Practicing is the most important thing you will ever do as a turntablist. How you practice determines everything you will ever accomplish with scratching. If you practice regularly and effectively you can basically guarantee that you will achieve the results you desire and achieve them at a rate far quicker than someone who is practicing ineffectively. Unfortunately, many do not understand the importance of practice, much less what effective scratch practice entails.
To most, simply putting on a beat and jamming freely over it is what they consider practice. While this is not a complete waste of time, it is certainly not an effective use of practice time and quite frankly is not actual practice. Real practice consists of determining categories of specific items to work on and how much time must be spent on each item in your practice schedule based on your current strengths and weaknesses. If you are not doing this, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
Avoiding Problems vs. Creating Them
Think back to any conversation where you misinterpreted what the other person was trying to communicate to you. In most cases, that misinterpretation probably led to a problematic outcome. Had you truly understood what they were trying to get across in the first place, you would've had a much better chance of preventing whatever problems resulted from misunderstanding them.
When you confuse jamming with practicing you're essentially doing the same thing. This can be much worse than misunderstanding a simple conversation. Afterall, if you never gain true knowledge of what effective practice actually consists of, you could potentially waste years and years of your life never really achieving many of your scratch goals.
The Flip Side
Keep in mind, there is still a time and place for jamming. In fact, you can have the opposite issue if you get too heavily involved in practicing. While practicing effectively should make up the bulk of your scratching, if you never give yourself time to freely jam over a beat, you're not really giving yourself a chance to flex all the scratching muscles you're developing during practice. Ultimately, scratching is all about expressing yourself and stirring up emotion in your listeners. Thus, it's very important to set aside some time for jamming regularly where you can leave all your concern for the problems you've been working on behind for a bit.
Common Jamming Pitfalls
If you're truly working to progress regularly with an effective scratch practice strategy, it will be tough at times to shut out the inner critic when you're strictly jamming. What I'm advocating is not to avoid critiquing yourself when jamming, but to not be overly critical. Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes when scratching. You can take quick mental notes as you encounter problems, but you don't want to start breaking into practice exercises to fix those issues in the middle of jamming or you'll break the flow of your expression. You can always attack those problems later during your actual practice time.
An even better way to not let your worries drag you down during a jam is to record yourself scratching in audio or video and critique your jam afterwards. This will give you a much better chance to enjoy jamming and also make it easier to determine what the actual issues you're facing are. Often times in the moment of jamming, it is much more difficult to figure out what is being executed correctly or not. With a recording you have the opportunity to hear yourself from an outside perspective, as well as the ability to continually review anything that stands out to you as something to be concerned with.
With True Clarity Comes Great Responsibility
Now that you have a much better picture of what jamming and practicing are, you owe it to yourself to start creating a much more effective practice strategy for yourself. Understandably, this isn't always easy to do. Depending on your experience, you may not really know yet what specific areas deserve your attention during practice. To help get you started, I highly recommend you check out this great resource of practice topics I have written about here: Effective Scratch DJ Practice Strategies
While the topics I've covered should be of great help to you, you'll likely have more indepth issues that are very specific to you as an individual in need of attention. If you feel this is the case, be sure to go to this page and contact me directly with your concerns: Scratch DJ Lessons