Preparation is key to a good performance. The only time I’ve ever been nervous to perform is when I know I haven’t fully prepared. “Practice” is what you do on your own. I practice to keep my body in shape and the chops to do the job because art shouldn’t suffer from a lack of technique. Some gigs require additional homework where I’ll chart songs if the material is new to me. “Rehearsal” is what you do when you get together with the band. You put your pencil behind your ear and go to work — listen, pay attention and take notes.
Some gigs have no rehearsal, no setlist and sometimes, no opportunity to hear a song until you’re performing it in front of people. Those special gigs require an entirely different kind of preparation. Some might call it, “seasoning,” where you’ve spent a lot of time listening and improvising to develop a quick reflex to make a good decision on the spot. It also helps if you’ve developed a relationship with the musicians you’re working with, understand the genre and most importantly, know your audience.