Playing vs Practicing

Dear Students,

I hope you’re enjoying Guitar Lessons for the Curious Guitarist and learning a lot of good stuff! I want to talk for a minute about the difference between playing and practicing your guitar. Most students make the assumption that these are the same – they are not. They are both important and should be given equal attention.

You play the things on your guitar that you know. When you are playing, you are generally comfortable with what you’re doing. You’ve mostly memorized the music. You can change those chords seamlessly. Those rhythms & strum patterns feel natural. Those scales & keys are strong ones that you’re very familiar with for soloing. This is playing and the goal in most of our guitar endeavors.

You practice the things you do not know, or aren’t very comfortable with yet. We spend hours upon hours practicing so that our playing time can be enhanced and more enjoyable, because we’ve elevated our skills. We spend time woodshedding (practicing diligently) rhythms, arpeggios, chords, modes & scales, and techniques so that our songs, when we play songs, will have a broader exposure to all the nuances that our creative vision has at that moment in time.

Have you ever met a guitarist who has been playing for 20 years (or 50 years) and still isn’t that good on the guitar – only plays around with the basic open chords and some very basic riffs? I have. I’ve met hundreds of people like this. These are players exclusively. People that learned a handful of open chords and a pentatonic scale, and then quit learning. These types of players will barely improve no matter how many decades they spend playing. They require some practice time.

Try to spend equal amounts of time on these. Playing is the reason we picked up the guitar to begin with, but practicing makes our play time so much more fulfilling. As you become more skilled, you’ll learn to practice timing, tone-quality, and ear-training & listening while playing.

I hope this makes sense to you. Now, go practice (or play) your guitar!

-Dan (your guitar teacher)