Originally published in Guitar World, July 2004
Practice tips from Yellowcard's Ben Harper.
1) Keep a guitar within reach.
I bought a cheap guitar to keep on the bus while I’m on the road. The more often you see a guitar, the more you’ll pick it up and practice. Instead of watching TV, practice guitar.
2) Play scales.
Learn the major, minor and pentatonic scales in every key. Practice your scales constantly, even when you’re just having a conversation with somebody.
3) Learn to play by ear.
- It’s easy to find tablature for most of your favorite songs, but you’ll gain more as a player if you figure out the songs on your own.
- Specifically, you’ll train your ears to recognize pitches and the relationships between notes and chords, abilities that are invaluable to
- every musician.
4) Learn to play the piano.
The piano makes it easy to visualize scales and the relations between different notes in a chord. In this respect, it will help you understand music theory, which will in turn help you be a better guitar player.
5) Improvise frequently.
Have a friend play a basic I-IV-V blues progression and practice the appropriate relative pentatonic scale over the chord changes. It’s a basic progression, but it will help you discover how the notes of the scale fit with the various chord changes within it.
Recommended Book: Aaron Shearer—Classic Guitar Technique, Vol. 1
Mastering classical guitar can teach you everything you need to know about playing. This is a great book for learning how to play classical guitar. It’s easy to read, and the series includes additional volumes that you can move on to as you progress.