Formally Taught vs Self-Taught Musicians: FEMALES

Hailing from a musical family, I’ve noticed that every musician in my Family are males, except one female who is a singer. I created a documentary in which I compared and contrasted the practices of self taught and formally taught musicians, focusing on the success level of autodidacts, which is an individual who indulges in self-teaching. All four musicians were males, unintentionally of course. While I was creating this project, I thought to myself focusing on female musicians would be quite interesting. Most women I know that are into music focus on vocal ability as opposed to playing an instruments.



I’m a part of the Rutgers Newark jazz Mosiac and there is one female musician who plays the saxophone, the rest are males.  While focusing on the theme of musicians who decided to teach themselves and those who are formally trained, I will also focus on why we don’t see more female musicians. I have an interview set up while a young female musician named Kezia Harley who is a self taught guitarist. I also plan on speaking to a woman named Sandy Talmadge, my old piano teacher and also Devinn Bright, a saxophonist who is a member of the Rutgers Jazz Mosiac. I’m currently looking for a fourth musician to complete my project. A female musician that caught my attention was a Israeli born violinist named Miri Ben Ari. She gained fame in 2004 by playing melodies on rap songs on BET. Eventually she began working with Jay-Z and Kanye West.




It is hard to find female musicians who are self-taught. The only notable female musical autodidacts are Elizabeth Cotton, a self-taught left-handed guitarist and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thorton, a self-taught drummer and harmonica player. Rock musicians Joan Jett and Carrie Brownstein hint that they were self-taught. She took some guitar lessons, but quit soon after when the instructor kept trying to teach her folk songs. Brownstein received lessons from future Sunny Day Real Estate/The Fire Theft frontman Jeremy Enigk.  She later said, “He showed me a couple of open chords and I just took it from there”. Joni Mitchell initially taught herself how to play guitar out of a Pete Seeger songbook. Most well-known female musicians such as Amy Lee, Alicia Keys, Miri-Ben Ari, Hayley Williams, and even Lady Gaga were professionally trained.


“Classical Trained Musicians vs Self-Taught Musicians.” Classical Trained Musicians vs Self-Taught Musicians. N.p., 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

De Vivo, Marcela. “The Benefits Of Being Classically Trained As A Musician.” Dotted Music. N.p., 4 June 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

“List of Autodidacts.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.


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