The Well-Balanced Musician

By John Hart

A musician, according to Webster, is “a person skilled in the science of music, or one that sings or performs on instruments of music according to the rules of music.” I believe a well-balanced musician is one who has mastered at least one instrument and several of the following musical skills:

1.    Sight-reading: playing or singing musical notation as written without hearing it in advance

2.    Chart-reading: playing from a chart which includes only chord symbols and a melodic line

3.    Transposition: playing the same song in a different key (without seeing the new notes)        

4.    Embellishment: adding to a piece, playing more than is written

5.    Free Improvisation: extemporaneous playing or singing usually based on a chord progression

6.    Song-writing: setting original lyrics to music

7.    Composition: writing and orchestrating a complex musical piece

Quite often, when I begin teaching a piano student who has had prior musical training, I find that the former teacher spent a good deal of time preparing the student to play recital pieces (through rote memory), but failed to adequately teach the skills of a true musician. In future blog posts, I will go into detail about all 7 of these important musical skills.