Musicians and personality


In recent months, I often wonder what kind of personality fits best for musicians. I don’t know of any research in that matter. The Dutch book “Een kwestie van persoonlijkheid” by Jolet Plomp was very inspiring in this matter.

According to Plomp, there is a core in your personality that is pretty stable. Part of your personality comes from your genes, another part is formed by your experiences and by you reaction to them.

The 5 major personality dimensions that all psychologists agree upon, are often called “the big 5” or “OCEAN”. All five dimensions are represented in a scale rather than in one trait. There is no good or wrong, it’s all about getting to know yourself better, so you can make educated decisions in life and work. If you go with your personality, it should bring you closer to happiness.

The ‘O’ in OCEAN stands for the first dimension and goes from Open minded and imaginative to conservative and conventional.
‘C’ stands for Conscientiousness, the scale goes from controlling and organized to flexible and spontaneous.
‘E’ is Extrovert and outgoing, with introvert and solitair on the other side of the scale.
‘A’ as in Agreeableness and trusting has competitive and persistent on the other side of the scale.
‘N’ for Neuroticism is about sensitivity and prone to stress versus emotionally stable and resilience.

As I said, there is no right or wrong. Strong on neuroticism sounds bad, but it also means that you are very sensitive, what you can use in your creativity. Society puts a higher value on some traits, like extroversion. Still, all traits are useful. All 5 dimensions are independent from each other. So it’s possible to be solitary and spontaneous, or sensitive and persistent, or sensitive and outgoing.

When imagining all possible combinations, I get a bit dizzy. For every dimension, there are at least 3 possible outcomes: neutral, tending to one side, tending to the other side. With 2 dimensions you already have 9 options. With 5 dimensions, it’s 729 options! That is 729 different personalities!

For musicians it’s important to know yourself. Adapting your expectations is easier than to adapting your personality. If you are more introvert, you shouldn’t expect from yourself to become an outgoing person. Performing in a small, intimate setting might fit better with you. If you are very sensitive, you might prefer complex music.

If you want to get to know yourself better, there are many online tests you can do.
If you want to know how to make your musicianship fit with your personality, I can help you with mental coaching. Please get in touch for more information.

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