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Instrumental Musician

Instrumental musicians play musical instruments. They perform as soloists or with orchestras, small ensembles or popular bands before live audiences, in recording studios or in workshop situations.

  • Avg. Salary $23,244.00
  • Avg. Wage $40.26
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 2,900
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Artist, Musician

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Musicians (5133.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Musicians and Singers (F033) 
  • 2011 NOC: Musicians and singers (5133) 
  • 2016 NOC: Musicians and singers (5133) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Interest Codes
The Instrumental Musician is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Interest in precision working to play instruments by manipulating keys, bow, valves, strings or other parts of instruments


Interest in co-ordinating information from a musical score to produce notes accurately


Interest in diverting and entertaining audiences as soloists and as members of musical groups

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated May 19, 2021

Instrumental musicians usually specialize in 1 instrument or 1 type of instrument (for example, string, wind, brass or percussion instruments). They play almost every day, practicing on their own or in rehearsals with other musicians and singers or in live performances or recording sessions. They may be required to:

  • Sight-read musical parts quickly and accurately during rehearsals
  • Play from musical scores, music charts or from memory
  • Improvise as they play

To expand their musical repertoire, musicians are constantly learning new pieces. However, they may choose to play several standard pieces repeatedly, depending on the instrumental group, audience or setting. They may:

  • Play clubs, shows or concerts with music bands
  • Accompany other types of performance, such as ballets, operas, musical theatre or cabarets
  • Provide background music or dance music at events, such as weddings or parties
  • Play backup music for other musicians in a recording studio
  • Play music commercially, such as for television or movies
  • Appear as guest artists with orchestras and small ensembles

As musicians become established, they may work with a variety of people. These may include:

  • Other performers
  • Managers who handle their business affairs
  • Booking agents
  • Promoters
  • Music publishers
  • Producers
  • Recording directors
  • Songwriters
  • Club owners
  • Talk show hosts
  • Radio announcers
Working Conditions
Updated May 19, 2021

Instrumental musicians work long hours. Practices and rehearsals usually are held during the day. Live performances often take place during evenings and weekends. Recorded performances happen at various times, depending on when studios have recording studio time available. It is common for musicians to travel on tour or wherever they can find work (clubs, taverns and concert halls).

They may be required to lift and carry instruments and accessories weighing up to 10 kilograms. Electronic audio and related equipment may weigh considerably more.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated May 19, 2021

Musicians need:

  • Discipline, to practice regularly
  • The ability to learn and perform new music pieces quickly
  • A cooperative attitude
  • Money management skills, to deal with highly variable incomes
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to creatively interpret music
  • The ability to accept criticism
  • The ability to handle the pressures of public performing

Since the music industry is a very competitive business, musicians need to be:

  • Determined and confident
  • Dependable and flexible
  • Able to handle themselves well in business negotiations

Musicians should enjoy playing musical instruments and entertaining audiences.

Educational Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

In addition to musical talent, musicians need good business skills and a working knowledge of the music and entertainment business. In particular, they need to know how to keep records, negotiate contracts, stay financially afloat and promote themselves.

Classical musicians usually start training at an early age on the piano or a stringed instrument. Most brass, percussion and wind instrument players begin their music studies in elementary or junior high school. Some musicians are self-taught.

Formal music training of some kind is required to sight-read music and understand music theory, harmony and improvisation. Knowledge of related technologies, such as musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) software and music notation programs, is an asset.

Once students have developed a certain level of competence on an instrument, they may audition for community bands and orchestras to gain experience playing in a group with a musical director or conductor.

Formal music training is available through private lessons and through programs offered at post-secondary schools and music conservatories (for example, the Royal Conservatory in Toronto or the McGill Conservatory in Montreal).

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Grande Prairie Regional College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Another way for musicians to test their performance skills is to enter music competitions. This is also a good way to gain recognition and exposure, and sometimes earn money by winning scholarships and awards. For popular musicians, winning a major talent contest may provide the opportunity to produce a professional recording or music video.

As online video streaming for entertainment grows, it is increasingly important for musicians to know how to perform on camera. At some point in their careers, successful popular musicians usually need to produce and post a music performance video online to gain wider recognition. It also is important to be computer literate because music recording and mixing equipment often is digital.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 19, 2021

Instrumental musicians must audition to find work. Classical musicians who perform mostly with symphony orchestras and small ensembles audition in front of committees made up of musicians and the music director. Popular musicians (for example, jazz, rock, country and folk musicians) often send demo recordings (or web links to them) to booking agents, bar and nightclub owners and entertainment promoters. Once musicians have established their reputations, they may be called to play at specific bookings or recording sessions.

The music industry is very competitive. Talent, versatility and flexibility in accepting work away from home are crucial for maintaining a viable career. Being able to play more than 1 instrument is a definite asset. Freelance and popular musicians who play in recording sessions usually are able to play several different styles of music. Those who, through hard work and good luck, sign contracts with recording companies may record their own songs or cover other people’s tunes. Independent recording artists may market their products and services via the Internet.

Some musicians work as accompanists for other performers or choral groups.

Classical musicians may work with:

  • Symphony orchestras
  • Wind ensembles
  • Chamber orchestras and music groups
  • String ensembles
  • Brass ensembles
  • Recording studios
  • Musical theatre

When they have passed all the requirements for orchestral positions, classical musicians may be offered yearly contracts with insurance and pension benefits. Employment in an orchestra requires musicians to perform at a high level with sometimes limited rehearsal time.

Exceptional players may become principal players, doing more solo work and assuming responsibility for rehearsing other musicians in their sections. The lead player, or concertmaster, in an orchestra is a violinist. Some orchestral players may become conductors, composers, orchestrators or arrangers.

Musicians playing popular music may work:

  • In nightclubs, lounges and dance halls
  • As session players for other artists
  • On cruise ships and in resort hotels
  • For private parties and benefits
  • In recording studios
  • At music festivals
  • On tour in concert halls or large stadiums

Freelance and popular musicians must constantly improve their techniques, creating new possibilities. Popular musicians must be extremely flexible in their hours of work, places of employment and types of contracts.

Breaking into the music business requires dedication, talent and sometimes good luck. Developing contacts in the music business is as important as finding opportunities to perform.

Instrumental musicians are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5133: Musicians and singers. In Alberta, 93% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5133: Musicians and singers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Wage & Salary
Updated May 19, 2021

Many musicians are members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) of the United States and Canada. This association sets minimum wage guidelines with different fee schedules for different settings. For example, side musicians for top recording artists earn substantially more than members of small rock bands playing in hotel bars. (As of June 26, 2019, the minimum wage in Alberta is $15.00 per hour for most workers. For more information, see Minimum Wage.)

Many musicians work at other part-time jobs to supplement their income. Some work in music-related jobs such as arranging, artist management, composing and song writing. Teaching music, either independently or with an institution or organization, is the most common way for Alberta musicians to supplement their incomes.

Musicians and singers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $100.00 $36.76 $22.00
Overall $16.00 $106.25 $40.26 $30.00
Top $16.00 $125.00 $51.22 $36.50

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 19, 2021

Alberta Music Industry Association website:

American Federation of Musicians (AFM) of the United States and Canada website:

Calgary Musicians’ Association website:

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

Edmonton Musicians’ Association website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated May 19, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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