A musician is a person who composes, conducts, or performs music.[1] According to the United States Employment Service, "musician" is a general term used to designate one who follows music as a profession.[2] 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 musician who records and releases music can be known as a recording artist.[3]

Elvis Presley, a professional rock musician and a performer of the 20th century.


1820 portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, a major composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras


A composer is a musician who creates musical compositions. The title is principally used for those who write classical music or film music. Those who write the music for popular songs may be called songwriters (Those who mainly write the words for songs may be referred to as lyricists).


A conductor directs a musical performance; conducting 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 an ensemble (e.g. an orchestra, a choir or a pop group).

European musicians by era


In the Middle Ages, instrumental musicians performed with soft ensembles inside and louder 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 of the period include: Bernart de Ventadorn, Walther von der Vogelweide, Hildegard of Bingen, Pérotin, Adam de la Halle, de Vitry, Machaut, Landini and John Dunstaple


[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 of this period include: Guillaume Du Fay, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, Thomas Tallis, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus, William Byrd, Tomás Luis de Victoria and Claudio Monteverdi.


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 of this period include: George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Henry Purcell and Antonio Vivaldi.


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 of this period include: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig Van Beethoven.


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 of this period include: Frédéric Chopin, Franz Schubert, Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Richard Wagner, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms and Johann Strauss II.


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]

Notable musicians of this period include: Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Béla Bartók, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Giacomo Puccini, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jean Sibelius, Igor Stravinsky and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Popular music

Kanye West a popular rapper of the 21st century

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, rap and all forms of classical music and also the boom of bands.[11]

Notable musicians: Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Eminem

See also


  1. "Musician". American heritage dictionary.
  2. Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Volume 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1949. p. 883.
  3. "Recording Artist (or Group)". Berklee College of Music. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  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