Using Practicing Personalities in Music Lessons

When I was at the CFMTA Convention this summer, I spied Practice Personalities: What's Your Type? by Thornton Cline in Long & McQuade's trade show booth. The idea of determining students' practice type and working with that sounded intriguing.

About Practice Personalities: What's Your Type?

Mr. Cline identifies nine practice personalities:

  1. The Perfectionistic Type Student
  2. The Not-So-Detailed Type Student
  3. The Unmotivated Type Student
  4. The Fragile, Easily Discouraged Type of Student
  5. The Overscheduled Way-Too-Busy Type of Student
  6. The Dramatic Type of Student
  7. The Exucse Making, Blaming Type Student
  8. The Over-Exhuberant, Highly Confident Type of Student
  9. Build Your Own Personatily Type of Student

Cline introduces each type before going into more detail for each practice type. Next, he gives a brief (too brief!) chapter with some teaching suggestions for each type. Interspersed throughout the book are interviews with a variety of music educators.

He also dedicates a chapter to motivational rewards and prizes. There is even a chapter on motivational games. Finally, there is a CD in the back, which outlines some of the practice strategies Cline recommends. The back of the book has a handy assessment chart for music teachers to use.

Music Teaching with Practice Personalities

I actually didn't need a full month to complete my assessment. All of my students are a combination of two or more types. To help keep me organized my teaching approaches, I've kept track of how many students are in each group:

  1. The Perfectionist Type Student: 36%
  2. The Not-So-Detailed Type Student: 52%
  3. The Unmotivated Type Student: 24%
  4. The Fragile, Easily Discouraged Type of Student: 24%
  5. The Overscheduled Way-Too-Busy Type of Student: 40%
  6. The Dramatic Type of Student: 20%
  7. The Exucse Making, Blaming Type Student: 16%
  8. The Over-Exhuberant, Highly Confident Type of Student: 20%

I decided to tackle one strategy at a time.

First off: showing students various practice drills to help them fix trouble spots more quickly. To do that, I simply asked my students to pull out their Bag of Tricks and have them choose a couple of appropriate drills to use from their deck, based on what needed to be fixed.

Many of my students have commented that it's fun to pull out their Bag of Tricks that I made for them. I spent the first two to three weeks doing that just to help reinforce how to practice, but also to appeal to everyone's state of busy-ness. "You want to fix this as quickly as you can so you can move onto other stuff, right?" I'd ask.

With the majority of my students being some combination of the Not-So-Detailed, I decided to increase the frequency of doing Record & Review. You can read about that experience in my post on Active Listening.

This week, I'm employing another technique that's good for several practice types, but especially for the Dramatic and the Not-So-Detailed: roleplaying with a bit of dramatic exaggeration thrown in. This tests my aural memory, let me tell you!

I try to play back what they played incorrectly and ask them to tell me what I did wrong. A few students get it right away, "You didn't hold that note long enough," or "You sped up in that line." My reply is, "Well, that's what I heard you do. Now you show me that you can play it better than me."

The other thing I've launched this week is a Sight-Reading Challenge (more on that later). In addition to increasing my students' music literacy, it's also an exercise to challenge my Perfectionist students.

I'll give my students some time to get get used to these approaches. Then, I'll tackle the Excuse-Making and Blaming Students Fragile, Easily Discouraged ones.

It's a neat book. Mr. Cline is a strong writer and the CD is useful.

However, I was disappointed with how few strategies he offered. Let me re-phrase that: I was disappointed in how little new information I gleaned from it. The majority of the strategies are ones that I've already employed.

In short, I'd say that Practice Personalities: What's Your Type? is ideal for a music teacher just starting out. It would also be good for a teacher just looking for some fresh ideas, especially if they don't already use technology in the studio.

Mr. Cline's suggestions simply reinforced for me some of the strategies that I'm already using in my teaching. The main difference is that now that I know which practice type my students are, I can switch strategies more quickly. When combined with knowing my students' VARK learning preferences, it's a powerful combination.

Practice Personalities Publication Details

Author: Thornton Cline

Title: Practice Personalities: What's Your Type

Paperback: 88 pages

Publisher: Centerstream

Publication Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN-10: 1574242814

ISBN-13: 978-1574242812

Price Range: $16.62 - $27.95 CAD

I purchased my copy from Long & McQuade. You may need to special order this book through your local bookstore. Practice Personalies: What's Your Type? is also available online on Amazon, Alibris and Sheetmusicplus.