Voice Teaching for Personality Types: (SP, SJ, NF, NT) Students

Voice teacher instructing student singingIn the realm of my private vocal teaching of high school and college students, I have found knowledge of Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality types to be extremely helpful. My work often requires the use of imagery to obtain a desired sound. Despite medical advances allowing for viewing the larynx and for understanding the mechanics of vocal sound production, my experience has been that it’s quite ineffective to try to communicate the ‘how’ of correct vocal production using primarily technical language. Bridging the gap between the science and the art form by using symbolic language and also tapping into the often very delicate teen psyche calls for a broad palette of metaphor, imagery, humor and a great deal of outside-the-box ingenuity.

As an iNTj, I really love the challenge of solving the problems of communicating abstract concepts to very different personalities and of streamlining the process to make it as efficient and fast as possible. I also enjoy getting to really know the students and helping them make wise choices in their lives and careers.

Knowledge of MBTI types has given me many new ideas about how to better communicate with my students, and especially with NFs, (ENFP,INFP, ENFJ, INFJ) who have made up the vast majority of students in my vocal teaching practice. Most of them have a passion for music, the gift of artistry and self expression through singing. However, they also often have a deficit in self confidence and an almost superstitious fear that, once they fail at an attempt, for example, at singing high notes, all is lost. Their fears can lock their muscles tightly, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, severely hindering their progress. It can be hard to convince them to trust in the scientific principles of vocal teaching and that, once a formula is correctly applied, everything will behave in a predictable manner. I’ve learned also that NFs rarely progress with my NT preferred teaching method of straight technique. They are easily bogged down and discouraged by the mechanics. I often have needed to turn a song melody into a technical exercise, in order to keep them enthusiastically working toward their goal of making technical progress. I love working with NFs and generally have a wonderful rapport with them. They understand my zany analogies and are a joy to teach.

Working with SPs (ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, ISTP) has proven to be a fairly uncomplicated process for me. They are often naturals who seem to respond best to a light-handed approach and also to learning by direct imitation. Unlike NFs, and similar to NT students, they seem to have no problem doing repetitive technical work and are willing to try anything, having few inhibitions. Two very successful former students were SPs, whose easygoing, in-the-moment and flexible personalities made working with them a breeze.

I’ve also had fun working with the rare NT students (ENTP, INTP, ENTJ, INTJ) I’ve taught, because we speak the same type language, and their astute questions and determination to achieve mastery are a good fit with my teaching style. I’ve found that they progress with me more efficiently than others, seeming to easily comprehend my meaning. They also don’t resist pure technique, the most efficient means to their goal, and their emotions are rarely a factor in their learning process.

Embarrassingly, I have had rather lackluster success with SJ students (ESFJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ISTJ), and it’s not for want of trying. I’m usually reminded that I’m speaking a different language when I communicate concepts in my abstract way to them. I sense their frustration with my wacky analogies. Their clear preference for a method that is routine and systematic is not in my wheelhouse, and I suspect that my unconventionality, dislike of repetition and my free-spirited approach could make them feel somewhat insecure and cause them to wonder whether I know as much as I think I do. Tangible success and effectiveness just don’t seem to be sufficient credentials for them!

I think I’ll start giving a free personality type test to all prospective students from now on…

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