Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap

Information is more abundant and easier to access than at any other time in history. Invaluable resources like websites, books, videos, and courses are only a few clicks away. Though this is ultimately great for learning, there is a significant downside: Getting caught in the trap of understanding something but not actually doing it.

Most musicians have been guilty of this at one time or another. Perhaps you want to learn how to execute a particular technique on your instrument, or to explore a new musical concept. Finding an explanation in a YouTube video or on a blog is easy, and doesn’t take much time to consume. But simply taking in this information won't translate into successfully executing the technique, or using the concept. There is a space you need to traverse before knowledge is internalized and becomes useful.

Author and performance coach Brad Stulberg describes this as the “knowing-doing gap.” As he explains in his book The Practice of Groundedness: “First, you need to understand something and be convinced of its value. Then, you actually need to do it.”

The second half is key. You may understand that practicing is essential to musical growth, but if you don’t actually practice, this understanding will be of little value to you. Or you may know what a pentatonic scale is, but if you don’t practice playing it, improvising with it, or writing solos with it, that knowledge is little more than a piece of musical trivia.

Anytime you learn something, whether from a book, or a course, or a private music teacher, devise a plan with actionable steps you can follow to close this gap. This can mean creating a practice plan to regularly drill that new technique, or maybe taking on a project that will force you to employ that new concept.

Whatever avenue you choose, so long as you put what you learn into practice, you can go from simply knowing to doing.