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13 September 2017

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The "Obsessive Nature of a Musician" - Decomposing the Musician - Part 2

Is an obsessive personality characteristic of a musician?Following on from last week's post about the personality of a musician, where we discovered that a large majority of you who took my poll were introverts, this week I want to look at the obsessive nature of musicians. By the way, if you haven't taken the poll yet you can do so HERE

In the survey only 20% of you said that you were not obsessive at all, 50% being mildy obsessive and 30% VERY obsessive. I believe that this goes along with being an introvert and also some of the other questions in the survey. For example, most of you said that you were "single minded" rather than "easily distracted". A similar proportion of you describe yourselves as organised. Are these results surprising? Not really. First of all musicians need to devote large amounts of time to practice. This activity in itself requires a somewhat obsessive nature. They need to be very strict with themselves to stick to a schedule ignoring distractions.

Added to this, musicians exist in an environment of pressure to perform well. Concerts and exams, for example can create a competitive characteristic within us.  Do you for example, compare yourself with other musicians in a competitive way trying to be better than your peers? Please leave a comment if this describes you.

However, here comes a word of warning. Being overly obsessive can lead us to practice an instrument to a point where  doing so can cause physical injury. The famous violinist Itzhak Perlman recommends practising no more than three hours a day. 

Watch the video - Itzhak Perlman on Practicing

In fact, researchers have found that setting goals to outperform others seems to undermine musical performance. There is also a danger that we can engage in this activity to the point where health deteriorates, relationships are strained, and finances can suffer.

Now, I'm not advocating that a musician should not have a structured approach to practice, but maybe a more healthy way would be to always try and be better than yourself, rather than better than others. Additionally, as musicians, I believe we will be better in what we do, if we have a life outside of music. A person who is passionate about life, will be more passionate when they perform. Conversely,  a student whose life is only about music, can end up being very mechanical in their playing. 


  1. Talking about practicing, do you know any great books about practicing?

  2. Not books, but I have other articles on my blog more specifically related to better practicing


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