Published on 13/04/2015
Each student has a different personality and strengths in their musical learning – a one-size-fits-all approach hardly ever works. Understanding some basic personality traits in your child can help in creating strategies to help increase the amount and productivity of your child’s practice.
Extroverts will tend to revel in any opportunity to socialise with others through their music. On the other hand, they will often find it difficult to focus on details in lessons and to sit for extended periods of time to practice as they find the isolation hard.
Make sure you allow some ‘chatting time’ before and even after they sit down to practice. Try to discuss what they are finding fun, what they are finding difficult – really try and get them to talk about their whole learning experience. Set a time limit though as some kids will get carried away! Another good tip is to encourage several shorter practice sessions in their day rather than one long one. You will probably find your child focuses better and they won’t become fidgety with the sense of isolation.
Introverts are some of the best at extended practice sessions, enjoying the quiet time and solitude. The downside is that many introverts struggle with performance anxiety and may even find lessons stressful.
Try to encourage your child to discuss any anxieties they may have and help them develop strategies for dealing with it. Ideas such as pretending they are a different person or a rockstar when performing or even imagining they are somewhere else may help. Encouraging your child to put on small performances for family members can also be very beneficial as it is a less threatening environment. Try to be positive in any critiques you offer and make sure you congratulate their efforts as soon as they finish performing!
A sensing student is likely to love the details in playing a musical instrument – the feel of the instrument, certain sounds made, the sensation when you move from one position to another - but will be less focused on the quality of their playing itself.
Encouraging imagination in sensing types should show some pleasing results. Try making up stories to go with the pieces they are playing so they can imagine the timeline of the story as they play. This should help to develop expression in their playing and create a sense of the ‘bigger picture’ of the piece.
Intuitive students will have a natural ‘feel’ for the music they are playing and tend to have a more imaginative and expressive approach to their playing. However, details will often escape these students as they are more focused on the ‘bigger picture’, working with hunches and patterns to create their musical style.
Encouraging discussion on this is a good way to keep these details forward in their mind. Even if you are not musical yourself, you can quiz your child on their lesson and ask what the teacher has said about the pieces they are playing. Have a listen to their practice as well – do you think there are places in the piece where getting louder or softer would sound good, or perhaps something else?
Thinkers will be very objective in their judgements, will evaluate and assess the merits of the pieces they are playing, and will readily understand things such as the importance of technical work.
Similar to sensing types, thinkers can greatly benefit from being encouraged to explore any feelings they may have behind the pieces they are playing – do they feel as though the piece conveys any particular emotions or stories? What do they like about the pieces they are playing? Many thinkers may seem slightly detached from their musical learning so what you are trying to encourage most of all is a sense of engagement, enjoyment and excitement in their playing.
Feelers have very strong emotional reactions to music and would usually prefer to choose their own repertoire. These students are often the ones who will refuse to play a piece simply because they don’t like it, even if the teacher tries to explain the benefits their playing will have through learning new skills in the piece.
A great way to convince feelers to play pieces they may not necessarily like, but will be good for their development, is to find some good recordings of the piece for them to listen to. You may find that hearing the piece played well will spur some interest in your child. They may also find they like the sound of the piece played by someone who has done their practice! Encouragement and praise when they do practice these pieces will also go a way to spurring them on.
Teacher’s dream students are often judging types. What this means is they are usually very carefully organised, will always be up to date on their practice and their set works, will be on time for their lessons and ensembles and carry out their practice methodically.
One of the biggest problems these students have is dealing with change and spontaneity. Quite often their playing will miss a sense of freedom and even joy. Helping these students develop expressivity in their playing can be scary for them but will further their progress immensely. Encouraging improvisation is a great way to do this however it can be intimidating! Take things in small steps and be supportive of practice in this area and progress made.
Perceivers can be a little all over the place and often have no set method or way of thinking in approaching their practice. Things can be a little haphazard and practice is often not consistent. On the other hand their playing is usually quite expressive, as they tend to play ‘in the moment’.
Helping to maintain interest is going to be the best thing you can do for this type of student. A variety of pieces as well as mixing up the time or structure of their practice can also be beneficial. Try to incorporate a rough sense of planning in their routine – they might practice at different times each day, but encourage them to plan in advance when this will be. Encouraging your child to talk about what they need to practice and why is another good method to try.