Electronic music production is still a new creative field in the
history of the world.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn things from other creative
fields and apply it.
One of those concepts is deliberate practice. And if you wield it right, it can double, triple or quadruple your
Ready to learn more? Let’s go.
Note: this blog post is an excerpt from my book, The Producer’s Guide to
Workflow & Creativity. You can download the full PDF below:
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ARE YOU REALLY PRACTICING?
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice.”— Vladimir Horowitz
In the electronic music production community, we don’t talk about
When seeing a violin player, we see practice. We see a dedicated
individual spending hours every day making mistakes and correcting
them; playing certain sections of the piece slowly until perfect,
and then speeding them up.
When we see a football/soccer player, we see practice. We see a
dedicated individual spending hours every day on the field. Not
repeating the shots they’re good at, but instead failing repeatedly
at the difficult shots, improving slightly each time.
But when we see a music producer, the image of practice isn’t the
same. We see someone making a song—someone dedicated—but we often
don’t see them the same way as a violin player or football player.
There are reasons for this. One of them being that music production
is a complex creative field that can’t really be practised the same
way an instrument can (Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code states that it’s incredibly hard to become an elite self-taught
violin player, but there are many professional self- taught
writers, which shows there’s an obvious difference).
But I also think it’s something to do with the culture. Perhaps the
idea of practice” has been lost in the modern world of electronic
The illusion of practice
To benefit from practice and reach your potential, you have to
constantly challenge yourself. This doesn’t mean repeatedly doing
what you already know how to do. This means understanding your
weaknesses and inventing specific tasks in your practice to address
those deficiencies.”— Corbett Barr
As a creative person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spinning
You fall into this trap after you’ve put a lot of effort into your
creative journey: you’ve built up a few skills, you’re good at
writing melodies, designing sounds, etc.
Basically, you’re at the stage where you can create a decent song
with the skills you already have.
So you keep spinning the wheel. You keep churning out songs.
They’re decent. Not spectacular, but they do the job. You’re
comfortable, everybody’s comfortable, but you’re not getting better.
You think you’re practising. You think that with every song, you’re
improving, and you’re probably right. But by how much are you
As a beginner, you progress exponentially with every song you
finish because there’s so much to learn. You don’t have a clue what
you’re doing, and you’re learning constantly. But as you get
better, you need to take a more directed approach to practice,
otherwise, you risk not being able to see through the illusion of
What you need is deliberate practice—something I touched on in
chapter 5. The common trait of all high-achievers, both in creative
fields and in sports, is that they know how to practice
Deliberate practice: working on technique, seeking out constant
critical feedback, and focus- ing ruthlessly on shoring up
weaknesses.”— Daniel Coyle
You practice deliberately when you’re at the edge of your ability.
It’s spending an hour a day designing complex sounds when you’re
not good at sound design. It’s writing 10 melodies in one sitting
when you suck at writing melodies. It’s finishing tracks quickly
and rapidly when you’re not good at finishing tracks. It’s doing
the hard things that can be enjoyable but aren’t always enjoyable.
Why is deliberate practice important?
Why is it so important? What’s wrong with being able to churn out
good tracks? Why should I challenge myself if I’m already proficient?
As I said, it’s easy to avoid doing things that are difficult and
still end up with a good track. There have been plenty of instances
where I’ve avoided going down a certain route with a track because
I knew it was difficult and would require a lot of time and effort.
It’s not like I needed to go down that route, so I didn’t.