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There are so many types of music in the world, from African drum beats to Chilean mountain flute tunes, from hard hitting punk rock to the soft trill of an Italian flute. Music surrounds us, and so often our heroes are the people who write, record, and perform it.

Most people out there will admit to a secret fantasy about topping the charts, but very few of us are actually talented enough to climb that high. Music is an extremely tough industry to get involved in, and only the most driven will choose to make music a career. Instrumentalist is the title given to musicians who only play music, but do not sing. They play guitars, pianos, tubas, and cellos, fiddles, and violins. They may specialize in a number of instruments, and take advantage of the many opportunities for out there for those who want to play for love, and not for fame or money.

Instrumentalists can find work as backup musicians with touring singers, or as session musicians. These instrumentalists are on staff with record companies, playing on albums, or for commercials and movie scores. They may work as musicians in orchestras, or in restaurants, for religious groups, or with dance schools, playing music during practice. They may work as music teachers, composers, and arrangers, as well.
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  Interests and Skills  
It takes a lot of talent, patience, and energy to work as a professional instrumentalist. They must be dedicated to music, and be interested in playing many kinds of music. Instrumentalist must be willing to practice daily, and promote themselves to producers, venue owners, and other musicians. They should enjoy performing in front of an audience, alone and within a band or orchestra situation. They should also be creative, persistent, and willing to sacrifice job security for their craft.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Practice, either alone or in a group
  • Write music and lyrics
  • Perform live
  • Record music
  • Instrumentalists play music. They do this every day, for hours at a time, either performing or rehearsing. They will also spend time reading music, writing and revising music, and sharing ideas with band mates or members of the orchestra. They may also spend time in recording studios. Instrumentalists work can be long and difficult, especially when touring, preparing for a show, or recording an album. They are usually self-employed, unless they are members of orchestras or work as session musicians for record labels. Due to the difficult nature of the music industry, many instrumentalists must work at another job part or full time to support their musical career.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Instrumentalists can play in all sorts of places. They are found playing on subway platforms, in arenas, in a large orchestra, or in a small ensemble. Where they play depends on the type of music they are involved in. Generally though, they play on a stage in clubs, concert halls or other venues. They can be soloists, or work within a group. If they record their music, they will play in studios.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Instrumentalists can play in groups, or branch off on their own. They can play in back up bands, or with orchestras, jazz bands, and ensembles, gathering experiences in order to be the soloist. They can become music teachers, conductors, arrangers, or composers. They may decide to start a recording label, open their own recording studio, or open up a club or a concert hall. They can also become managers, talent scouts, or become administrators for an orchestra.

  Educational Paths  
There are no education requirements for those people interested in becoming instrumentalists. Often, practice and experience are all it takes, but there are a lot of options for people looking for training. Universities offer degrees in music, and many colleges have diploma programs or courses. There are also lessons with conservatories, and private music teachers. Instrumentalists never stop learning, as each new performance or jam session is different, with many opportunities to watch and listen to senior musicians play.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Liberty University

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