3 Rock Guitarists Who Play Other Instruments

Being able to play multiple instruments is always a plus when you’re a musician. It’s a clear sign that you really have a knack for music. Knowing how to play different instruments can do wonders for your musical career, especially when you’re starting out. Imagine being able to play both piano and guitar and making your own recording exactly the way you want, or being able to play for different bands in different capacities.

Many of the world’s most popular music artists play more than one instrument. In the world of rock music, we’ve also got several fine examples of guitar players who play instruments other than their signature axe. These admirable folks grew up playing different musical instruments but achieved worldwide fame as guitarists. So if you play an instrument that’s not the guitar but would like to give it a try, go ahead! Take your cue from the following music icons.

Jack White

John Anthony Gillis, AKA Jack White – grew up in a big family and surrounded by instruments. He played the instruments his older siblings abandoned, so he was able to learn to play the drums, piano and keyboards. He started playing the drums when he was 6 years old after he found an old drum kit in the attic of their house.

White was 15 when he formed a band with Brian Muldoon, calling themselves The Upholsterers. Because Muldoon already played the drums, White decided to take up the guitar. A few years later, he got his first professional gig – as a drummer in Detroit-based band Goober & the Peas. He went back to the guitar when he formed The White Stripes with his then-wife Meg White who played the drums.

Brian May

Brian May’s first instrument was a ukulele banjo, his dad’s, which his dad taught him to play. On his 7th birthday, he received a Spanish guitar and started playing it with gusto. He also began piano lessons around this time, which is why May was able to play piano and keyboards on Queen’s tracks, such as “Save Me” and “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Oh, and you can hear May playing a banjo uke on his Dixieland-style composition “Good Company.”

As he grew into a teen, he was able to try different electric guitars by borrowing one here and there. Because their family was poor, May couldn’t avoid his own guitar, so he and his dad decided to build one from scratch, which came to be known as the Red Special.

For the Mercury-penned song “Love of My Life,” May even figured out how the orchestral harp works and recorded his parts chord by chord.

Dave Grohl

Foo Fighters guitarist Dave Grohl is considered by many to be one of the greatest drummers of his generation – possibly of all time. He first played drums for Scream, was Nirvana’s longest-serving drummer, and he also plays drums for Them Crooked Vultures. In addition, he performed all of the instruments for his side projects Probot and Late!

Grohl first learned to play a flamenco-style guitar he found in his house. It was his father’s, a gift from his mother but his dad never learned to play it. He left it when he moved out after the couple split.

The young guitar player already learned to play the Deep Purple hit “Smoke on the Water” by the time he was 9 years old. His interest and love for music deepened further when he was exposed to the work of Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among other artists, thanks to the massive record collection of his mother’s new boyfriend. Grohl’s mother then decided to sign him up for guitar lessons.

After a year however, Grohl quit because he found the lessons boring. He formed his first band instead. Soon, Grohl became interested in the drums, and he began teaching himself how to play. He didn’t have a drum set of his own, so he used the furniture in his bedroom as a makeshift drum kit. A chair became the hi-hat, a pillow between his legs became the snare, the bed functioned as the toms and cymbals. A rather simple solution, and as you can see, it worked.

Other fantastic guitarists who play other instruments are Van Halen’s Eddie Van Halen, who trained for years to become a classical pianist and even won a number of piano competitions as a young musician. There’s also Chris Cornell, who was a drummer before he took up the guitar, and Metallica’s James Hetfield, who also took piano lessons as a kid.

As you can see, if you want to keep improving as a musician, taking up another instrument is a step in the right direction. The electric guitar is an amazing instrument that’s easy to play with the musical knowledge you already have, and there are plenty of highly recommended electric guitars you can choose from. Whichever one you choose, just make sure it’s something that makes you want to play all the time, one that makes you feel like a rock star. 

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