How To Be A Well-Rounded Musician

Harmony Cardenas

A well-rounded musician is someone that embraces a variety of musical styles and skills in such a way that each musical style musical skill becomes a natural part of their performance identity. It is the aspiration of all teachers to be able to encourage their students to appreciate these various skills; this offers opportunities to each student to embody all of the elements to enrich their musical journey.

You might be asking yourself, “what are some of the skills associated with being a well-rounded musician?” The following list will offer some insight:

1. Playing in a variety of styles.

Learning to play in one particular style works for most students yet from time to time, students become antsy to learn new skills. A good music instructor will allow students to try out a variety of styles of music during their studies such as classical, pop, rock, jazz, country, improvisation, or writing original pieces. It is important to note that all students will have their own personal limitations of musical appreciation or physical ability. As such, not all students will embrace every style of music that is available to them. It is the job of the music instructor to appreciate the interests of the student and cater the lessons around the styles of music that will speak to the student. In all of the lessons that I teach, I encourage all students to learn at least one piece a year in a style that they might not otherwise wish to play: students that are studying jazz music must learn to play a piece of classical music and vice versa.

2. Reading music and playing by ear.

In the music studio of every teacher, we work with a variety of students that all have a variety of musical talents. Some students are strong readers, they can naturally see the music on the page and decipher the code to play the music on their instrument. Other students have a natural interest and talent for listening to the music that they play. These students listen well to the music that is around them and can naturally perform these sounds in a coherent way on their instrument.

In both cases, each student has mastered an important skill, yet these skills offer only a certain amount of success. In my personal journey, I have learned the steps that are necessary to amalgamate the skills of listening to my playing while reading the music on the page. This amalgamation creates not only a technically proficient performance, a sensitivity to the performance by listening to the music being created creates a further dimension that goes beyond what is written on the page.

3. Appreciation of working in a group setting vs. solo setting

Pianists are trained from the first lesson to work as soloists. Let’s face it, the piano is an instrument that can hold its’ own, it is a lone wolf. I remember in highschool having the opportunity to play music in a variety of group settings. I was a trombone player in my high school concert band, I was piano accompanist for my high school concert choir.

I also had summer jobs working as a pit musician for a local theater company playing keyboard 2 parts (synthesizers, strings sounds, etc). These activities were a lot of fun that required the same style of practicing that I completed on the piano. The outcome of a solo practice session on my trombone was different at home, I was playing only one melodic line. This activity (at times) was tedious, it was lonely. However, when all of the members of the concert band got together for rehearsal or for a performance, all of the parts came together to create beautiful music.

Encouraging students to join a band, work together in small ensembles, or to play duets offers a different series of opportunities and challenges that will enrich their learning environment. Each musician has the opportunity to enjoy working together in a group to collectively make music that is meaningful for each other. It is also a lot of fun!


It is my hope that all music instructors, music students, and parents embrace the various opportunities for making music in a meaningful way, your lives will be enriched as a result.

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