitar, so you won't have to drag your guitar to the computer. The full version costs $2.99, cheaper than any tab book I've seen, and includes 170 sessions. You'll need a second-generation or later iPhone or iPod Touch to use it.

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