Practice vs. Rehearsal I

To those who have given me feedback and encouragement on last week’s installment, ‘Thank You’. I welcome any readers to send comments or observations in the space provided at the end of this page.

When my wife noticed my subject for this week, she rolled her beautiful eyes and muttered: ‘Oh, Lord’. See what it’s like to live with me? She hears about this from me all too often.

I will first point out what is necessary to prepare as a professional musician. Yes, I realize that many of you are not interested in becoming professional musicians, but some of you are, and the rest of you will likely perform in some capacity in the future anyway. In my opinion, any performance, whether for family or friends, formal or casual, the level of preparation is the same.

This is what I mean:

1) A rough draft of a song list is created (currently about 200 songs for me);

2) I will choose about 30-50 tunes that have a similar theme or mood that I want to create for the gig;

3) I will practice, and then rehearse this material until I can play it to the best of my ability;

4) About 10-15 of these tunes will be set aside because I will need more practice to play them at the level I insist upon for myself than the rest of the tunes in the list;

5) I will likely play nothing else until the performance has occurred.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? There is really nothing more to preparing for a performance than those five things. The number of tunes needed for a performance always depends on how much time you need to fill. A song list of 15-20 tunes per playing hour is a safe level of preparation.

Did you notice that in step three I used the word practice and the word rehearsal?

Practice is what we do to become able to do a specific skill, such as learning chords, scales, sections of songs, solos, and etcetera.Rehearsal is when we put several skills together to perform a finished piece or concert.

Think of a jigsaw puzzle, (I hope we all know what those are; don’t make me look old here). Practice is making each piece of the puzzle; rehearsal is putting the pieces together and creating a defined picture. So, until we have put in enough practice, rehearsal is actually impossible. For those of you interested in being professional musicians, not being clear with these differences will keep you from being called again.

My point is: many of you can perform as a musician. One must only be able to play enough songs to entertain others for the length of time promised. That is all there is to it, and I would certainly encourage any of you to perform as soon as you want to and are prepared.

In subsequent installments, I will be more specific in regard to what we should do when we practice. It is important though, that I give you a basic understanding of the concepts of practice versus rehearsal. These are often not understood and have led to many complications for others in becoming the musicians they want to become.




I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season.I certainly did, having a few days off nearly drove me nuts, but I probably needed it.I don’t think my wife did though, poor woman.

I have received a few suggestions for writing subjects that a couple of students wanted to know more about.I really appreciate the ideas and if anyone has any subjects that would be interesting to you, please let me know.

I want to start with picks.Picks, as you may have noticed, come in many shapes, sizes, materials, and colors.Technically, the color wouldn’t matter except that some pick manufacturers use the colors for ease of identifying a pick’s thickness.Most commonly are Jim Dunlop picks.Go ahead and take the link.The number and variance of picks will boggle your mind.

I used the Tortex Red and Orange picks for years before switching to what I currently use; which are Fender 351 Celluloid Thin and Medium.Vince Lewis told me years ago that he uses these picks but in white and he sounds great.My first teaching gig was in a room beside him.How’s that for pressure?I don’t use the thins except in special circumstances and I usually give them away to new students just to be sure that have at least one proper pick as a beginner.I switched to the Fender picks because I liked the sound that Vince was getting.Plus, I like the smell of a box of Fender picks.Really.

I usually suggest that folks not use a heavy pick.Find one, grip it tight, and strum a chord on your instrument and you will hear why.Until you get really comfortable letting the pick float between your thumb and index, you will likely sound like what you just played.

Stay away from the big, honkin’ triangle pick too.I have no idea why these are even made.I’m always entertained when a little kid comes in with one of these, Heavy of course, and it’s almost as big as his hand.

So, I would suggest that you spend a couple dollars trying every pick that you think you might like so you can know what you really prefer.Try different sizes, materials, and shapes.

I think strings will be in order for next week.Until then, remember everyday practice is best, even if only for a little while.


P.S.I recently found this video of me playing bass recently.Check it out.

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