Are You Practicing or Rehearsing?

What’s the difference between a practice and a rehearsal?

Imagine if a guitarist rolled up to a band practice, the songwriter has a new song to work on and the chord progressions are written down. Now it comes to the band to work on, fine tune, add various individual parts and maybe rewrite some parts. But wait…

“What’s this?” asks the guitarist.

“What’s what?” Asks the songwriter.

G – This symbol.
S – That’s a sharp.
G – And the ‘m’?

At this point some concerns may set in…

S – That means minor. You’re kidding, right?
G – And that seven? I play it seven times louder?
S – The chord is a C#m7. Not sure if…
G – How do I do that then?

The difference between a practice and a rehearsal is a measure of how serious someone is about what they are doing. A practice is what a person does to improve, a rehearsal is what they do to apply the skills learned through practice in the context of a performance environment. Practice is how you show your commitment.

There are two areas I think are very similar from a performance perspective but seem to be worlds apart on the surface – sport and music. One of them is an exertion of activity, the other mental. One involves pushing physical limits, while the other finding new creative paths. I will say that when performance time comes there are bands who turn their performance into a 10,000 calorie burning exercise, but this is not what they practice for.

However, there is one key similarity and it all starts in the mind. Those who want to perform at the highest standards fully understand the importance of practicing, and what it means to practice effectively. My daughter loves gymnastics, it has been known for her to spend half her time walking on her hands, and the other half doing a three-way triple whammy overhead back-flips in the yard. My son has a soccer ball at his feet almost 24/7 and it isn’t uncommon to be walking through the dining room and get nutmegged in the process. This is practicing. They love what they do and they work hard to improve. Practice is what they do to get better so when they meet their teams or get into the environment where they can apply new tricks they are ready to go.

It’s the same with musicians. They sit at home with a piano, guitar, or other instrument of choice and work to get better. They learn new sounds and techniques so when they meet with their band they can introduce something new to improve the band. And there, in a nutshell is the differentiating factor – practice improves the individual, rehearsal improves the group. If an athlete waits until the team gets together to practice it not only presents a situation in which the individual could be left behind, but they will also be putting the team in a position where valuable time that should be spent on things that can only be worked on when the team is together is spent getting individuals up to standard to do those things.

It’s the same with any area requiring a certain standard of performance. You want a new job? Practice interviewing for the position, learn about the company, what they do, and understand the role they are asking for. You’re a soccer player? Go outside, find a small target and kick a ball at it, getting further and further away each time to perfect your passing or shooting. You’re a gymnast? Go outside and work on your presentation and form for the moves you can do easily.

Whatever it is you need to work on ask yourself whether it requires practice or rehearsal. If ball control needs to improve, that’s practice. If you need to learn how to create a passing triangle that works its way up the field, that’s rehearsal. If you want to learn how to play a new scale, that’s practice. If you want to see how what you’ve just learned can be applied to a song your band is writing, that’s rehearsal. Practice is what you do to improve yourself, rehearsal is where you apply it.

If you are serious about improvement, want to be noticed among your peers, and care about the overall good of your team here are three things you can do:

1 – Consider where there is a lack in the team or group. Learn the skill to fill the gap. You’ll improve yourself and make yourself more valuable to your team.

2 – Don’t quit when you reach a level of competency. Keep going beyond competent and become the expert.

3 – Set goals, and then set future goals. So often failure follows success because the goal has been met and there is no follow up plan.

If there is something you can work on, practice it and then take it to rehearsal to see how it can work to improve the team or group. Don’t wait until a skill is needed, bring the solution before the problem arises. The worst case scenario is that you improve yourself, and that is never a bad thing.


Categories: Development, Goals, Performance, Sport

2 replies


  1. Hope Is What Athletes Call Mental Toughness – PsychSpot
  2. Coaching From The Sidelines – PsychSpot

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