mfarber wrote:When you say you are "practicing 20 pieces", do you actually practice them each day? Play them through once and move on? Or do you pick a few each day and work on them?
I am asking because I sometimes wonder - if I start working on a new piece before the previous one is "completed", and then every day I play the older one 1-2 times, am I really practicing it and getting better at it, or am I just playing it as is? (I am sure I am not explaining myself properly.) What is the difference between practicing and playing?
Practicing is where you work on a particular aspect of a piece or technique with a view to improving it. For example, you might be doing breakdown practice by doing lots of slow repetitions of a particularly difficult section of a piece in order to play it more smoothly. Or you might be practicing tremolo technique by doing technical exercises on open strings etc. Practising requires a high level of focus and concentration and should feel like hard work if you're doing it right,ie its mentally and physically tiring.
Playing, on the other hand, is where you play through the piece usually from beginning to end in the way you would play the piece in a performance. Of course you can practice for performance but I think this is different from merely playing.
For me at least what distinguishes playing from practicing is that when playing I'm not focusing on things like technique and it doesn't feel like hard work. I am simply playing through the piece, mainly for enjoyment. Of course I'm still concentrating when playing but it's in a different way - it's more telaxed than when practicing and not as intense.
A common mistake is to confuse playing with practicing and to only run through pieces from beginning to end and think that that constitutes practicing. I think it's important to spend time doing both but to be aware of the difference and to make sure you are spending plenty of time practicing, in addition to the time you spend playing.