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In all my exprience on guitar, I think the thing that actually help my playing more than anything else was working with a drum machine. In some ways, even moreso than playing with people.

If you find the kind of drum machine that plays backing tracks and start playing along with it, it will improve your playing in numerous ways:

Playing with a drum machine:

  • Lets you work out tedious stuff in a private environment. This provides confidence. It gives you the time to come up with those melodies and figure out how to play them while the machine is looping the backing track for as long as it takes. Real musicians can't and won't play behind you forever, just so you can work on stuff, but the machine has endless patience.
  • Does wonders for your meter. Your timing will improve dramatically, and perhaps more importantly, you'll learn to recognize and avoid drummers who can't keep good time.
  • Does wonders your phrasing. Your abilty to play the melodies you hear in your head -- in real time -- will improve dramatically. In part, because you shouldn't feel inhibited about just trying stuff and making mistakes in the privacy of this practice enviroinment. You screw up? So what, you catch it the next time around -- the machine keeps going. You just keep playing what you hear untill you get it right. Eventually, you'll be doing it without thinking about it.
  • Teaches you how to jam, in the tradtional sense of the word. The ability to improvise over just about anything. Then when you get in a room with live musicians, it'll feel like old hat (except you'll probably notice that the drummer isn't as good).