There are a lot of great songwriters out there. And some appear on stage just behind the microphone, leaving the band members to play the music. But do all songwriters play an instrument?
Here’s what I know from playing with many songwriters:
Many songwriters do know at least a little guitar or piano to where they are able to write songs. However, there are songwriters that do not play any instrument and are forced to sing musical ideas to their band members to get them to play their parts.
Writing a song without an instrument isn’t easy.
Humming musical ideas to guitar players and bassists and hoping they can get the ideas you hear in your head and translate it into your favorite songs isn’t easy.
But some songwriters like Mick Jagger do play instruments. They just prefer not to play them on stage so they can focus on singing and entertaining.
So let’s dive deeper and separate those that play vs. those that don’t.
— Leigh Cara (@LeighCara) March 22, 2017
How do you write a song if you don’t play an instrument?
Songwriters who don’t play an instrument often hear the melodies and accompaniments in their heads. They then convey these ideas to their bandmates or studio musicians with their voice.
So, in short, these songwriters can collaborate with instrumentalists to make their songs come to life.
I’m talking about collaborations like:
- Bono and the Edge
- Morrissey and Johnny Marr
- Ozzy Osbourne and Tommy Iommi
- Michael Stipe and Peter Buck
- David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen
But these days, with technology, it’s also not hard to find basic backing tracks on YouTube and lay some basic ideas down using recording software such as Audacity (free) or ProTools (what the pros use).
You can also buy some pre-recorded tracks that come with music tracks produced using instruments like drums, guitar, or bass.
These tracks have various music styles to choose from, which makes your bucket full of options. Another good option is utilizing the music apps with pre-installed instrumental grooves, which can help you make your music track.
So, even if you don’t play an instrument, don’t worry! Technology is full of innovation and tools that’ll make your music tracks sound like a professional.
— Andy Vermaut (@AndyVermaut) June 10, 2021
What instruments do songwriters most often play?
Piano and guitar are the most common instruments that songwriters learn and write songs on.
As I searched for the answers, I landed upon the Quora community where I saw this comment: The users discussed that ‘most successful songwriters rely either on guitar or piano as their primary instrument’ to compose songs as both the instruments make up for ideal support with easy chord formation.
In addition, the sheer access to experimentation with these instruments makes it a preferred choice for composing songs.
The best example of singer-songwriters who played either of the two instruments is the legendary artists like Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Johnny Cash, and Jeff Buckley.
They all are talented musicians who played the guitar, which made their songs worth listening to.
Another example I can think of is the greatest Paul McCartney. He is said to have written “Hey Jude,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Let it Be’ on piano, and “Blackbird” and “I Love Her” on guitar.
Here, I wonder if Paul McCartney didn’t write his songs with the help of guitar or piano, would his songs still be this famous?
But apparently, songwriters who can play guitar and piano complement their songs, accompanying the contrasting feel, tone, and sounds. While one can write a song with any instrument, guitar and piano are probably the ideal instruments considered by the songwriters.
The reason is all understood.
The natural chord formation and soothing tones are easy to learn and make the songs sound a part of a finished studio version. I am sure you have already ordered a guitar or a piano by now. Enjoy writing your song.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible to write songs on a bass guitar too.
But are bassists just failed guitar players or is it a credible instrument in its own right? I explored that theme in a recent article. I even noted some incredibly well-known bassists who actually did start on guitar.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Let the music play on.
📷 Leonardo Zorzi
#music #musician #musicislife #musicianslife #recording #recordingstudio #piano #headphones #focusrite #electricguitar #guitar #guitarist #violin #pianist #keyboard #speakers #musicomposer #songwriting #songwriter #vocalist pic.twitter.com/9VLoDpVOXE
— Opus Overtone (@OpusOvertone) June 14, 2021
What instrument is best for songwriting?
As a general rule, piano and guitar are the best instruments for songwriting. This is because, unlike a bass guitar, on guitar or piano, multiple notes can easily be played simultaneously.
While a good song doesn’t depend on any instrument, these two have the power to enlighten every song.
Having produced music myself for decades, I know that piano and guitar are most definitely the easiest to learn. But I always welcome a second opinion. So, I checked out these user’s comments.
Here is what an instrument enthusiast said on the discussion forum Quora:
“A piano is the ultimate songwriting tool. The musician gets access to any note at a push of a button – with ten fingers across two hands, they get ten simultaneous sounds letting them play both lower bass parts as well as higher chords/melodies at the same time.”
So, while choosing between guitar and piano, think about the kind of music you’re composing. If you’re more guitar-oriented (rock, blues), then go for guitar; otherwise, the piano is another good option. And the guitar will be a better instrument to learn than the bass, at least initially.
“The day Beyoncé learn to play the piano, the sky is the limit” – Prince, 2004 pic.twitter.com/5p1yekoceO
— Beyoncé France (@BeyonceFrance) April 5, 2015
Can Beyonce play an instrument?
Beyonce can play some basic piano parts but would not be considered a piano player. In her music video, Sandcastles, she did hit some piano notes but just basic rudimentary parts.
She has very little knowledge of instruments in reality.
The former R&B girl, Beyonce, doesn’t play any instruments during live performances. Well, most people reckon, her voice is the only instrument that’s winning the hearts of the fans.
Her energy and enthusiasm cover the stage, and that’s why she doesn’t bother to play any siding instruments. She never mastered piano or any other musical apparatus.
The good thing is that she already wins the stage with her euphonious voice. Although, she was said to have hired various instrumentalists on her “On The Run” tour, receiving many positive reviews.
You must be wondering how she excels in her singing without using instruments?
Here’s what I know. A big part of delivering a successful live concert is stage presence. And the not-so ‘Single Ladies’ singer is the queen of hooking her audience’s attention.
“Beyonce always focused on lifting her dancing skills instead of piano or guitar-playing skills.”
Sadly, this idea worked well in her show business; many people criticized her because she won awards like Grammy without even playing any instruments.
Nevertheless, her incredible voice and singing skills have made her reach the top; no matter the criticism, she is still Queen B.
“Rihanna doesn’t play any instruments”.
But don’t you see THAT? pic.twitter.com/aqUa4Ju2x4
— Burak (@buKahra) January 8, 2021
What famous singers can’t play an instrument?
Famous vocalists who can’t play any instrument include Morrissey, Ozzy Osbourne, Matt Berninger, Michael Stipe, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and many more.
Although it should be noted Ozzy can play harmonica. But it’s obviously impossible to play that and sing at the same time.
Morrissey did try taking a few lessons from Johnny Marr in a clip of The Smiths’ Single “How soon is now?”, and he didn’t keep up with it at all.
I suppose he wanted to remain solely a singer and not an instrumentalist. The only place where Morrissey played some piano strings was during a noisy climax of the “Death of a disco dancer” song in Smiths’ studio.
But Morrisey isn’t the only one who tried to play instruments and succeed. Ozzy Osbourne is quite the luckiest guy in rock band history as well.
And then there is the famous rock band The National. Full of talented musicians and instrumentalists, the lynchpin Matt Berninger is the exception in this series.
In an interview with Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, he claimed he couldn’t even play the tambourine or guitar.
Or REM’s Michael Stipe.
Most of the band’s songs were written and performed by bassist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck, with drummer Bill Berry. However, singer Michael Stipe stuck to vocals, lyrics, and melodies.
Appearing in an interview with Rolling Stones, Michael admitted that he “can’t play an instrument to save (his) life,”
In the 21st-century music industry, Stage-winning artists like Ariana Grande and Rihanna don’t play instruments, yet people love their voices. But of course, there are exceptions like Lady Gaga who can play many instruments.
Apparently, their voice has the power and the skills to engage the audience without having a piano or guitar accompanied.
Surprisingly many songwriters have never played an instrument in their entire lives. But the truth is that if you have excellent musical skills, nobody can stop your songwriting.
Although instruments like piano and guitar make a song alive and outstanding, many singers like Beyonce don’t play any instrument yet manage to win the hearts of their fans. But others like Olivia Rodrigo, do play instruments like guitar and piano.
In the end, there’s one thing that I learned: you can write a good song with or without instruments.