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Guy Pratt, a professional session musician, playing bass guitar. Guy Pratt On An Island Tour Cropped.png
Guy Pratt, a professional session musician, playing bass guitar.

A musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented. [1] Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is referred to as a musician. [2] A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist.

Musical instrument History and classification

A musical instrument is an instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.


Musicians can specialize in any musical style, and some musicians play in a variety of different styles depending on cultures and background. Examples of a musician's possible skills include performing, conducting, singing, rapping, producing, composing, arranging, and the orchestration of music. [3]

Conducting directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

Singing act of producing musical sounds with the voice

Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques. A person who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music that can be sung with or without accompaniment by musical instruments. Singing is often done in an ensemble of musicians, such as a choir of singers or a band of instrumentalists. Singers may perform as soloists or accompanied by anything from a single instrument up to a symphony orchestra or big band. Different singing styles include art music such as opera and Chinese opera, Indian music and religious music styles such as gospel, traditional music styles, world music, jazz, blues, gazal and popular music styles such as pop, rock, electronic dance music and filmi.

Rapping is a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates "rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular", which is performed or chanted in a variety of ways, usually over a backing beat or musical accompaniment. The components of rap include "content", "flow", and "delivery". Rap differs from spoken-word poetry in that rap is usually performed in time to an instrumental track. Rap is often associated with, and is a primary ingredient of hip-hop music, but the origins of the phenomenon predate hip-hop culture. The earliest precursor to the modern rap is the West African griot tradition, in which "oral historians", or "praise-singers", would disseminate oral traditions and genealogies, or use their formidable rhetorical techniques for gossip or to "praise or critique individuals." Griot traditions connect to rap along a lineage of Black verbal reverence that goes back to ancient Egyptian practices, through James Brown interacting with the crowd and the band between songs, to Muhammad Ali's quick-witted verbal taunts and the palpitating poems of the Last Poets. Therefore, rap lyrics and music are part of the "Black rhetorical continuum", and aim to reuse elements of past traditions while expanding upon them through "creative use of language and rhetorical styles and strategies. The person credited with originating the style of "delivering rhymes over extensive music", that would become known as rap, was Anthony "DJ Hollywood" Holloway from Harlem, New York.

Medieval musicians

In the Middle Ages, instrumental musicians performed with soft ensembles inside and loud instruments outdoors. Many European musicians of this time catered to the Roman Catholic Church, and they provided arrangements structured around Gregorian chant structure and Masses from church texts. [4]

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Musical ensemble group of people who perform instrumental and/or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name

A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Some music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Loudness physical quantity

In acoustics, loudness is the subjective perception of sound pressure. More formally, it is defined as, "That attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds can be ordered on a scale extending from quiet to loud." The relation of physical attributes of sound to perceived loudness consists of physical, physiological and psychological components. The study of apparent loudness is included in the topic of psychoacoustics and employs methods of psychophysics.

Notable musicians

Guillaume de Machaut French poet and composer

Guillaume de Machaut was a medieval French poet and composer. He is regarded by many musicologists as the greatest and most important composer of the 14th century. Machaut is one of the earliest composers on whom substantial biographical information is available, and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson called him "the last great poet who was also a composer". Well into the 15th century, Machaut's poetry was greatly admired and imitated by other poets, including Geoffrey Chaucer.

Hildegard of Bingen Medieval saint, prophetise, mystic and Doctor of Church

Hildegard of Bingen, also known as Saint Hildegard and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

John Jenkins (1592–1678), English composer, was born in Maidstone, Kent, and died at Kimberley, Norfolk.

Renaissance musicians

Renaissance musicians produced music that could be played during masses in churches and important chapels. Vocal pieces were in Latin—the language of church texts of the time—and typically were Church-polyphonic or "made up of several simultaneous melodies." By the end of the 16th century, however, patronage split among many areas: the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, royal courts, wealthy amateurs, and music printing—all provided income sources for composers. [5]

Renaissance cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century

The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the middle ages to modernity. The traditional view focused more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argued that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the late medieval period.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Melody linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

A melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Notable musicians

Giovanni Gabrieli Italian composer

Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.

Thomas Tallis English composer

Thomas Tallis was an English composer who occupies a primary place in anthologies of English choral music and is considered one of England's greatest composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporaneous portrait of Tallis survives; the one painted by Gerard Vandergucht (illustration) dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no reason to suppose that it is a likeness. In a rare existing copy of his blackletter signature, the composer spelled his last name "Tallys".

Claudio Monteverdi Italian composer

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi was an Italian composer, string player and choirmaster. A composer of both secular and sacred music, and a pioneer in the development of opera, he is considered a crucial transitional figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods of music history.

Baroque musicians

The Baroque period (about 1600 to 1750) introduced heavy use of counterpoint and basso continuo characteristics. Vocal and instrumental "color" became more important compared with the Renaissance style of music, and emphasized much of the volume, texture and pace of each piece. [6]

Notable musicians

Classical musicians

Classical music was created by musicians who lived during a time of a rising middle class. Many middle-class inhabitants of France at the time lived under long-time absolute monarchies. Because of this, much of the music was performed in environments that were more constrained compared with the flourishing times of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. [7]

Notable musicians

Romantic musicians

The foundation of Romantic period music coincides with what is often called the age of revolutions, an age of upheavals in political, economic, social, and military traditions. This age included the initial transformations of the Industrial Revolution. A revolutionary energy was also at the core of Romanticism, which quite consciously set out to transform not only the theory and practice of poetry and art, but the common perception of the world. Some major Romantic Period precepts survive, and still affect modern culture. [8]

Notable musicians

20th to 21st centuries

The world transitioned from 19th-century Romanticism to 20th century Modernism, bringing major musical changes. In 20th-century music, composers and musicians rejected the emotion-dominated Romantic period, and strove to represent the world the way they perceived it. Musicians wrote to be "...objective, while objects existed on their own terms. While past eras concentrated on spirituality, this new period placed emphasis on physicality and things that were concrete." [9]

The advent of audio recording and mass media in the 20th century caused a boom of all kinds of music—pop, electronic, dance, rock, folk, country and all forms of classical music. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Classical period (music) genre of Western music (c.1730-1820)

The Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1730 and 1820.

Classical guitar acoustic wooden guitar with wide neck, strings made of nylon

The classical guitar is a member of the guitar family used in classical music. It is an acoustic wooden string instrument made of gut or nylon, precursor of the acoustic and electric guitars which use metal strings. Classical guitars are derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which later evolved into the seventeenth and eighteenth century Baroque guitar and later the modern classical guitar in the mid nineteenth century.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Italian Renaissance composer

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work is considered as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.

Orchestra large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

Pianist musician who plays the piano

A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.

Renaissance music

Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with the end of the medieval era, and to close it around 1600, with the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.

Romantic music music of the Romantic period

Romantic music is a period of Western classical music that began in the late 18th or early 19th century. It is related to Romanticism, the Western artistic and literary movement that arose in the second half of the 18th century, and Romantic music in particular dominated the Romantic movement in Germany.

Choir ensemble of singers

A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.

Music is found in every known culture, past and present, varying widely between times and places. Since all people of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have a form of music, it may be concluded that music is likely to have been present in the ancestral population prior to the dispersal of humans around the world. Consequently, the first music may have been invented in Africa and then evolved to become a fundamental constituent of human life.

German Romanticism intellectual movement in the culture of German-speaking countries in the late-18th and early 19th centuries

German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature and criticism. Compared to English Romanticism, the German variety developed relatively late, and, in the early years, coincided with Weimar Classicism (1772–1805). In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety of Romanticism notably valued wit, humour, and beauty.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Piano concerto musical composition for piano and orchestra

A piano concerto is a type of concerto, a solo composition in the Classical music genre which is composed for a piano player, which is typically accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuoso showpieces which require an advanced level of technique on the instrument, including melodic lines interspersed with rapid scales, arpeggios, chords, complex contrapuntal parts and other challenging material. When piano concertos are performed by a professional concert pianist, a large grand piano is almost always used, as the grand piano has a fuller tone and more projection than an upright piano. Piano concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist, orchestra parts for the orchestra members, and a full score for the conductor, who leads the orchestra in the accompaniment of the soloist.

Roman School

In music history, the Roman School was a group of composers of predominantly church music, in Rome, during the 16th and 17th centuries, therefore spanning the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. The term also refers to the music they produced. Many of the composers had a direct connection to the Vatican and the papal chapel, though they worked at several churches; stylistically they are often contrasted with the Venetian School of composers, a concurrent movement which was much more progressive. By far the most famous composer of the Roman School is Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whose name has been associated for four hundred years with smooth, clear, polyphonic perfection. However, there were other composers working in Rome, and in a variety of styles and forms.

The organ repertoire is among the largest for any solo musical instrument. Because of the organ's prominence in worship in Western Europe from the Middle Ages on, a significant portion of organ repertoire is sacred in nature. The organ's suitability for improvisation by a single performer is well adapted to this liturgical role and has allowed many blind organists to achieve fame; it also accounts for the relatively late emergence of written compositions for the instrument in the Renaissance. Although instruments are still disallowed in most Eastern churches, organs have found their way into a few synagogues as well as secular venues where organ recitals take place.

Musical improvisation spontaneous musical composition technique

Musical improvisation is the creative activity of immediate musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians. Sometimes musical ideas in improvisation are spontaneous, but may be based on chord changes in classical music and many other kinds of music. One definition is a "performance given extempore without planning or preparation." Another definition is to "play or sing (music) extemporaneously, by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies, rhythms and harmonies." Encyclopædia Britannica defines it as "the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage, usually in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text. Improvisation is often done within a pre-existing harmonic framework or chord progression. Improvisation is a major part of some types of 20th-century music, such as blues, jazz, and jazz fusion, in which instrumental performers improvise solos, melody lines and accompaniment parts.

Classical music broad tradition of Western art music

Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period. The major time divisions of Western art music are as follows:

Baroque music style of Western art music

Baroque music is a period or style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance music era, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. Baroque music forms a major portion of the "classical music" canon, and is now widely studied, performed, and listened to. Key composers of the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni, François Couperin, Giuseppe Tartini, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Pachelbel.


  1. "Musician". Oxford Dictionary.
  2. "Musician". MacMillan Dictionary.
  3. "Types of Musician". About
  4. "IB Music Technology II Study Guide" (PDF). IBO- International Bacccalaureate International.[ permanent dead link ]
  5. "Music in the Renaissance". The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  6. "The Baroque Era". Oracle Education Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012.
  7. "Unit IV 1750–1914". West Forsyth HS History.
  8. "Romanticism". Brooklyn College.
  9. "The 20th Century". Fine Arts Society Radio. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  10. Blanning, Tim "The Triumph of Music; The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art" Harvard University Press 2008, ISBN   9780674057098

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