While celebrity musicians often become famous for a particular instrument, truly talented musicians often play more than just the one behind the scenes. Truly gifted musicians, however, play a dizzying number of instruments, supporting songs and records with more than just the one. Here is a list of musicians who’ve mastered more instruments than most in their lifetime.
Before his death in 2016, Prince was well-known for his creative showmanship and earworm hits. It’s not just his songwriting skills that are extraordinary. Prince mastered at least 27 different instruments, including guitar, harmonica, and percussion, and that was just for his first album. Over the course of his long career, he probably added a few more to the list.
He received credit for those 27 instruments on his first album in 1978, For You. Over the next four decades, Prince continued to innovate and impress us musically, giving us the songs and musicianship that made him a legend.
While most people believe he’s only part of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor is, in fact, all of it. This creative and somewhat reclusive musician is the brains behind the ultra-famous rock band and is rumored to have mastered around 25 different instruments.
His creativity gave us some of the ’90s most famous tracks, but he also plays something called a “swarmatron,” an oscillating instrument introduced only in the last decade. If you’ve never heard of it, you aren’t alone, but it makes an appearance in Reznor’s work for The Social Network soundtrack.
Harvey flies under the radar as a musician in many cases, but her mastery of around 15 different instruments should put her in the spotlight. She remains a nearly one-woman rock show, thanks to this ability, and her style — both indie-royalty and sometimes divisive — takes inspiration from her many talents.
In 2015, Harvey showcased this talent to the public in an art installation designed to illuminate her creative process. Onlookers could witness the writing and recording process through a studio outfitted with one-way glass, observing Harvey without her observing them.
Another member of indie-royalty, Sufjan Stevens, plays over 20 different instruments, showcased throughout his eight solo albums and many collaboration projects. He performs many of the sounds heard on his albums and continues to add instruments to his repertoire.
His haphazard recording and engineering style is well documented, but from his head, he manages to produce records that sound unique and, in some cases, ahead of their time. It happens in no small part because of his instrumental abilities.
The legendary bassist for The Who was the only member of the group with any formal music training and mastered at least ten different instruments. His talents are recorded on all of the Who’s albums and solo work and collaborations with other artists, including Keith Moon.
Entwistle passed away in 2002 but left behind a massive collection of work that demonstrates his inherent musical talent. He was even an accomplished artist, showcasing his drawings and other artworks in his later hears.
It’s hard to look past the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s second most famous member’s signature bass style, but Flea also counts more than ten other instruments in his mastery. He played jazz trumpet in middle school band and lends his unique talents to the distinctive Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound.
He learned to play bass in high school and is now most famous for that instrument. However, his musicianship runs the gamut and makes him a true legend.
You may not recognize the Rolling Stones founder and original leader, but his musicianship lay the foundations for decades of the Rolling Stones’ signature style. He could play more than 15 different instruments, and together with Keith Richards, invented a cool weaving style of guitar in which two players switched back and forth between lead and rhythm.
Jones was removed from the band early on and died at the age of 27. His memory has become something of a conspiracy and an inspiration for many of his famous rock star contemporaries. His work led to the formation of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.