17 Great Multi-Instrumentalists

Like people who can speak many languages, there’s something pretty awe-inspiring about a good multi-instrumentalist. And it’s not about just picking up an alternative musical tool and having a go, it’s about truly being able to play several instruments really well. The following artists are have genuine skills across a wide range of instruments – and have used them to great effect during their careers. In no particular order…

1. Prince
Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, clavinet, drums, percussion, saxophone, harmonica, Linn Drum
The most famous and, arguably, most talented multi-instrumentalist today. On For You, he played and arranged all of the 27 instruments featured on the album.

2. Sufjan Stevens
Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, banjo, piano, xylophone, vibraphone, English Horn, oboe, drums, recorder, theremin
Stevens could easily be a one-man orchestra!

John Entwistle multi-instrumentalist

John Entwistle

3. John Entwistle
Bass guitar, french horn, vocals, keyboards, trumpet, double bass, guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, bugle
Entwistle’s initial music training was on trumpet, French horn and piano…then he redefined bass playing!

4. PJ Harvey
Vocals, guitar, bass, piano, organ, keyboards, autoharp, saxophone, trumpet, cello, violin, harmonica, percussion
Her songwriting is so good, people often forget just how musically talented she is.

5. Dave Grohl
Vocals, drums, guitar, bass, piano, percussion
Grohl’s post Nirvana 15-track demo had everything – except for one guitar part – recorded by himself.

6. Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre)
Instruments: Guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, sitar, tambura, moog synthesizer, mellotron, piano, accordion, organ, drums, cello, koto, samisen, mandolin, lute, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, harmonica, flute
Newcombe is said to be proficient in over 80 different instruments.

7. Mick Harvey
Vocals, guitar, bass, piano, organ, synthesizer, xylophone, glockenspiel, harmonica, drums, percussion
Nick Cave’s offsider plays just about anything required.

Trent Reznor

8. Trent Reznor
Vocals, guitar, piano, mellotron, synthesizer, keyboards, bass, saxophone, cello, double bass, drums, tuba, sousaphone, pan flute, harmonium, swarmatron, harpsichord, marimba, sampler, vibraphone, programming
A trend setter who has broken new ground in many areas… including swarmatron playing!

9. Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)
Guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, piano, synthesiser, viola, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, ondes Martenot, sampler, Mellotron, banjo, organ, celesta, accordion, harmonica, recorder
If you’re playing in Radiohead you’d better be able to turn your hand to anything.

10. Stevie Wonder
Vocals, keyboards, harmonica, drums, bass guitar, congas, bongos, keytar, accordion, harpejji
On Superstition he played all instruments except horns and guitar!


11. Flea
Bass guitar, trumpet, keyboards, double bass, drum machine, melodica, guitar, vocals
Originally a jazz trumpet player, Flea learned to play bass in high school.

12. Mike Oldfield
Guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals, bass guitar, glockenspiel, mandolin, banjo, tubular bells
A multi-instrumental pioneer in the world of one artist recording just about everything on an album.

13. Brian Jones (Rolling Stones)
Guitar, harmonica, keyboards, percussion, saxophone, sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, recorder, backing vocals
Jones was one of the first to bring folk instruments into the world of rock.

14. Curtis Mayfield
Vocals, guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, drums
The pioneer of funk played everything a funk band could ever need.

Todd Rundgren

15. Todd Rundgren
Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, saxophone, theremin
Rundgren is the multi-instrumentalist’s multi-instrumentalist and was a major influence on another allrounder, Prince.

16. Billie Joe Armstrong
Vocals, guitar, piano, drums, percussion, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin, bass, violin
Obviously the guitar as his main instrument, but Armstrong has layed down tracks in the studio with all his various instruments.

17. Ben Moody (Evanescence/solo)
Guitar, vocals, bass, piano, drums, percussion
The ultimate collaborator these days with his varied skills.

16 Comments on “17 Great Multi-Instrumentalists

  1. Pingback: Multi Instrumentalist - 7 Benefits Of Playing Multiple Instruments - GuitarHippies

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  3. This list is crap, they left off Paul McCartney, who plays more instruments than any artist in the last 100 years. He plays over 40.

    • price played 100000 instruments

      but no this list isnt crap, many of these musicians DO play all those instruments

      so 1 musician wasnt included lol theres prob dozens who werent

      I know Greenwood plays dozens of instruments
      scores films
      writes songs
      COMPOSES all of radioheads masterful material
      puts it all together
      is also a programmer (video games, VISUAL arts)

      prob more then mccartney does
      Greenwood is a

      1) composer 2) musician 3) songwriter, 4) multi-instrumentalist 5) visual artist 6) programmer/coder.

      that means MORE then just playing lots of instruments

      what about john entwistle
      howlin wolf
      Brian May
      among many others.

      • And how about Steve Winwood. When Traffic reduced from 7 musicians, he basically played everything on albums such as John Barleycorn, & also on solo albums. Maybe not rue, but is said that by age 15, he could play 24 instruments, & that was before electronica.

    • rodtharrod – Wales, U.K. – Started as journalist, specialised music in Fleet Street, opened, developed, hosted and booked World's No 1 musicians hideaway where Eric Clapton was heard and Cream followed then gave Jimi Hendrix his first gig (was Jimmy James in US prior). Was labelled one of the most 'In' young men in London in Swinging Sixties...went into music PR, personal management internationally. Created most successful music industry development programme for disadvantaged youth in Africa. Awaiting publication shortly of music industry memoirs 'Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll - I WAS THERE'
      Rod Harrod

      Brian Jones played 45 instruments on recordings and another nine if you separate out the various guitars – lead; acoustic; steel etc

  4. Pingback: Unit 10 – Exploration of specialist study in music performance and production – Tasha’s Blog

    • Agreed.
      Has everyone forgotten Steve Winwood!!?
      Probably the most naturally gifted (and sadly overlooked)
      of his era…or any era for that matter!!

  5. I think it’s a joke that routinely the band with the greatest ensemble of instrumentalists doesn’t make these goofy list, especially when Kurt Cobain, Tom morello are always listed as great guitars players but Steve Howe of YES is left off the lists I believe it make any such list as suspect at best. While bassist Chris Squire is usually recognized, Rick Wakeman is frequently left off as are drummers Bill Buford & Alan White and to not include Lead Singer Jon Anderson

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