The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Thread Tools
Old 06-09-2021, 05:11 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: Eryri, Wales
Posts: 1,522

Originally Posted by rllink View Post
I subscribe to the notion that playing is practicing and practicing is playing. And I am always working on songs in a set list as well, trying to do it better, learning to add something to them. But something else, I also work on my singing and presence. I think that often times the guitar playing becomes the sole focus when it is just one part of the equation. I've seen many a performance where the stage presence carried the show. I've also seen some very talented guitar players give their audience a very technical but lifeless performance that lost their audience five minutes in. There's a lot to it if one's goal is to play for an audience.
I'm with you!

Every time I pick up my guitar it is with public performance in mind. Be that "performance" getting together with friends of an evening, the local open mic' or a solo spot at our local choir concert. Or, with mountain dulcimer, recording projects. I'm not very "disciplined" but I always have a specific goal to aim at and so practice with an outcome in mind. We have an annual camping trip with about 20 friends and families coming up and we play and sing each evening; so all my playing time at present is focussed on getting my set list up to speed for that.

It is second nature for me to visualise playing for and with others in my locality every time I pick up my guitar at home. That's the reason I play, it's my community and connection thing.

Yet, I really am no more than an amateur with a flattop and a pick!
I'm learning to flatpick and fingerpick guitar to accompany songs.

I've played and studied traditional noter/drone mountain dulcimer for many years. And I used to play dobro in a bluegrass band.

Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-2021, 04:21 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Washington State
Posts: 2,664

Anyone who has been on a sports team or performance choir, band or orchestra knows the difference! Is running wind sprints the same as playing the game?

To me, practice is deliberate and focused. Examples are when I go through chord scales, moving up the neck. I also run through multiple inversions of the same chord in different positions. Another exercise I enjoy is playing a pattern, scale or arpeggio on guitar and then repeating it on a different instrument (mandolin or fiddle). It doesn't have to be boring or tedious.

Playing is when I play through the whole song for my own or other's enjoyment (or both) without necessarily focusing on improving the technique.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-2021, 05:27 PM
ljguitar's Avatar
ljguitar ljguitar is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: wyoming
Posts: 40,443

Originally Posted by zeeway View Post
Okay, I realize this may be picky, but when I play guitar for myself, I am "playing." My wife sometimes comes in and says...are you practicing...and I say, no, I am playing. To me, practicing is the time I spend preparing for a specific performance. If I am simply playing for enjoyment or even when trying to figure out something new, I am "playing."

How about you?
Hi z-way

I practice playing songs.
  • No stops or redos allowed…
  • Proper Intros, proper tempo, proper dynamics (proper words)
  • Proper arrangement…

Practice is when I woodshed a passage to work out a repeated mistake, or a change to the arrangement.

I tear the piece apart and focus on details.


Baby #01
Baby #02
Baby #03
Baby #04
Baby #05

Larry's songs...

…Just because you've argued someone into silence doesn't mean you have convinced them…
Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-2021, 07:25 PM
Toby Walker's Avatar
Toby Walker Toby Walker is offline
AGF Sponsor
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Stationary home in NJ. Mobile home on any given highway.
Posts: 8,942

Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly View Post
To me practicing is when I am working on something. Playing is when I play a tune. I consider it practicing when I play tunes in preparation for a show. When doing the show I am playing.
I was just about to say the exact same thing. Thanks Mr. Jelly
Reply With Quote
Old 06-09-2021, 07:31 PM
TBman's Avatar
TBman TBman is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Northern NJ
Posts: 30,090

I'll play tunes that I already learned from time to time, but my enjoyment of guitar is learning new tunes and turning them from dots on a page to some resemblance of music. That's mostly practice. Learning a tune is a mix of practice and playing I suppose. You practice the mechanics of finger placement, but play it to achieve different levels of musical expression.

I guess. Not really easy to separate the two.

Marble Halls:

Music videos =

Alvarez AP66SB
Avalon Ard Ri L2-32C
Cordoba C5
Furch Yellow Gc-CR
Gibson J-45
Guild D-120C
Larrivee OM-05
Martin D-16GT
Seagull Folk
Washburn D-10S

Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2021, 11:56 AM
nightchef nightchef is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Boston
Posts: 561

Any time I pick up a guitar and make sounds come out of it, I’m playing.

If I do that with the goal of improving my skills in some specific way, then I’m also practicing.
Martin HD-28
Eastman E10OM
Guild D50
Martin D12X1AE
LaPatrie CW Concert
Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2021, 01:19 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 5,574

Originally Posted by zeeway View Post
Okay, I realize this may be picky, but when I play guitar for myself, I am "playing." My wife sometimes comes in and says...are you practicing...and I say, no, I am playing. To me, practicing is the time I spend preparing for a specific performance. If I am simply playing for enjoyment or even when trying to figure out something new, I am "playing."

How about you?
I agree with you about the distinction. "Practice" implies working towards a specific goal, especially a live performance. At some point that bleeds into "rehearsal", which implies a "group practice", closer to the event in question, and maybe even at the venue itself.

"Playing", OTOH, is obviously recreational - for pleasure, open-ended, although I agree that learning a new piece is part of that.

The problem can be how one's partner sees the distinction! Some would see "playing" as a waste of time. Shouldn't you be doing sonething useful? Aren't you being anti-social by shutting yourself away and just noodling? Aren't you perhaps being immature, even childish? ("Playing" is what children do.) Certainly you are supposed to feel guilty on some level.

"Practising", OTOH, fulfils the protestant work ethic: it has a purpose. The question might still remain as to whether that purpose is (in your partner's opinion) worth it.

IOW, there is a tendency in our society to downgrade "play" as "merely" recreational at best, and a childish waste of time at worst. But I think we (as amateur musicians) all know it's more important than that . There's nothing trivial about recreation. It's fundamental to human existence, to our sanity. Music is a primal human activity - it probably predates speech as a system of human communication.

Call it "play", and be proud!
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2021, 01:26 PM
leew3 leew3 is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 1,694

I'd never really thought about it in this way but have realized that for me, practicing is doing something necessary that takes discipline and will improve my playing. Playing for me is the result of the disciplined development of technique and muscle memory that has come from practicing.
"I go for a lotta things that's a little too strong" J.L. Hooker
Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2021, 02:46 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: UK/EU
Posts: 18,516

In those wonderful pre-pandemic days when there were clubs and gigs, and I played in them I was:

1. Performing.

When I or my trio and I or whoever were preparing for gigs, or a video, I/we were :

2. Rehearsing.

When I was working out or arranging a new number, whether alone or with others, I was :

3. well, just working up a new number.

When, late at night or a day when I was alone in the house, and I just wanted to enjoy one or more of my guitars, I am :

4. noodling (or playing).

When I was ill for a long time 2017/8, I was unable to play/sing for some time,
and my fingers had lost a lot of muscle mass and fingertips gone soft, maybe I was practicing.

In this long period of lockdown, I've hardly played my |Dreads and my fingers have forgotten about medium gauge strings - I've tried to practice a bit, but the trigger finger starts coming back. (I had been on the waiting list for a year in March 2020, when all "non essential" ops and procedures were cancelled, so I have no idea when or if, I'll get it done.

However, I'm organising an open air club meeting this Saturday ... If it stops raining!
Silly Moustache,
Elderly singer, guitarist, dobrolist and mandolinist.
I'm here to help and advise only

By request, I offer one to one lessons/meetings/mentoring via Zoom! See:
Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2021, 11:14 PM
wguitar wguitar is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 1,342

IMHO, Playing and Practicing are both different AND the same. The distinction comes when you deliberately focus on Practicing things like techniques, scales, certain riffs, and so forth. Playing can be just doodling or repetitively playing the same song to learn or fine tune it, or perhaps learning a new song. Now even if you're just playing a song (or 2 or 3 or ?), the repetitions could be considered practice. When I occasional perform, it's obvious which songs I've played recently vs. those that I haven't play in some time. Practice often feels like work, while playing often is more enjoyable. FWIW, I try not to think about the distinction and simply play my guitars whenever I can --- and I'm continuously improving as a result.

Do what brings you Joy!

Reply With Quote
Old 06-19-2021, 09:43 AM
Social Exodus Social Exodus is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Posts: 465

Originally Posted by rule18 View Post
For my 45 years of guitaring (20 of them performing), practicing has always been about technique (i.e. scales, perfecting a tricky chord/fingering change and working on my flat & finger picking) and polishing sections of songs that I play. All of that leads up to better playing IMO.

That said, sometimes playing is just playing.

My take is that I enjoy playing far more if I practice these things regularly. Nothing worse than playing for fun but struggling over a technique or chord breaking the rhythm up.

Sure, practice can be boring if all you do is scales and chords, so I learn new songs with the techniques and chords in them to keep it interesting very often.

Gotta go practice now [emoji4]

Yamaha FG365s (1978)
Martin 000-28
Taylor 814ce
Taylor 458e
Taylor GS Mini-e Koa
Washburn Timeless Series Celtic Mandolin

Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner
Boss RC-30 Loop Station
Fishman Loudbox Mini
Shubb capos
Bunch of boutique picks (cheap GAS cure)

Reply With Quote
Old 06-20-2021, 09:56 AM
rllink's Avatar
rllink rllink is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Feb 2020
Location: Midwest
Posts: 1,264

Originally Posted by JonPR View Post

"Practising", OTOH, fulfils the protestant work ethic: it has a purpose. The question might still remain as to whether that purpose is (in your partner's opinion) worth it.
That is an interesting observation. We are programmed to believe that anything that is done without purpose has no value.
If I'm wrong, please correct me. I'm still learning.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2021, 06:15 AM
Tannin Tannin is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2020
Location: Huon Valley, Tasmania
Posts: 843

For me, the one morphs into the other, constantly. I might be playing an excercise when a tonality catches my attention (quite often it is actually a mistake!) and I'm off down that rabbit hole, thinking "Ahh, and this chord could go with it, and then I want to hear a sound like .... a sound like ... Darn! That's really tricky to finger!" All of a sudden - having first abandoned practice for something creative - I've gone back into practice mode, trying to master that tricky bit of fingering. And so on, round and round.

Or I play, simply for pleasure, and stumble over something, so I play that bit again, and again.

Sometimes I'm mostly playing to make nice sounds, sometimes I'm mostly practicing stuff. It's all good.
Tacoma Thunderhawk baritone, spruce & maple.
Maton SRS60C, cedar & Queensland Maple.
Maton Messiah 808, spruce & rosewood.
Cole Clark Angel 3, Huon Pine & silkwood.
Cole Clark Fat Lady 2 12-string, Bunya & Blackwood.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2021, 08:41 AM
rearis rearis is offline
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 46

When you were a baby you didn't practice walking, you learn to walk by walking, maybe with some help, even if wasn't properly. Same thing with instruments. You practice by playing, playing songs that you like and it's in your level. Of course you need to "practice" a specific chord for example, you need to master that chord (meaning you need to just be able to mount the chord and must sound perfect), but that's it, after that you just start playing a song that uses that chord slowly and work up the speed. And if you have trouble on a specific part of the song, you reserve some time to just do that chord sequence, at least that's what I do. But that's just me. In the very beggining I did that 1234 exercice, but it didn't take too long, I guess some exercices are essential (I'm learning to play online with an amazing teacher), but they must be very specific, which only a good teacher can tell, that's what I think. As I said, the 1234 exercice was in the very beggining, and he also gived a little very simple fingerstyle sequence, I guess to get us connected to the instrument and see what we will be doing in the future, he really cares about motivation.

I'm just a begginer, maybe there is something that I really need to practice in the future, but the point is, practice if it's really necessary or you will get bored and quit. Play and you'll be automatically practicing. If you go to YouTube and search for practice or something like that, there'll be 1 billion of people "teaching" all sorts of exercices with millions of variations, teaching you what worked for them. You can try but be ready to be bored and disappointed if doesn't work.

Last edited by rearis; 06-24-2021 at 09:03 AM.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2021, 12:58 PM
Terry_D Terry_D is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 141

Originally Posted by raysachs View Post
I'm the same with one big exception. When I'm playing songs, even learning new ones, I'm just playing. When I'm jamming with my looper on electric, I'm just playing. When I'm recording songs, which I do a lot because it calls up everything I do toward a goal or project, I'm playing. I may run through a song a few times before I start to record, but I'm still playing, not really practicing. More like warming up, getting in the groove. ALL of that is just playing.

The only time I spend time "practicing" is when I'm working on a new finger style piece. So much of that is muscle memory that I just have to play it over and over and over, staring with small bites, and then gradually playing more and more of it until I've stitched the whole thing together. I'm only a few years into fingerpicking and none of it comes easily to me, so for THAT, I have to "practice". A lot. As a result, I'm second guessing whether I really even want to stay with it. it ends up being pretty much a rote exercise until I get a piece down, and then I can sort of add a little bit of my own feel to it, but I'm not anywhere close to improvising with it. So it doesn't feel creative - it just mostly feels like work. It's satisfying once I have a piece pretty well down. But it's slow going and I only seem to be able to commit 4 or 5 of them to memory at a time, so now for each one I take on, I have to let one out the back door and stop playing it. It's frankly more work than fun and I do enough other things well enough that it's more fun doing them and so I tend to play finger style less and less and may stop altogether. I've done enough of it to convince myself I'm capable of it, but maybe not cut out for it...

Well I've been playing for over twenty years and I still have to learn new songs the same way you do. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks just to piece it all together and then lots of playing to make it listenable. I wish I could speed things up and some times it makes me feel very inadequate as a player but I still keep at it.
Martin 000-28EC
Martin CEO-7
Alvarez Yairi WY1TS
Alvarez Yairi FYM60HD
Yamaha Pacifica 212VFM Flamed Maple
Reply With Quote

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Thread Tools

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:09 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=