The Difference Between Practice & Rehearsal

Chris Denning says practice and rehearsal are two different things:

I hear from friends all the time who are not satisfied with how their band rehearsals go. Some find that they are way too long and don’t actually get anything done, while others feel like it turns into one big practice session for the whole band.

Our team talks a lot about the difference between Practice and Rehearsal. Yes, they are two different things. It may seem semantic, but when you start to understand Practice and Rehearsal as two different things, you’ll see your team change.

PRACTICE is the work you do when no one is looking, not just on the songs you’re playing that weekend, but on the techniques and rudiments that are the foundation of your musical ability.

REHEARSAL is the time when musicians come to put together all the practice they have done individually to prepare for a set or event.

There is definitely a relationship between Practice and Rehearsal, because your Practice should inform your Rehearsal. If you don’t put in the work individually, it will show when you put it together as a group.

To help explore the difference between the two, lets take a look at some things that define both Practice and Rehearsal:


BY YOURSELF. Practice is something you do in your room or in a private place. Not because you can’t practice in crowded places, but because you should be stretching yourself when you practice to where you’d feel uncomfortable doing it in front of others.

Seriously, if you’re just running through the songs for Sunday and would feel good doing it with your friends around, you’re doing it wrong. Find the places where you’re having a hard time and focus on those.

Practice is like the gym. Don’t just rush through doing only the things you like to do easily. Take your time, put in the work, and you’ll see the results in your playing. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

LOTS OF WOODSHEDDING. If you haven’t heard this term before, woodshedding means to practice your instrument, but in a way that focuses on the techniques that create the foundation of your playing.

I’ll just be honest: I HATE woodshedding. Its like taking my medicine. However, I know that if I’m not spending time woodshedding on my own, I’m not going to become a better player.

Again, this is the kinda stuff you need to be doing on your own. Nobody likes the guy who is incessantly running scales at band rehearsal when the group is trying to get things done. Don’t be that guy, and keep the woodshedding at home.

PERSONALIZED FOCUS. Practice allows you to focus exactly on what YOU need to work on. You can jump around from song to song, from part to part, only working on the stuff that you need extra time on.

If you’re a drummer, you probably don’t need to spend much time on that song that’s mostly keys until the end. If you’re a vocalist, you probably don’t need to take much time on that song where you only sing harmony on the Chorus.

When you’re practicing, go ahead and be selfish. Run the material, and only work on the stuff YOU need to work on. Go on, you deserve it.


COLLABORATIVE FEEL. Rehearsals should have the innate feel that “we’re all in this together.” The best rehearsals are where every team member comes prepared and ready to work together make the songs the best they can be.

The caveat here is that someone should be CLEARLY driving the bus. Collaboration doesn’t mean democracy, and its important that the team knows who to look to for decisions. Without a caption, this ship is not any fun to be on.

You should be helping your team to learn how to bring their ideas in, which are formulated in their practice, and how to share them appropriately. There are many times where worship leaders on my team have a better idea for a harmony than I did. And that’s a good thing.

THE BIG PICTURE. The goal of rehearsals is to take the time to work through your entire set together. This doesn’t just mean the songs, but this includes the transitions, the endings of songs, and all the little things that make your worship set seamless.

When you’re practicing, you can’t really work on transitions because you may not know what the band leader has in mind. Rehearsal is the perfect time to talk through all the details for the coming Sunday or event.

You might be rolling your eyes, but trust me, using your rehearsal time to work on the Big Picture for that Sunday will change the way that your services feel. Work through each of the details for the weekend so the the Big Picture makes sense when put all together.

GROUP FOCUS. When everyone is giving up time with their family & friends to be at rehearsal, you don’t have time to focus on everyone’s individual needs. This is what practice is for. Instead, rehearsals are for focusing on the things that benefit the group as a whole.

Understanding what these things are is the responsibility of the band leader. You must be able to see all the things that need to be worked on, and then determine what things will benefit the whole group the most.

You might focus on something for an individual, but that’s because it helps the whole group. Learn how to discern which things will benefit the whole team the most, and you’ll make your rehearsals more productive. In rehearsals, always do what’s best for the group.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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