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05 September 2017

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Decomposing the Musician - Part 1

Are Musicians Introverts or Extroverts?

In a recent poll is was found that the majority of musicians would describe themselves as introverts.

A while ago I published on YouTube a "Musician's Personality" quiz and it seems that there definitely are certain personality traits shared by the majority of musicians. 

The two most definitive results, that emerged and that I want to discuss today were in answer to the questions;
  1. Are you sensitive to other people's feelings?
  2. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Regarding the first question, I have to be honest, I anticipated that most people would say YES, they are sensitive to other people's feelings. The result backed this up - a massive 96% of those who answered said yes. Of course many of us would not like to admit if we were insensitive and could answer not honestly, but if we think about it, being a musician requires sensitivity, it's all about communicating emotions and feelings, communication being a two way thing. Especially those of you who play in ensembles, need a high level of empathy to communicate non verbally when performing. However, is this "empathy" a pre-requirement to make a good musician, or does being a musician develop empathy. As I delved into this subject further I found an academic study by Cambridge University where Researchers looking at group education sessions for 8 to 11 year old children showed that engaging in regular music-based activities with others - from ensembles to simple rhythmic exercises - can conspicuously advance empathy development, increasing a child’s capacity to recognize and consider the emotions of others. If you are interested there is a link to this article below.

The second question produces a more surprising result. One might think that musicians are extroverts. They often play in front of large audiences, expressing themselves openly through their instrument, quite the opposite of what one would expect from a quiet, shy, retiring type. However, the survey returned a result that 92% of you who answered were introverts. It is true that in order to spend enough time practicing to become really good at music, you have to enjoy being alone for long periods. Playing music with and for other people is social, but in a highly structured way that's easier for introverts. Could it also be that we use our instruments to hide behind and we transform into an extrovert only with our instrument in hand (or in throat in the case of singers). In real life are we the one who stands in the corner at parties, not the best at starting conversations especially in larger groups of people. Please leave a comment below if this describes you, do you hide behind your instrument, but without it are you shy in social settings?

As I said at the outset, these are only a couple of the results and I will be commenting on other questions in future weeks, so stay tuned and watch out for the next in the series of "Decomposing the Musician"

Further Reading

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