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Guy Pratt, a professional session musician, playing bass guitar.

A musician is a person who composes, conducts, or performs music.[1] A musician who records and releases music is known as a recording artist.[2] According to the United States Employment Service, "musician" is a general term used to designate one who follows music as a profession.[3] Musicians include songwriters who compose music as well as write lyrics for songs, conductors who direct a musical performance, or performers who perform for an audience. A music performer is generally either a singer who provides vocals or an instrumentalist who play a musical instrument. Musicians may perform on their own or as part of a group, band or orchestra. Musicians specialize in a musical style, and some musicians play in a variety of different styles depending on cultures and background.



A songwriter is a musician who professionally composes musical compositions and writes lyrics for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter who mainly writes the lyrics for a song is referred to as a lyricist.


A conductor directs a musical performance, and has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The conductor stands on a raised podium and communicates with the musicians through hand gestures or eye contact.


Examples of performers include, but are not limited to, instrumentalists and singers who perform for an audience. A musician can perform as a solo artist or as a part of a group.

Musicians by era[edit]


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]

Notable musicians


[5]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.[6]

Notable 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.[7]

Notable musicians


Classical music was created by musicians who lived during a time of a rising middle class.[when?] Many middle-class inhabitants of France at the time lived under long-time absolute monarchies.[clarification needed] 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.[8]

Notable 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.[9]

Notable musicians

20th to 21st centuries[edit]

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."[10]

The advent of audio recording and mass media in the 20th century caused a boom of many kinds of music—pop, electronic, dance, rock, folk, country and all forms of classical music.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Musician". American heritage dictionary.
  2. ^ "Recording Artist (or Group)". Berklee College of Music. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Volume 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1949. p. 883.
  4. ^ "[ Andrea Desmond] WKIM FM 61.1 Radio Show - The Middle Ages". Encyclopedia Britannica. 8 August 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  5. ^ Dowland, John, 1563?-1626, composer., The best of John Dowland ., OCLC 907378778, retrieved 7 June 2020CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Music in the Renaissance". The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  7. ^ "The Baroque Era". Oracle Education Foundation. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Unit IV 1750–1914". West Forsyth HS History.
  9. ^ "Romanticism". Brooklyn College.
  10. ^ "The 20th Century". Fine Arts Society Radio. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  11. ^ Blanning, Tim "The Triumph of Music; The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art" Harvard University Press 2008, ISBN 9780674057098

External links[edit]

Media related to Musicians at Wikimedia Commons