Musical Literacy

Any person participating in art music (as a professional or hobbyist or otherwise) owes it to themselves to be musically literate.

That is, a person should know the repertoire and the major figures and general characteristics about styles and time periods. A person should always be listening to more music.

That’s a huge part of being a musician of any genre. Great jazz musicians listen to a lot of jazz. Virtuoso rock guitarists most likely listen to (and mimic) a lot of virtuoso rock guitar. Great art musicians listen to a lot of art music. There’s a lot to be learned from listening, especially outside of your own instrument.

Posted on in Musical Interpretation and Musicianship


  • Chad

    I have to say that I agree with your statements about learning from listening to music. However, at some point that learning needs to be converted into being able to make musical choices without the aid of recordings. I was playing in a master class once and was criticized for playing a piece just like a popular recording. The problem was that I did not notice that the popular recording had some rhythmic mistakes in it that were obvious in the score itself.

    Whole-heartily agreed, Chad. I think the coolest part of becoming a more experienced musician, and being able to say, “I don’t this interpretation,” when listening to recordings.