I have been discussing ideas about practice with various people, and thinking about it a great deal lately. Neil Young fans like to make jokes about embracing mistakes. It is something Neil just about preaches. We tell stories about how some of Neil's most famous records had artists that didn't know how to play the instrument Neil gave them to play. Of course, it works. And, of course, you will never hear what DIDN'T work, will you?? LOL
So, anyone who knows me or has watched me make music knows that I admittedly make a LOT of mistakes. Sporatic, stupid mistakes. Even with the chords and words right in front of me, and for a variety of reasons. Sigh. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with practice and everything to do with how my brain just sometimes misses things.... things that I know in my sleep.... just gone. No Warning. If you play with me, you learn to deal, or you are unhappy. As Rick tells me, I keep him on his toes. :) (Of course, I will also admit, practice helps with that issue too... but mostly, practice to smooth it out.... because it doesn't stop)
But, I am not discussing in this article how to put on a show. The art of the show is something I am still learning about and studying. I am talking about the difference between REHEARSAL and PRACTICE, and why both are needed.
Now, I prefer rehearsal. I like being around other people, I like being able to socialize around making music. And... you know, it just SOUNDS better to play with others. It is great FUN!!! It is also when magic can be made, when your instruments and voices weave sound around in a way that pierces through to the bone. AH!!! Sometimes that can happen on stage too, and I am sure it does more often as you become more confident in your music and stage show. Rehearsal is for social bonding, trying out different approaches and seeing what can be done with them, making your arrangements, figuring out the things that make you sound SOLID, learning how to work with each other with just a look or nod. Rehearsal is NOT where you learn the chord progressions, melody or harmony. Learning the song ONLY happens in PRACTICE.
You learn the song in PRACTICE. Practice is what you do, in the 'woodshed', all alone. That is where you get the changes down. When you play that part you just can't quite nail so many times over that anyone within hearing distance is ready to shoot you. When you sweat to find the right key, figure out where to take your breathe so you can hold that note, write that guitar fill, develop your sound, put together your solo idea that takes that song straight to the heart, firmly and with meaning. Practice is where you learn the song so that when you get together with your band mates, you can refine the song and make your arrangement and make it sound special.
Practice is the work that you do so you have something to offer at rehearsal. Practice is why each song can sound different than the last one. Practice is what gives you your toolbox.
One my first, great lessons as a musician was given to me by my first adult teacher. When I told him of my love of music, but apparent inability to make it, he said, 'Can you hear songs playing in your head?' yep, all the time 'Then we need to teach you how to take what is in your head and put it into your hands.'.
In other words, he taught me to work, and it would come. And it has. Thank you, teacher.
The work is in practice. Then you bring it out and have FUN.
Practice and hard work will bring you where talent fears to tread....