Following on from my previous article on how to get better at scratching by being in the learning zone vs the performance zone, here are some specific ideas to help you put the idea of being in the learning zone into practice today.
Please make sure you have watched the video in the previous article before you read any further so you have an understanding of the overall concept.
I’m using the framework and transcript outlined in the video and applying it to scratching.
Before we dive into the Learning Zone, let’s take a look at what being in the Performance Zone looks like.
If you are feeling stagnant or like you not making progress with your scratching, the chances are this is where you are spending most of your time on the turntables.
Spending your time in the Performance Zone in terms of scratching looks like:
- Scratching as best we possibly can.
- Performing our best scratches and executing them as best we can over a beat.
- Performing the scratches we have already mastered or feel comfortable with.
- Trying not to make mistakes. Often we get frustrated when we “mess up” our scratch flow.
- Freestyling or jamming.
The thing about the performance zone for scratching is that it can actually be super fun and rewarding to jump on the cut and have fun jamming over a beat using the scratches we already know. It is not wrong, it is just not the best place to focus if you want to improve. Being aware of which zone you are in is the first step.
I have many DJs come to me who have been scratching for 5-10 years and they tell me that they only know a few scratches, repeat the same scratches over and they feel super frustrated. That is totally normal! I get them engaged in a deliberate practice program from my School of Scratch, show them what and how to practice and they soon start making progress, expanding their skills and improving. They feel more motivated and inspired. It is so rewarding to witness!
Note: freestyling can also be approached as a form of practice when approached in a certain way. We will look at that in greater detail in a later article.
Now let’s look at the Learning Zone and how you can use it to make progress with your scratching.
- Being in the Learning zone looks like:
- Studying a lot.
- Engaging in activities designed for improvement.
- Environment: practicing without interruptions.
- Studying the greats.
- Seeking out guidance from mentors.
- Together, all of the above = Deliberate practice.
Let’s take a look at what being in the learning zone looks like for scratching.
This involves watching scratch tutorials and understanding the mechanics of the different scratch techniques.
You can find free tutorials on YouTube, enroll in an online program like School of Scratch which breaks down the techniques, step by step and gives you a curriculum to follow, or attend an in person class with a DJ tutor.
Activities Designed for Improvement
These are typically Scratch Drills which involves performing a scratch technique over and over at a certain timing and bpm. Drills are designed to help you master techniques by improving your muscle memory.
‘QnA’ or ‘Question and Answer’ is where your tutor will perform a certain scratch technique or pattern over a beat and then they leave a space for you to copy them in turn as a call and response. The student gets to hear what they are focusing on creating, then seeing how they do almost instantly.
This is you showing up, putting the time in, practicing individual techniques slowly, step by step.
School of Scratch can help you with what and how to practice. We have an extremely comprehensive curriculum for you to work through, which takes out the guess work and you always know where you are in terms of your practice and progress.
To practice effectively, it is essential to eliminate or minimise interruptions.
I highly recommend:
- Turning off your phone or setting it to silent / airplane more.
- Logging out of / turn off social media.
- Disabling phone notifications.
- Switching off the computer / TV.
- Having a do not disturb sign on your door.
Create some time for you to be able to practice without distraction.
Study the Greats
Load up instagram or YouTube and you will get access to the world’s greatest Scratch DJs sharing their cuts. Watch with a view to understanding what they are doing. Get curious and ask questions. Many DJs will share with you if you ask!
Guidance from Mentors
Ask for feedback on your scratching. Seek out someone who is better than you, either in your local area or online. Attend a class or ask a your fellow DJs for feedback.
School of Scratch has specific monthly challenges where you can post a video and receive feedback so you can understand how you are doing.
All of the Above = Deliberate Practice
In the next article we will look at Deliberate Practice in more detail and how to put all of this into practice so you can start to make progress.
I also have a full article on deliberate practice here: The Scratch DJ’s Guide to Deliberate Practice