‘Play personalities’ and why they matter to your music practice

Latest Posts  •  November 30, 2015

“When people know their core truths and live in accord with what I call their ‘play personality,’ the result is always a life of incredible power and grace” writes Dr. Stuart Brown in his book “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

I’ve previously written about Brown and his research on play after meeting him at a conference at UCLA (you can read about it in my post “Play doesn’t end with childhood – why adults need playtime too”).

Today, I want to explore Brown’s eight different play personalities and see how they can help fuel our music practice.

In his book, Brown points at the paradox “that a little bit of ‘non-productive’ activity can make one enormously more productive and invigorated in other aspects of life,” so let’s see how incorporating aspects of your play personality into your music practice can make it even more fun and fulfilling, and make you even more productive and motivated!

Our tendency is to prefer one type of play over another — but you shouldn’t define yourself by just one — most people have elements of multiple play personalities (even Brown himself says it’s just his theory, pointing out that other researchers could come to very different classifications).

Keep an open mind and see which of these play personalities resonate the most with you. Most likely you’re already using them in your music practice.

Play Personality for Musicians:

The Joker

You like to make people laugh. You feel playful when you’re silly and engaged in some kind of fun nonsense. You enjoy practical jokes or always have a joke up your sleeve to entertain your friends and those around you.

Joker musicians are super playful. They love to play in a band and in front of an audience. They entertain those around them with silly faces, doing funny impersonations and pulling out the crazy riffs. If there are tensions in the band, they lighten up the situation and create connection through shared laughter.


  • Make sure to find your moments to shine on stage.

  • Use your sense of humor to be more creative.

  • Learn to let others shine as well.

The Kinesthete

You like to move. You feel playful when you run, engage in sports, do yoga, dance etc. You get pleasure from movement — you’re active out of pure enjoyment for movement.

Kinesthete musicians engage with music in a very physical way. They love to rock out on their instruments and put on great stage shows. Whether they’re guitarists, drummers or play any other kind of instrument, they’re the ones dripping with sweat after it’s all over.


  • Do a quick workout before practice or rehearsal — it’ll help you focus and keep you calm.

  • Expend all your energy on stage.

  • Find ways to control your energy when needed.

The Explorer

You love to go to new places and meet new people. You feel playful when you experience new things — intellectually, physically or emotionally.

Explorer musicians engage in music intellectually by researching new areas of music and by reading books about it. They engage in music physically by going to concerts or trying out new instruments, and emotionally by just playing new songs and exploring new music.


  • Be the ‘experimenter’ behind your band — come up with meaningful new lyrics, invite outsider musicians to infuse your music with new ideas, or conceptualize the next live show.

  • Take your instrument and band to places nobody’s been to before — expand and explore sounds, melodies and harmonies in unique ways.

  • If you want others to understand what you´re doing, you may need to simplify sometimes.

The Competitor

You like to win. You feel playful when you compete with others or even against yourself. You like specific rules and enjoy keeping score.

Competitor musicians enjoy playing in competitions, like battle of the bands, or even beating their own top scores.


  • Use your competitive edge to ‘perfect’ your practice — keep score of speed, numbers of repetitions, etc…

  • Find meaningful goals to work toward.

  • Play styles that require accurate technique and high speed.

The Director

You love being in charge. You feel playful when you’re organizing and planning events.

Director musicians bring like-minded people together by coordinating jam sessions or organizing concerts and other social events. They may be the instigators of a band’s next tour or record release.


  • Volunteer to be the musical director of your band.

  • Organize a small concert, jam session or your band’s next session in the recording studio.

  • Make sure you give others room to contribute as well.

The Collector

You enjoy the thrill of collecting. You feel playful when you seek out and hold on to the best and most interesting objects and experiences.

The collector musician surrounds him or herself with a collection of different instruments or memorabilia and albums from musicians they love. They may also ‘collect’ concert visits or music festivals.


  • Make sure you play and use the variety of sounds the instruments in your collection can give you.

  • Listen to all kinds of music and keep track of styles, artist, songs, etc… this will help you to broaden your taste and deepen your knowledge about music.

The Artist/Creator

You love to make things. You feel playful when you can work with your hands — creating, building and fixing things.

Artist/creator musicians enjoys writing new songs, creating new sounds etc… They may also like taking apart a broken amp, replacing parts and putting it back together.


  • Find a workshop to build an instrument.

  • Use your creative energy to stage amazing performances — make props, costumes etc.

  • Maybe offer to keep your band mates’ equipment in best working condition too.

The Storyteller

Your play focuses on imagination. You feel playful when you spend time in your imagination or when you perform, write or immerse yourself in literature, movies and music.

Storyteller musicians love to open their imaginations through sharing songs and music. They love to perform and touching on other people’s emotions — and their own — while doing it.


  • Write great lyrics.

  • Come up with a compelling artist’s story — be it your own or your band’s.

  • Take charge of PR and marketing.

What do you think? Do you see yourself in one of these personalities? I say let’s make play a priority when we practice music too!

2020-04-28T08:18:54+00:00November 30th, 2015|

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