August 16, 2013 at 4:52 PMOne of the questions that a reader asked this week was, Is viola the instrument of choice for introverts?
I suppose you could ask the same question of a second vs. first violinist: is the second violinist the introvert, the first violinist the extrovert? Or is it even more general than that? Are all violinists introverts? Extroverts? Considering all that practicing we do, alone in a room, we may lean a little toward introvert. Although, doesn't performing require us to be extroverts?
Or does it not make a lick of difference?
This "introvert" business seems to be the topic of the day among my musician friends, as I've been see them post all kinds of charts and articles along the lines of How to Live with Introverts, or Caring for Your Introvert, etc. I think it's time to revisit this vote!
Here is my hypothesis: that violists, second violinists, first violinists, soloists, teachers, etc. come in both varieties: introverts and extroverts. But this personality characteristic probably does affect a person's approach to learning, performing, working with others, publicizing one's self, etc.
Which are you, an introvert or extrovert? And how does this affect your music-making? (If you don't know, you can take this quiz) (P.S. We did this vote about four years ago, I'll let you know at the end if there's a big difference in how it comes out this time!)
When I became the principal 2nd violinist of my youth symphony, it was a bit of a leadership challenge for me. But I learned to play the part well. I think that there are some natural disadvantages for both introverts and extroverts, but there's no rule that says we can't replace our weaknesses with skill.
As far as 1st violin vs. second - I enjoy them both equally, but would rather be principal 2nd violin than section 1st.
I found this vote particularly interesting. 80% introverts?!! Maybe we're musicians because we like to express our thoughts in music rather than words.
It's also a question of how others see us: I may think I'm an introvert, but others might think I'm full of self-confidence and would classify me otherwise. I hate the idea of playing the violin in front of others, but when it comes to it, once I start I usually really enjoy it and everyone probably thinks I'm an extrovert (and probably a show-off)!
I recently attended a lecture about self-healing, where the speaker pointed out a number of personality categories and told us that virtually everyone classifies themselves as generally falling into one of these categories, but the point is that each of them is merely a convenient mask for the real nature that lies beneath.
I've known many people (and would consider myself amongst them) who have seemingly shifted from one character to another, sometimes a few times during the course of their lives, each time in response to circumstances. An example of that would be an introvert suddenly becoming full of himself as a means of convincing himself (and others) that he's really worth something. In my case I only started to gain any self-confidence when I got married.
We've all met people whom we find insupportable because they're so full of themselves; the question is, are these people really extroverts or are they introverts who have developed an extrovert character in order to validate themselves?
Apologies to viola players (I don't know if viola jokes are politically correct here) but I couldn't resist digging up this old chestnut:
Q. How do you make a viola player play tremolo?
A. Write a whole note and mark 'solo' above it.
Q: What's the definition of perfect pitch?
A: Throwing a viola into a dumpster without hitting the rim.
Where this puts me when I pick up my viola is even less certain. But someone once said that violists can't play 32nd notes - so to prove him wrong, I played one.
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