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A musician is a person who plays or composes music. Musicians can be classified by how they make music:

The concept of the musician and the status of the musician in society is culture-specific. Think, for instance, about your own concepts relating to "the heavy metalist", "the folk musician", "the DJ", "the sarangi[?] player", "the female drummer", and so on.

It may also be useful to make a reference to the songs produced by some animals, including birds. Although many would surely debate that birds are musicians, their ability to produce variations on the characteristic song of their species is a subject for more research. The freestyle-chatter of even common birds, although lacking the complexity of methods employed by human-beings, must be looked at in terms of the origins of music. Human-beings did not begin producing music by banging away on a keyboard, nor are they the only creatures which respond to (or produce) rhythm and melody.

Types of musicians

See also: List of musicians by genre

Usage note

It should be noted that although in many cases the name of the player is made from the name of the instrument + "ist", it does not work for all instruments. Trumpetist for example is nonsense. There are also widespread differences in the acceptability of some of these terms: for example percussionist is in general and uncontested use whereas violist is not.

Suggested reading:

  • A. P. Merriam, Anthropology of Music, 1964
  • John Blacking, How Musical is Man?, 1973
  • Sheila Whiteley, Music, Identity & Sexuality, London: Routledge 2000

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