Although the evidence may be few and far between on the topic, in contemporary music there appears to be a huge trend towards guitarists, as opposed to bassists (and other instruments). From this thought, a question naturally arises ‘is it because of their personality?’. Anecdotal evidence on bassists and guitarists made it clear that the bassists seemed a lot quieter and more reserved towards each other, whereas the guitarists seemed very open and more expressive both on and off stage. In addition, some articles have been written about the topic, but they have not been portrayed in a very serious or critical way. (Scharfglass, M. 2017) Could it be possible that the reason they chose their instrument was due to their personality and influences from social perception? Another interesting idea was ‘are they aware that a common personality may be visible amongst the same instrumentalists?’ Before going any further, it seemed necessary to establish what a personality was. One of the earliest definitions of personality stated, “Personality is the dynamic organisation within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment” (Allport, 1937, p.48). Personality is what makes one person different from others; it is why some people are quiet and passive while others are loud and aggressive (Robbins & Judge, 2011). However, a modern definition defines personality as each person’s pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and how an individual reacts to and interacts with others (Robins & Judge, 2011). In addition to personalities, it was important to understand factors other than those that come from inside the individual, but also the opinions of others about themselves and each other. A social perception is “a person’s awareness of social phenomena and the ability to infer motives and vales from other people’s social behavior.” (Nugent, P. (2013). With this in mind, it would be interesting to unveil the results compared to the initial hypothesis that bassists and guitarists will be similar if not the same as their given stereotype. E.g. bassists are introverted, guitarists are extraverted. Furthermore, it will be likely that the instrumentalists questioned will hold a similar opinion as the stereotype given.
Personality determinants include heredity, cultural, environmental, social, and many other factors (Caprara & Cervone, 2000). However, research has tended to suggest heredity as more important than other factors (Robbins & Judge, 2011).
Through an analysis of the relevant literature, it is important to develop an understanding of how personality affects preference, both in, when an individual chooses which musical instrument to learn, and personal music preferences. A study conducted by Robert A. Cutietta and Peter A. McAllister in 1997, explores personalities of students and their instrumental participation, continuation and choice. Separating the students into separate categories of gender, students’ grade (7-12), instrument played; woodwind, brass, percussion, strings and a control group of non-musicians for each grade level. Students were scored on the four sub scales of the Junior Eysenck personality questionnaire (Eysenck, 1975). The Eysenck personality questionnaire, not to be confused with the Eysenck personality Inventory, is a questionnaire that measures extraversion, neuroticism, socialisation and social desirability. However, there have been criticisms towards both scales, claiming that the Eysenck personality questionnaire purely measures sociability whereas the Eysenck personality inventory has a relatively equal mix of impulsivity and sociability. (Rocklin & Revelle (1981) Results from this study show that the ‘relationship between personality type and continuation of an instrument’ for the most part, does not noticeably change over time. In addition, personality types of the students do not differ between instrumental and non-instrumental students. There however, some minor differences can be found. For example, there is more diversity of personalities in woodwind players and showed the largest decrease in participation. In addition, female instrumentalists are the most extraverted with 19.11 in comparison to normed females (non-musicians) to be less extraverted at 18.65. Male instrumentalists scored 18.99 for extraversion which interestingly was the same as the normed males. Although not directly linked to the investigation into the relationship of personality and the choice of instrument, whether that be guitar or bass, this study is valuable because of the non-bias approach that explores both possibilities for future study and limitations that occurred. The framework employed here is useful because it displays a fluid report that highlights both the pros and cons of the investigation. Alternatively, it could also be suggested that this framework is reductive because of the lack of specification towards instrumentalists. The majority of the study focuses on age and gender rather than instrumentalists’ groups. Therefore, this article suggests there is not a distinct relationship between personality and instrument choice and continuation because on the one hand, it does not highlight any concrete correlation between personalities and choice, however does not completely rule out the possibility of there being so, Furthermore, with this study being very broad, focusing on ages, genders and instrumental groups, it may suggest more in-depth research into a specific group is necessary.
Fortunately, broader research by Peter Vuust, Line Gebauer, Niels, Chr. Hansen, Stine Ramsgaard Jorgensen, Arne Moller and Jakob Linnet, investigated how personalities of classical and rhythmic students in Denmark influence their career choices. 59 classical and 36 rhythmic students completed a psychological test battery comprising the Zuckerman sensation seeking scale, the spielberger state-trait anxiety inventory as well as information about demographics and musical background. (Vuust. P 2010.) This study does not focus on personalities of special instrumentalists per say, however, the approach and stereotypes of contemporary musicians can be interpreted using the results gathered. Their results show that classical students portrayed significantly higher levels of state anxiety whereas rhythmic students showed high levels of sensation seeking scores. Although the explanation of ‘rhythmic’ students is not defined, it could be interpreted to mean contemporary or ‘non-classical music’ including jazz, rock. (Pedersen. P (2011.) This study is not directly linked to personalities and less bassists compared to guitarists so is less directly useful, however, it does suggest that contemporary musicians are more extraverted and likely to take on more high-risk activities. It is not specified what instrumentalists were included in the ‘rhythmic’ category but, is still useful, in that it proves the idea that instrument choice is fundamentally linked to personality, as suggested here “This suggests that personality is associated with musical career choice.” (Vuust, Gebauer, Hansen, Jorgensen, Moller & Linnet (2010.). Overall, this investigation does not directly aid the search for a relationship between personalities, social perceptions and less bassists in comparison to the number of guitarists, it does highlight the stereotypes and possible areas of further study into social perceptions of contemporary musicians.
Another study conducted by James. E. Cameron, Melissa Duffy and Brittni Glenwright, focuses self-reported personality traits using the mini-IPIP test. The mini-IPIP, or by its full name the International personality item pool – five factor model measure, is a shorter yet claimed to be a more efficient method of measuring the big five. (Donnellan, Oswald, Baird & Lucas (2006). The big five factor model is comprised of the measurement of extraversion, agreeableness, conscienceless, neuroticism, and openness to experience, similar to the method used by Cutietta & McAllister (1997) in the literature above. In this study, the test was scored both by self-reported answers and peer review. Results suggest that personalities that were self-reported averaged lower than the scores reported by their peers. Guitarists and vocalists scored themselves lower in extraversion than what was scored by other musicians. This small example suggests that when it comes to self-reporting personalities guitarists are more likely to overestimate their own traits. On the other hand, it could be argued that the other members are also bias towards certain instrumentalists and score them negatively. This may be because of stereotyping or just a general lower tolerance towards them. For example, Cameron, Duffy and Glenwright discovered that this general trend of bias continued for all four instrumentalists. Guitarists scored themselves as 5.02, however drummers scored guitarists as 5.13, bassists, 5.21 and vocalists 5.25. Interestingly, bassists underestimated their extraversion in comparison to peer reviews. Bassists scored themselves at 3.62 for extraversion but guitarists scored bassists 3.63, drummers scored them 3.86 and vocalists 3.73. Although not drastically higher than the self-reported score, bassists seem to score themselves lower on average.
The investigators also disclosed that instrumentalists’ perceptions towards one another are systematically bias depending on their position in the band. This may imply, stereotypes carry through not just in general but within the musical community as well. Overall, the personality characteristics measured by the self-reported mini-IPIP appears to be a straightforward approach to gathering results. However, it does seem to be bias, mainly because of the instrumentalists and their position in the band i.e. their leadership role and authority. This may also indicate that stereotypes form around the roles and therefore perceptions of each other are based on the peers around them rather than taking the group of instrumentalists as a whole.
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