Home Forums Teaching the Harp Musicianship

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    I have a topic for discussion. What do you think makes for good musicianship? What are the different aspects of being a musician such as technique, repertoire practice and performance skills? I think this makes for a really interesting discussion! 🙂

    Irene C

    Good topic!


    To me, excellent technique and knowledge of repertoire are prerequisites to becoming a great musician. They are absolutely necessary but do not make one musical. That is something else that is either there in the player or it isn’t.

    I go to a lot of live theater, and a number of times I’ve seen the same play in different productions with different actors and director. In the hands of the right actors and director, a play will flow naturally and with incredible feeling. In other productions, the same play will feel bland and tedious, and the words seem artificial and stilted. I think the same can be said of musical interpretation. To be really musical, the performance has to ‘convince’ me that it is a valid approach. I can hear a piece played four different ways by four different players IF their approach to the music is convincing. If it is not, then I become aware of the things the player is doing to interpret the piece. It does not feel natural or feel like it is a part of the music.

    Jessica A

    Musicianship is a ship with musicians on it, such as the Titanic.


    A sense of style is essential to good musicianship, as is a good understanding of ornaments. One’s classical music should sound classical and not romantic, French should sound French, Russian should sound Russian, etcetera. It is much more than good or great technique. It is also having something deep to express through music, or rather, to express what is in the music deeply, because it is not self-expression.

    A good musician has a sensitive ear. A good musician plays lyrically, with color and contrasts. A good musician uses technique to musical effect.

    Playing musically is more than making it “pretty.” Its more than playing nicely. It takes courage, and thought, and delving deep.


    A true musician just plays. They don’t count, read, or analyze every note. That’s why Jimi Hendrix will always be more famous than unknown classical guitarists of his time. It’s good to read music and all, but I can’t help but notice the most successful musicians generally don’t read a note. Of course I was never into the classical scene. There’s a sense of raw soul that can only be relayed by a true musician, an ability to produce sound that creates a feeling.


    I believe that most successful rock and jazz musicians are able to read music. And they can all count and do count. Springsteen and Hendrix and Bon Jovi and Charlie Parker


    I don’t mean to come off as a downer. But getting good at anything takes a ton of work.


    For years it’s been a trade secret that it’s chic to say that you can’t read music if you’re a professional in some sort of music field. Some musicians in all aspects of music are more accomplished or less accomplished than others at reading, but with current research in music education indicating that anyone who can hear music can learn to read it, at least to some level, for someone to say he or she “doesn’t read a note” it is probably more from lack of training than from any unusual or extraordinary talent.


    I’m sorry if you misunderstood me but I did not mean that they just walk out and play with no practice or effort. I meant more along the lines that great musicians generally aren’t stress heads about proper technique, etc.

    Elizabeth L

    Maybe musicianship means something different to each of us, depending on our experiences.


    It is true that focusing solely on technique does not help musicianship, but believe me, any serious musician works very hard on their playing. Technique is the tool of expression.


    Hendrix worked as a session musician for Little Richard and Sam Cooke and others, so I imagine there was a good chance that he could read but I take your point though.


    I have to agree with Kreig. At least as far as Jazz goes which is what I primarily play. I have never met a jazz musician who couldnt read music. I have never met a jazz musician who didnt have at the very least a strong foundation in fundamental music theory.

    Sure, you have to be able to feel the music. But you don’t play jazz if you don’t understand exactly what you are doing. At least not well.

    harp guy

    All that has been said is good and true, but ultimately I feel that musicianship is something that can’t be taught. You either have the creative spark or you don’t, but a spark is all that it takes. With nurturing that spark can easily turn into a wildfire. A musician is different than a harpist in my opinion.

    I was once playing a masterclass (I’m a flutist primarily), and the guest artist said that ‘some people play the flute, and some people play music. You play music.’ Technique and skill in my opinion are the foundations of quality music, but true music, true musicianship is the ability to connect to an audience. It’s the ability and willingness to dig deep within, pour it all into your product and share it with everyone without caring what others think of it. A true musician doesn’t play an instrument. They play music. Music is not what is on paper because what is on paper is nothing more than blobs of ink that sketch out a map or an idea. Music is what we make and share with others. A performer that recognizes that is a musician.

    Furthermore I feel that musicianship is marked by a certain amount of independence and rebellion. True musicianship respects the composer but also invests the performer in the performance in an integral and unique way that changes the piece. Some of these things are done consciously and others are not. This is one of the things that I feel separate soloists from orchestral players. Orchestral players follow the leader whereas soloists do whatever they please. I’m not trying to portray anyone negatively in that light by any means but rather that it takes a different mindset and that those who show more musicianship generally stand out more.

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