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  1. #1
    Freshman Member simulatedworld's Avatar
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    Default MBTI Types and Guitar Learning Styles: My Observations

    OK, so someone's post on the "NTs who enjoy performing arts" thread made me think about this, and I had to write down my thoughts.

    Background: I make a good portion of my living teaching private in-home music lessons (mostly guitar, but also piano and occasional bass) to children around the metro Atlanta area, and there are a lot of really interesting parallels between my type observations on the kids and their learning styles.

    I don't imagine there are too many people teaching private, one-on-one music lessons semi-professionally and obsessively MBTI-ing their students, so maybe this will contribute something unique to the forum canon. Who knows?

    Anyway, I've had students from all the temperaments. Probably not every single type, but the ones I can remember having include, but are not limited to: all the NTs, ENFP, INFP, ISTP, ISFP, ESFP, ISTJ, ISFJ and ESFJ. (Apparently I've never had an NFJ or EST student. Hmm...)

    The SPs are the ones who want to brute force memorize all the data they need to play specific songs they enjoy, but none of the context. They not only don't give a damn about music theory, they actively avoid it. This approach tends to fail after a couple of years because it results in a lot of fragmented knowledge on certain extremely specific areas and very little to tie it all together into confident, cohesive playing. (On the plus side, it provides endless business for me, the teacher.)

    One caveat, though: I did know one ESFP guitarist in college who was very into metal and could accurately get through, note for note, some extremely difficult material with astonishing technique. He couldn't write an original song for the life of him, but he did understand the value of iNtuition as it relates to music and thus had a much better understanding of theory than most people at my music school.

    "I don't care what the name of the chord is; where do I put my fingers?" is what I hear from one ISTP student in particular, constantly. He never wants to play anything to a metronome, just wants to memorize how it sounds and play solely from that. As such his rhythmic understanding is comparatively quite weak, and it really holds him back.

    NT students usually delight in learning all the little theoretical intricacies that explain why the music is enjoyable, why this approach sounds better than that approach, and so on. NTJ students, in particular, will actively search for flaws and inconsistencies in their playing and pointedly ask you to demonstrate how to improve upon them! What a blessing! As long as they are enjoying themselves, they are often the best students.

    NF students are fairly similar to NTs in their broad, generalized learning approach, but they're generally less interested in technique and won't practice something much if it isn't a song that deeply moves them. One 8 year old ENFP student loves to make up new chord forms, ask me what chord THIS is, and then forget all about them. Part of this is just being 8 years old, but he's constantly experimenting with the guitar to make new fun sounds come out of it--and unfortunately he doesn't care enough about practicing formal technique (that's boring!) to really be very good at it just yet!

    SJ students are very by the book, and they have an advantage in terms of work ethic and always being willing to practice what you tell them to. They have a bit of a tendency to focus too much on particular, singular aspects of their playing (one ISTJ student absolutely loves note reading) to the exclusion of others, but they generally take your authority as teacher so seriously that if you calmly and gently point out the areas where they need improvement, they will actively work on those skills until they improve. Also generally pretty good students to have.
    If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed--am I right?

  2. #2
    Diabolical Kasper's Avatar
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    Guess I learn more like a SP according to that. I detest theory, after learning piano, violin and cello as a kid for years and years I still can't sight read, it never interested me actually more than that I hated that aspect, I’ve always played by ear and feel. Music isn't a technical thing for me it's about feeling it. My old bass teacher quickly gave up trying to get me to read things and just concentrated on showing me technique.

    My ISFP sister is similar but she did do the theory where I silently refused.

  3. #3
    Freshman Member simulatedworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trinity View Post
    Guess I learn more like a SP according to that. I detest theory, after learning piano, violin and cello as a kid for years and years I still can't sight read, it never interested me actually more than that I hated that aspect, I’ve always played by ear and feel. Music isn't a technical thing for me it's about feeling it. My old bass teacher quickly gave up trying to get me to read things and just concentrated on showing me technique.

    My ISFP sister is similar but she did do the theory where I silently refused.
    Some NTs take this attitude because they don't like being told the right way to do things. After a while, though, you realize that actively avoiding theory is cutting off your nose to spite your face--it only limits your understanding.

    Theory alone doesn't make you write a good song, but it does let you quickly eliminate a lot of possibilities when you're trying to find exactly the pattern that sounds right to you, and thus vastly streamlines the process.

    Learning theory doesn't mean you have to ignore feeling at all. It's a combination of technique+feeling that makes the best players...technique just helps you express your feelings through music more efficiently, and it's really kind of silly to see so many people avoiding it out of some misguided fear that it will squelch their inner creative muse. People who think that inevitably don't know anything about theory, and are never as good as they could be if they'd bother to learn a little about it.

    Of course, all theory/no heart can be a problem too and this one manifests itself most often in STJ musicians. Less experienced ones tend to think being able to perfectly imitate the sound of others or play precisely every note on the page makes them fantastic players, although some NTs will do this too, just in more original combinations of technical overcompensation. That asshole that does a 14-minute uber-technical bass solo at the local bar gig is probably an NT.

    Anyway though you shouldn't fear theory. It doesn't seek to destroy your artistic vision; that's a purely subjective matter--it seeks only to teach you how to find that vision and make it reality more quickly. Technique+Expression=good music, and a great way to make your music suffer is to neglect one and overdevelop the other.
    If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed--am I right?

  4. #4
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    I'm so glad you started this thread! I have been wondering how type affects guitar-learning, having taken lessons myself and then showing my friends how to play what I've learned, as well as just observing the guitar monsters.

    I think my INTP way of approaching the guitar might have actually held me back a bit the first few years I played. I had taken piano lessons growing up, and was quite good at it, especially sight-reading and putting my own spin on the notes and rhythm of the piece. Theory bored me, but I learned it anyway--but it never occurred to me that I could use theory in order to compose my own songs or learn to play "by ear." When I came to the guitar, I understood that note-reading wouldn't be as useful, but theory and my ear would be, so I was excited about that. I think, though, that I tried to intellectually learn everything I could about the guitar, and tried to connect each new piece of information to what I already knew, hoping I could understand the guitar like my teacher did. What I conveniently forgot was that a) my hands weren't yet up to the task, and b) my teacher had been playing for 35 years and I was just starting.

    Another problem I ran into was that my musical interests, particularly where guitar styles were concerned were so varied that I would want to learn a little bit about every genre, rather than really learning the ins and outs of one in particular and then expanding. So I'd learn a bit of classical technique, then some power chords, then a country riff, then a few jazz chords, then a surf rock song, etc. I just couldn't make myself focus, and my teacher knew I'd probably be bored if he didn't allow me to learn what I wanted--and his tastes were pretty much identical to mine, so he knew everything I'd throw at him.

    Another big problem I had is hand strength, since I'm a woman (though some of my girl friends had much stronger hands starting off than I did), and I'd experience extreme frustration over not being able to get a clear and consistent sound from some barre chords, or not being able to get a certain pull-off b/c my fingers were wimpy. This would mess with my brain, though, and I would wonder if I'd EVER be able to play like I really wanted to.

    Now that I'm in a band, I think it's helped me immensely--the focus and repetition of certain songs instead of dividing my focus, playing with others and seeing where I fit, and also just relaxing and learning new stuff a bit at a time, rather than feeling like I have to know everything all at once. I think I'm poised to make better and faster progress now.

    Do you have any tips for NTs? Practice tips, anything? I'd love to hear more of your thoughts.
    Something Witty

  5. #5
    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    I played piano via formal lessons and acoustic guitar because everybody in my family plays guitar and it's like learning to talk -- you just do it, nobody should have to teach you.

    I had to focus on technique with piano, but I don't understand equating technique to theory. As I understand technique, it's about hand position and posture, etc.

    I learned elementary sing-along strumming guitar by watching my dad and my uncles and cousins play, and I can play almost anything by ear.

    I used to ask my piano teacher if she would play the new song for me once. She'd play it and I'd hear it and then I'd play it better for her next week. :-D It was two years before she realized I couldn't read a note.

    I never liked music lessons.

  6. #6
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    I really don't like any musical instruments. I highly doubt the interest is sparked just from type. Not saying you think that, but some people here tend to think that hobbies = MBTI.

    But yes, I think your short essay of sorts could apply to any sorts of lessons and how someone will learn. Nice one.
    () 9w8-3w4-7w6 tritype.

    sCueI (primary Inquisition)

  7. #7
    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    ive been playing for 6 years. took lessons for the first 3.

    all i wanted to learn in lessons was technique. i wanted to master: scales, alternate picking, string skipping, legato vs staccato runs, arpeggios, sweeping etc. i always wanted harder exercises, better technique or use of theory etc.

    i really had no desire to learn a specific song, even though i loved listening to music (especially metal). i think i just intuitevly knew that i needed to have the chops before i got bogged down trying to learn songs.

    so as a result, i could REALLY wank around quite well, wether it was pentatonic bluesly stuff, or more melodic stuff... but i always got shit because i wasnt that asshole who knew how to play every "sublime" song (god i HATE those people!)

    within the last year i finally started learning full songs...almost out of nowhere i just started. i think in the first week i started i learned like 8 metallica songs haha.

  8. #8
    Te > Fi > Ni Shaula's Avatar
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    Interesting observation. I like learning about music theory and applying it the most these days but when I was younger I was more insterested in gaining skills.
    Is not to be held accuntable for peeling errors.

  9. #9

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    I have the same problem as the 8 year old you mentioned. I learn new chords and skills then take them where ever. My ability to focus and just learn a song is pretty bad. My ability to use what I know and do a lot with a little is pretty good though. I can write a song by just sitting there and letting my mind go. And it doesn't really go to the shits like you'd expect. I let myself start playing and let go, and my mind just creates stuff. That's how I play guitar most of the time. I can't play much that anyone else has written, though I'm starting to learn now it is interesting me.
    Freude, schöner Götterfunken Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligtum! Deine Zauber binden wieder Was die Mode streng geteilt; Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

  10. #10
    Freshman Member simulatedworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
    I'm so glad you started this thread! I have been wondering how type affects guitar-learning, having taken lessons myself and then showing my friends how to play what I've learned, as well as just observing the guitar monsters.

    I think my INTP way of approaching the guitar might have actually held me back a bit the first few years I played. I had taken piano lessons growing up, and was quite good at it, especially sight-reading and putting my own spin on the notes and rhythm of the piece. Theory bored me, but I learned it anyway--but it never occurred to me that I could use theory in order to compose my own songs or learn to play "by ear." When I came to the guitar, I understood that note-reading wouldn't be as useful, but theory and my ear would be, so I was excited about that. I think, though, that I tried to intellectually learn everything I could about the guitar, and tried to connect each new piece of information to what I already knew, hoping I could understand the guitar like my teacher did. What I conveniently forgot was that a) my hands weren't yet up to the task, and b) my teacher had been playing for 35 years and I was just starting.

    Another problem I ran into was that my musical interests, particularly where guitar styles were concerned were so varied that I would want to learn a little bit about every genre, rather than really learning the ins and outs of one in particular and then expanding. So I'd learn a bit of classical technique, then some power chords, then a country riff, then a few jazz chords, then a surf rock song, etc. I just couldn't make myself focus, and my teacher knew I'd probably be bored if he didn't allow me to learn what I wanted--and his tastes were pretty much identical to mine, so he knew everything I'd throw at him.

    Another big problem I had is hand strength, since I'm a woman (though some of my girl friends had much stronger hands starting off than I did), and I'd experience extreme frustration over not being able to get a clear and consistent sound from some barre chords, or not being able to get a certain pull-off b/c my fingers were wimpy. This would mess with my brain, though, and I would wonder if I'd EVER be able to play like I really wanted to.

    Now that I'm in a band, I think it's helped me immensely--the focus and repetition of certain songs instead of dividing my focus, playing with others and seeing where I fit, and also just relaxing and learning new stuff a bit at a time, rather than feeling like I have to know everything all at once. I think I'm poised to make better and faster progress now.

    Do you have any tips for NTs? Practice tips, anything? I'd love to hear more of your thoughts.
    The hand strength issues happen to everyone at first. Being a woman isn't the problem. I've seen women tear up the upright bass, and if you think guitar is bad on your hands, or even bass guitar (which is significantly worse than guitar), you simply haven't had the pleasure of attempting upright bass yet--blows both out of the water in terms of wear and tear on your hands/muscle strength requirements.

    Learning too much abstract theory with no focus on practical skills is the classic excessive-N mistake. Music requires a unique combination of S and N skills, and it takes a lot of work to develop both. Truly though, it doesn't matter what music you're practicing as long as:

    A) You enjoy it,
    B) You're constantly playing with a metronome to develop a solid sense of time, and
    C) You take every opportunity you can get to play with anyone more experienced than you. You can learn something from almost everyone. How to get better, you ask?

    "We've been robbing REM blind for years."
    --Thom Yorke, vocals/guitar/piano, Radiohead

    "I totally rip off my influences."
    --Jose Pasillas, drums, Incubus

    "People used to say to me, 'But the Beatles were anti-materialistic!' This couldn't be further from the truth. John and I used to literally sit down and say, 'Now, let's write a swimming pool.'"
    --Paul McCartney

    Many NTs neglect B quite often because it's more fun to learn every modal permutation of this scale, get stoned and jam on new combinations forever. NTs often try to run before they can walk...I did this myself, and then had to go back and play constantly with a metronome to train myself in basic timing. It's harder than it seems, especially for a strong N.

    As for playing for the enjoyment of the experience, this is one area where the SPs have it right. The sheer amount of practice time it takes to be any good at music (as with most things) makes the return on investment so poor for so long that it's just not worth the time, money, effort, blood, sweat and tears if you don't absolutely love it, even when you suck.

    Another thing to remember is that everyone, absolutely everyone, sucks at first. Yes, even at singing! American Idol culture would have you believe that singing is a God-given talent where you're either phenomenal from birth, or doomed to be awful for all eternity. No no no, singing is just another instrument that requires hundreds of hours of focused cultivation to sound good in a live performance setting--being talented just means you don't have to practice *quite as much* as other people; it's absolutely not a necessity for anyone who genuinely enjoys music and is willing to consistently work hard on it. (Obviously the very best players are both talented and very hard workers, but remember that hard work>>>talent any day...before you swim, you've gotta be ok to sink!)

    On that note, get used to failure. A lot of it. NTs have trouble with this sometimes because they so insist on technical competence, but you will fail, and fail, and fail, and fail and fail again. Lots of disheartening things will happen. Even great musicians aren't perfect and everyone has bad nights, but the more experience you gain, the less bad your bad nights are, until eventually they're virtually indistinguishable to the average non-musician listener.

    But this takes YEARS! It's a very slow process that involves an enormous amount of trial and error, and the most important thing is getting back on the horse after you fall. Failure isn't so scary when you learn to harness it as a learning mechanism.
    If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed--am I right?

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