Perfectionistic or Messy-mind?

December 6, 2010 at 10:06 PM ·

 There are many different styles of music that portray many different things. And there are also many different types of personality. Do you think to be a musician it takes being a perfectionist or being completely messy? 

I'm a naturally messy person in all senses and I'll leave cleaning at the bottom of my list if needs be... but when I play on the violin, I like my violin to be clean, I like the area around me to be clean, and most of all I like my pieces to be clean and polished off before I perform them. I like them to be perfect. However, my natural 'habitat' is one of a messy one and I don't mind living in somewhat of a mess!

When it comes to music, I'm all over the place. My desk in my bedroom is always covered with scores of music I have written or I'm in the middle of writing, pieces I'm playing or intend to play and much more! My writing becomes a complete scruff when I am doing something I enjoy or something creative, such as writing stories or making music. 

I have come across some very neat musicians who are just perfectionists in all ways, yet I have come across some of the most crazy, messy, mad and creative people who turn out brilliant. 

What do you think? Are you messy or tidy, or a bit of a mixture of both? And what makes the best musicians? 

Replies (21)

December 6, 2010 at 10:29 PM ·

Honestly, and this isn't a pollyanna hallmark-card crap thing with me but something I've realized over long decades, music is one of the only things in this world where you don't have to be only one kind of person to be incredibly successful and incredibly good.  Slobs, jerks, angels, slackers, OCD high-functioners, jokesters, frumps, drunks, and teetotallers.  All can be brilliant musicians -- there is absolutely no "wrong kind of person" for music.  I've studied many other things where there is definitely a single type of personality that seems to do well and if you aren't that kind of person, you will have a rough time -- but not with music. 

December 7, 2010 at 01:05 AM ·

People who are highly intelligent tend to neglect some primairy things. (I've read this)

Living in a clean environment is kind of important but a neuropsy I know told that statistically, people who have higher QI tend to live in messier places or to not be bothered by this.

Some obsessive cleaning (spotless...) pesons somtimes do it because they are insecure and it's the only thing they are good at (that gives them a sense of accomplishment).  (but I'm sure some some of them are good in other things that cleaning?) 

Some even neglect body hygyene (though that is a totally different issue from a messy house!) Ever seen that type of university intellect wiz?  Me, yes...

I don't mind about a messy place (as long as it is a minimum clean of course) but I'm not ready to jump to the next step I've told!!! 

I've sometimes forgotten to eat...  (though that is not good too!)

Perhaps some people can be very organized in some areas and accept to be less in some others.   Some great persons also have full of people doing their cleaning, managing their career and raising their kids...  (that's why everything always look so perfect I guess...)

Interesting topic!


of course statistics and studies can say anything so I'm not telling if this is true or not!  How could I know?

December 7, 2010 at 01:16 AM ·

In OT we learn that the optimal way to have good results in everything is that typical very organized and stable balanced way of living and routine.  (yes, for most of us and especially the sick people...)

But for high QI persons and high acheivers, seems to me that it's true from what I've read that they are often somehow original in their schedule and (except some like Einstein...) often are said to just need 5 and less hours of sleep and almost be obsessive.  (studies showed that much students in med/dent have slightly obsessive/compulsive behaviours to be able to be there.  That's what one teacher told) I have nothing against this.  We need those people and bravo to them if it works that way! 

Everyone is so different!  Sorry if I'm a little off topic... 

December 7, 2010 at 01:45 AM ·


AMP -actually I think there is a much more common reason for people being obsessive cleaner sthan the ability to do anything else.   It`s a -very- strong indicator for childhood abuse.  Cleaning becomes an act of empowerment for an abused person because it makes them feel they can actually control something rather than be controlled.

According to Neuro Linguistic Programming people process data in differnet ways.  So if you are a visual processor then noticing and being upset by untidiness is quite usual.  A kineasthetic processor will be significantly less aware of mess or things being out of place because they are more concerned with feeling the environment and the people in it.   A lot of NLP marriage counselling can involve identifying mismatches in how people percive the world and tyring to resolve bridge the gap. IE A visual processor husband might be constantly upset to return to a slightly untidy house while the partner is unaware that ther eis any kind of problem.



December 7, 2010 at 04:55 AM ·

 In order to make a living as a classical musician, you must be a little OCD. A neat freak. This doesn't have to apply to every aspect of your life--you certainly can throw Arby's wrappers in the back of your car, but if aren't a perfectionist where it counts, you won't get hired, or you won't work for long. these include:

Showing up on time, every time. Remembering all your stuff--stand, pencil, mute, etc. Playing in tune and in time. Focusing for long periods of time, and doing things you're told the first time. At least in the orchestral world, you have to act more like an airline pilot than a mad professor.

December 7, 2010 at 05:48 AM ·

Scott, the mad professor still has to be organised to in his scientifical ideas... otherwise it wouldn't work!    But sometimes the rest of their life pays for it (is messy)!

Sorry but I have to laugh about the expression "mad professor"!  So funny! Perhpas it's because it's late here! 


December 7, 2010 at 07:01 AM ·

I'm a lot like Eloise describes, although I do believe I'm a visual processor by Buri's definition.  But music is one area of my life that I try to keep under control.  It's SO fortunate that the violin does not require a lot of accessories.  Everything fits into my violin's case except my music stand and music, and music is relatively easy to keep organized.   I'm also more disciplined about how I practice the violin than I am about a lot of other things in my life.  I cannot credit my inner nature for that.

December 7, 2010 at 08:13 AM ·

Perfectionist and Messy Mind. Both. Simultaneously.


December 7, 2010 at 09:01 AM ·

Speaking for the mad professors... (I may be the closest thing to it here),   I typically sleep 5-6 hrs - 4-5 from about 10 on and then one extra one at about 6 am.  I am seen as a multitasker - but actually what I do is switch from intense thinking on one subject, that is focus on it entirely, and then switch to a totally new one.  A good name for that would be 'modal-tasker', switching from one mode to another.  

 I'm also strongly kinesthetic and Buri is on the button for me - untidiness does not bother me at all - until, that is, my mind switches onto the mess and then I'll clean it as well as any housewife (falls into the modal-tasker switching).  I clean my violin regularly, but not obsessively, a sprinkle of rosin is a testament to a practice well done.  And my music alternates from lining every surface in the room to precise organization.  However, I definitely tend to be messy, not tidy - I think I work better in a messy environment,  it really does not bother my thinking at all.

Just want to add that to me creativity is related to disorder, not order - its much easier to find newness in random disorder than in precisely organized (and hence established) space...

December 7, 2010 at 05:51 PM ·

After processing what Buri had to say, I realized that I am a mostly kinesthetic processor while my husband is a visual processor.  I say "mostly" because I am aware when things are out of order, yet they don't bother me until things reach a certain threshold.  It seems to me that learning a musical instrument is very much about kinesthetic processing.

This has become a very useful discussion for me.

December 7, 2010 at 06:44 PM ·

 I wouId like to think that I'm a little bit of both. :)


Running one passage time after time after time after time... well you get it.  Conversely, don't get me started on the mess that is my dorm room. 



December 7, 2010 at 06:58 PM ·

I am also Kinesthetic!  I work just as Elise now...  4-5 hours of sleep and sometimes less.  (I never needed a lot of sleep either).  I can switch for the girl who pactices at university to the student who studies for her anatomy exam tomorrow...  But I am highly distractable with school since I'm not in a "passion" mood with school.  I can't do a homework without often stopping to listen music or to come on

Though, in music it's the contrary.  My focus is intensive and a bomb could burst beside me that I wouldn't even notice it.  I sometimes forget to eat if I play music.  But never when I do homework ; ) 

I'm as Elise too for the cleaning.  I don't care about it and when it comes close to "It will be dangerous here if I don't clean a little"  then I wash everything as a maniac!   

But I'm not like this with my own person. I am not ready to cut basic self care. (we live in society not in the woods...) 

I also find that creativity comes with "messy" ! 

Gee, much similar things ; )

December 7, 2010 at 08:46 PM ·

Perfectionism has nothing to do with messes and orderliness.  It has to do with an obsession with basing one's self worth on flawless performance, be it housecleaning, hygene, cooking, dress, social interaction, or job fulfillment.  It is not a positive attribute, but an inability to be okay with not being perfect.

I tend to struggle with perfectionism, which leaves me vulnerable to an abusive relationship with my violin.  When I practice, I am horribly aware that nothing is perfect, but sometimes I just can't quit trying.  It is good to strive toward excellence, but also important that we understand our own human limitations.  Perfectionists struggle to understand that failings do not devalue self worth.

By the way, my house is very messy, and I'm a stereotypical absent-minded professor.  When I clean, I tend to simply stuff the mess where no one will see it.  I constantly feel guilty about this, but since it's not something that weighs heavy on my own list of important things, I don't comply to strict cleaning regimines.  I mean, I could care less about the dust on the window sill when pondering the cosmic scheme of things.  I only clean because I run a studio out of my house and am consciencious about how it will affect my business.

December 7, 2010 at 08:53 PM ·

Anne-Marie, Emily:  Wow, this is very interesting - a (female?) violinist stereotype!  I'm going to guess that you are also kinesthetic Emily.  We need to form a club... the similarities are quite astonishing.  I too am inclined to be too perfectionistic when playing - I get very down on myself when I hear any error (and of course that is not avoidable).  Its been a bane in my dancing, though there I seem to have found a cure.  I wonder if it will work here too...


December 7, 2010 at 08:57 PM ·

Emily, I think that's almost two kinds of perfectionism.  There's the kind that runs TOWARD being perfect, and is eager to be perfect ... and there's the kind that fear imperfection and runs AWAY from it.  The latter kind can be crippling -- it can prevent people from achieving anything, since they are so frightened of not being perfect that they fear the imperfection they will have to get through in order to improve.  For any newbie, there is a thick swamp of suckitude between them and the improved them that awaits, and to the latter type of perfectionist, going through that is like running through a gasoline fire ... so they just never take the first step.

December 7, 2010 at 09:31 PM ·

I'm both.  I procrastinate to death because I'm reluctant to take that first step, and when I do start, I don't stop.

December 7, 2010 at 10:22 PM ·

 Elise, what you said originally is what I was trying to get at!

I can switch modes, so when my 'tidy mode' turns on, I'll tidy up around the house/ my room/ where ever else I am, until the point it is spotless! Then I just switch to doing something else and get that done. Saying that, I have a terrible tendency to leave things half-done, or I get bored of doing one thing. Good job I've kept up with music all these years without getting too bored!

December 7, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

I like the term of being an "organized messy person". I am veyr much a messy mind, always doing muliple things at a time and all over the place. I stay away from trying to  be perfect as much as I can. I watched my sister disappear into the pit of anorexia because she´s a perfectionist and that journey has convinced me to always do my best but never exspect full perfection from myself, honestly I don´t want t risk it.

December 7, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

I like the term of being an "organized messy person". I am veyr much a messy mind, always doing muliple things at a time and all over the place. I stay away from trying to  be perfect as much as I can. I watched my sister disappear into the pit of anorexia because she´s a perfectionist and that journey has convinced me to always do my best but never exspect full perfection from myself, honestly I don´t want t risk it.

December 7, 2010 at 11:48 PM ·

Wow, we can truely see the two main treademarks of violinists here whatever their background or level

- messy

- but somehow perfectionist when it counts for them...


But is that also a luxury of people who can make a great place for violin in their lives?  I mean that has a lot of young or returner violinists members!  

December 8, 2010 at 12:31 AM ·

Love this thread! I too let things go, tend to be messy. Was a neat freak years earlier (ex husband very picky, brand new house, three kids etc), and I now know that too neat makes me tense. I am such a perfectionist with my playing that I don't think I will ever play in public again. I just have accepted that part of myself, that I play for me, I progress for the music (and me). Was just thinking I need to start cleaning in a few days after the end of finals, have already planned how I am going to rearrange the furniture (I used graph paper), realized I should get new curtains etc. All or nothing, but I sure know where everything is.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine