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What is the difference between playing and practicing guitar?

practicing guitar, playing guitar

Maybe it sounds obvious to you, but from my experience, there are many aspiring guitarists who don’t know what is the difference between  playing the guitar and practicing the guitar.

And even if they understand it on a theoretical level, they have hard times applying this knowledge.

Playing and practicing guitar is not the same thing. Following a pre-written guitar practice schedule is something completely different than just noodling around. When you are playing the guitar, your goal is to have fun, entertain people or earn money. When you are practicing guitar, your only goal is to improve some aspect of your playing.

There is a big difference between playing for 3 hours and practicing for 3 hours.

I’ve created a table which sums up some of the most obvious differences between practicing and playing guitar.

When you are in doubt whether you are playing or practicing, just check this table 🙂

Practicing the GuitarPlaying the Guitar
Working on something you don't knowPlaying/performing what you already know
Slow tempos so you can control what you are doingPlaying at the desired tempo
Lots of repetitionsNo repetitions of the same stuff
Thinking "How can I improve this?"Being in the moment, let the mind and fingers do their job
Working on different musical skillsApplying acquired musical skills to perform at your best
Correcting mistakesHidding mistakes
Mentally very demandingUsually lots of fun
Working on your weaknessesShowing off your strenghts
Isolating problem areasPlaying from the beginning to the end
Doesn't sound goodShould sound good and polished
Following practice scheduleNoodling around or following playlist

Is there any other difference that you can think of? Let me know in the comments.

Image courtesy:  Alberto Ferrante

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2 Responses to What is the difference between playing and practicing guitar?

  1. Steveo June 7, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    That is a good chart.
    One thing that I noticed in my 50 years of playing music is once you get really good at something it is hard to do something you suck at.
    I such at slide , I can play slide but I am not really good at it.
    I am a semi retired musician and I have too work very hard to make myself really better .
    I sing well and can play most songs almost instantly do too the fact that I learned the major scale and the there are about 30 chord progression that most songs follow these progressions
    Thanks for sharing

    • Lukas Kyska June 12, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Same here Steve. It is really hard for me to learn to sing because I am not very good at it. But keep trying:-)

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