I think this is an extremely important question to ask ourselves - "What kind of player am I?" And no, I'm not referring to this - that's absolutely disgusting. I'm talking your personality, playing style, character, energy, etc - all these contribute and affects the way we perform. By knowing all this, we can slowly answer the question ourselves and more importantly, understand how we will make music when we work with other people in ensembles, bands, or a collective.

During lessons and coachings with Bob van Sice at Peabody, he would always tell me to put my "dining table manners" away and play with a certain character that befits the music. I never knew our playing was a reflection of our personality, and it's funny because I never noticed it till I actually started teaching and seeing the correlations. My general observations are that quieter students tend to play softer and for the more outspoken students, louder. Of course, that's an over-generalisation and it doesn't mean we will always play that way. I've met seniors and colleagues, whom I think are rather introverted and less vocally expressive, become monster players when they're with their instruments.

A number of years ago, I remember attending a recital and that experience changed my attitude completely. I had known the musician to be pretty soft-spoken, kind, and at times blur like sotong (scroll to the phrase if you don't want to read the whole thing). But during the recital, the playing was completely different from the "dinner table" personality and that took me by complete surprise!

 

So what's up with knowing what kind of player we are?

 

Over the years studying and performing, I realise that while we can train ourselves to develop that ability to switch characters/personalities for pieces (kind of like an actor in a different role in every film), we naturally have something dormant in us that tells us what kind of player we are. For me, I've come to realise that I'm a very team player and don't really want the limelight. Which is why for Lorong Boys' performances, you don't really catch me doing lots of solos - of course, the drum solo has to fit in musically for it to work, but unless the guys suggest to have a drum solo somewhere (like for our Hua Yi performance), I don't outwardly ask to insert solos at all.

Then what about Classical pieces? After all, there are actual notes and rhythms to follow. I find that I will naturally play with more caution and tend not to diverge too much from the piece and I think this comes from my super OCD days when I was 7 haha.. And also, because I tend to be quite serious all the time, it takes a while for me to loosen up and enjoy the piece and my playing - again, probably from my childhood. My learning point came when I realise that while I tend to play a certain way from my dormant personality, I had to work on playing more 'outwardly' - really like an actor, consumed by his craft to portray his character as accurately as possible, regardless of his or her individual personality.

I'll admit - it's tough working on invoking a different personality, especially one that contradicts your beliefs. I'm generally a shy guy and it still takes me some time to get comfortable when someone tells me "play/show me something" if I'm behind a kit, or a snare drum, or a xylophone. And it's really because I'd rather make music with people than perform solo, which is also how I concluded that I'm more of a team player than one who likes the limelight. Having said that, I am finding my way to get in that head space of just being flashy and playing as if I rule the world. I don't like thinking that way, but it's something that I'm still working on.

If you haven't found your answer, it may take a while but you will eventually find it. I didn't even ask myself this question till a close friend provoked me into it, and I slowly found my way and my answer. You may have to do some soul-searching, but I feel that once you've found your answer, it will make you a better musician through learning who you are, and also making you work on your strengths and weaknesses.

Thanks again for reading this week's entry - I hope it'll help you on your musical journey! Don't forget to share this post or share your thoughts below :) Till next week, stay safe and well.

Joachim

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