Practice vs. Learning Time

Think about how much time you’ve spent on your craft over the last month, be it DJing, producing, working on a live PA set, etc. What’s the rough split of how many sessions were spent learning compared to how many sessions of practicing? If your goal is constant improvement then it is key to balance both these essential elements to maximize your gains.

Practicing

This is your actual activity: what you do. Playing records, writing music, engaging in your craft. Consistent practice is what it takes to make excellence a habit. If you can spend an hour or two every day working in a field, you will find yourself in the top percentile with time. Keep practicing until your skill can be performed easily, you can do it unconsciously and it feels like second nature.

Practicing without Learning

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Rita Mae Brown

We probably all know an artist that spends more than enough time working on their music, but does not seem to get better regardless of their efforts. Don’t be this guy – add learning to the equation too.

Learning

Acquire new knowledge to be able to see a bigger picture and perform more complex tasks. Learn about whole new areas of your craft you didn’t even know about or think were possible. Figure out what the next level of the game would be for you.

Spend time creating new synth patches, but also spend time learning the subtle intricacies of your synth. Learn synthesis theory. Spend time practicing playing records, but spend time with people that are beyond your level, go through some QBert tutorials, read “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life“. No matter what you are doing there are people in the world that have taken on figuring it out. Search on amazon.ca for books, youtube.com for tutorials, look into classes available in your area (Long & McQuade and Pacific Design Academy offer DJing and production lessons, respectively), or more experienced people in the community that are happy to teach.

Learning without Practicing 

Learning is only as valuable as it is applied to what you do.
Information is only as useful as it is acted upon; if you are not using it, then it is not useful. Some people avoid actually engaging in activities by trying to learn more instead. This is a form of creative avoidance (procrastination). It is very likely that I spent too long as a teenager trying to get better as a DJ when in reality much of what I needed to learn could only come from actually getting out there and playing in front of crowds. Implement what you learn; figure out what works for you, what doesn’t, and make tweaks accordingly.

Whoever you are – if you are committed to mastering your art, over time you will hit plateaus. If you feel stuck at a certain level – try doing the complimentary activity to what you are currently doing. If you normally practice a lot then spend a few sessions researching new techniques. If you are resourceful and excellent at educating yourself, make sure you are putting that knowledge into action.

  • Do you have an aversion to one or the other? Where do you spend most of your time?
  • If you feel stuck at a certain level – try doing the opposite to what you are currently doing.
  • Put aside dedicated focus sessions for each type of activity.
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