21 Amazing Singers Who Can’t Play Instruments

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Some musicians are singer-songwriters, and some are singers and instrumentalists, and some, well, only sing. Don’t get us wrong; there’s no shade to just singing. But sometimes you’d be surprised which musicians actually don’t play instruments at all.

You know the band is there for a reason. They sound good, those instruments are part of the song, et cetera. But some back-up bands are there because the singer can’t actually play at all. So today, we’ve rounded up a rather surprising list of people famous singers who don’t play instruments!

1. Ozzy Osborne

Ozzy Osbourne
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Ozzy Osbourne, the legendary Prince of Darkness, has become an unwitting collector of guitars, receiving them as gifts despite never attempting to strum a chord. It’s a quirky and amusing situation in the music world, where manufacturers seem determined to ensure Ozzy has an extensive guitar collection, even if it’s purely decorative. Despite his musical prowess, Ozzy’s desire to learn an instrument was quashed early in his solo career, with concerns that it might disrupt his established songwriting genius. This intriguing mix of earnest intention and unintentional guitar hoarding adds an unexpected layer to Ozzy’s iconic persona in the world of rock and roll.

2. Pete Wentz

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Pete Wentz, the charismatic bassist of Fall Out Boy, has taken on a musical journey that includes a notable learning curve. Interestingly, during Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, Wentz took the opportunity to pick up the bass, transitioning from a position where his playing was almost inaudible in early concerts to a more prominent and capable role. While not initially renowned for his instrumental prowess, Wentz’s dedication to mastering the bass and his role as a lyricist showcase his multifaceted talents within the band. It’s a testament to his commitment to the craft and an evolution that adds depth to Fall Out Boy’s musical narrative. Ok, admittedly, this one is a bit of an exception, but Wentz used to be almost on this list, so we’re counting it. 

3. Tim McGraw

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Turns out, Tim McGraw’s concerts have a quirky secret—that guitar he’s always got by his side? Well, it’s more of a stylish accessory than a musical necessity. The rumor circulating around is that he never actually makes a peep through the sound system during his shows.

Picture this: Tim is strumming away, but the sound is MIA. It’s like catching a magician with his tricks spilled out. Who knew the man could keep such a countrified mystery up his sleeve?

4. Sid Vicious

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Sid Vicious, the punk rock icon, wasn’t exactly a virtuoso on the bass. In fact, when he sought lessons from the legendary Lemmy, the Motorhead frontman responded with a candid, “I know.” Living in the same squat in London, Lemmy attempted to impart some bass wisdom to Sid, but the result was, in his words, “hopeless.” Despite the less-than-stellar lessons, Sid persisted, though his bass lines, when audible, were often described as downright terrible.

Live recordings reveal a lack of technical chops, correct notes, or any semblance of synchronization with the band. In the punk rock scene, where raw energy is celebrated, Sid’s musical shortcomings were hard to overlook, even by the standards of rebellious punk aficionados.

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5. Arctic Monkeys

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When the Arctic Monkeys burst onto the music scene, they weren’t exactly virtuosos on their instruments. According to insiders, none of the band members were seasoned players at the outset; they essentially learned the ropes as they went along. While their raw, unpolished style became a hallmark of their early work, some critics couldn’t help but point out certain deficiencies. A few fans even zeroed in on Jamie’s guitar skills, noting that, despite his pivotal role in shaping the band’s style, his finesse might leave something to be desired. However, the overall consensus remains that, despite any initial shortcomings, the band’s evolution and Alex’s songwriting genius have solidified their place in the music pantheon.

6. The Shaggs

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The Shaggs, despite their unconventional approach to music, garnered attention precisely because of their lack of traditional musical prowess. As the story goes, their father, in a peculiar bid to shape their unique sound, shielded them from external musical influences and then compelled them to create music devoid of conventional references. This isolation resulted in a distinct and often polarizing sound.

Some aficionados argue that their music is an acquired taste, while others attribute their atypical style to their lack of exposure to conventional musical norms. Regardless of opinions, The Shaggs’ story is a fascinating testament to the power of artistic expression, even when it emerges from an unconventional and somewhat isolated musical upbringing.

7. Luke Bryan

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While the entertainment world sometimes buzzes with claims of musicians merely going through the motions, Luke Bryan, in particular, has faced occasional scrutiny for his on-stage guitar antics. Some critics argue that his guitar is more of a prop than an instrument during performances, with minimal strumming and potential microphone oversight. However, there’s a paradox here, as it’s widely known that Bryan is quite proficient at both guitar and piano. Fans might find themselves puzzled as to why, despite his musical talents, he opts for a less hands-on approach during certain live performances, leaving the guitar mostly untouched.

The mystery of Bryan’s guitar-playing choices adds an intriguing layer to his live shows, sparking discussions among concertgoers about the role of instruments in contemporary country performances.

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8. Wyld Stallyns

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Despite the challenges of their early musical journey, the iconic duo of Wyld Stallyns, made up of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, managed to transform their initial lack of musical prowess. After a mere 16 months of intensive guitar training, interrupted only by a brief medieval honeymoon, their sound evolved into something more reminiscent of rock legends like Kiss.

However, some fans argue that, despite their rule over time travel and their impact on future societies, the Stallyns’ musical proficiency may not have reached the virtuosic heights of their fictional counterparts. Nonetheless, the enduring catchphrase “Wyld Stallyns rule” echoes in the hearts of fans, emphasizing the duo’s lasting influence beyond their musical abilities. Well, what do you think?

9. Courtney Love

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Courtney Love was an American singer and the lead vocalist of the Hole band, which she formed in 1989. Recently, she herself in the spotlight not just for her music but also for a sound guy’s unconventional protest. Allegedly failing to pay her audio engineer, Love became the unwitting star of a unique musical moment when the disgruntled sound guy soloed her live tracks and uploaded them. The move, deemed the ultimate troll by some, sparked discussions about the challenges musicians and their support teams face behind the scenes.

Despite the controversy, Love’s legacy in the rock scene remains a complex narrative, blending her musical contributions with the occasional offbeat incident.

10. Lil Wayne

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Lil Wayne, or Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., kicked off his musical journey as a rapper at the age of 12. While primarily celebrated for his rap prowess, there’s a Reddit discussion about his guitar-playing skills, suggesting it might not be his forte. Fans acknowledge Lil Wayne’s unpredictable musical journey; he’s got rap brilliance, but some of his performances don’t hit the mark. The speculation among fans adds a layer of curiosity about what could happen if Lil Wayne decided to venture into playing the guitar. Who knows what might happen if he were to branch out?

11. DJ Khaled

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Khaled Mohammed Khaled, better known by his stage name DJ Khaled, is an American rapper, record producer, record executive, and DJ. There’s a video of Khaled playing guitar with complete confidence, but other guitarists have criticized it quite a bit.

There’s also another rumor circulating on Reddit that during a live performance, Khaled’s guitar had tape on the fretboard, indicating where to place his fingers, yet the result still fell short. The critique goes further, with comments highlighting the use of open strings, muting, and the unfortunate presence of out-of-tune strings during his guitar attempts. It’s clear that while DJ Khaled might be a maestro in the studio, his guitar stage abilities leave a bit to be desired.

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12. Gene Simmons

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While Gene Simmons is undoubtedly a rock icon, some critics on the internet have pointed out that his bass-playing skills might not rank among the greatest. He can play alright, but his skill doesn’t quite equal to his level of success.

Interestingly, discussions about Simmons’ musical abilities often transition into admiration for his undeniable skills in marketing and business, particularly his groundbreaking contributions to music merchandising. There’s a consensus that, alongside his KISS bandmate Paul Stanley, Simmons has showcased good, though not exceptional, musical talents but truly shines as a visionary businessman.

13. Jim Morrison

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Jim Morrison was an American singer and the lead vocalist of the band Doors. Apart from that, he was also a poet and songwriter. However, he was also often mentioned in online discussions for his alleged lack of ability when it came to playing traditional musical instruments like guitars, keys, or even bongos.

While some point out his apparent musical limitations, others argue that his unique and powerful vocals could be considered an instrument in their own right. The notion that Morrison didn’t necessarily need to master conventional instruments is supported by references to “Other Voices,” an album released by The Doors after Morrison’s death. It suggests that the band continued to create compelling music without his direct instrumental contributions.

14. Katy Perry

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Katy Perry, known for her powerhouse vocals and chart-topping hits, is often discussed online in terms of her musical talents. While she’s acclaimed for her singing abilities and entertaining performances, some discussions arise regarding her proficiency in playing traditional instruments. Fans frequently highlight Perry’s vocal abilities and stage presence, but the topic of her instrumental skills remains less emphasized in online conversations. The consensus seems to be that Perry’s strength lies in her dynamic voice and captivating stage persona rather than instrumental proficiency.

Who could ever forget the video of Katy Perry when she was pretending she could play the flute? The embarrassment on her face is written all over, and it seems people can’t forget it. However, she’s nevertheless a creative and brilliant singer.

15. Lars Ulrich

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Lars Ulrich, the legendary drummer from Metallica, often sparks debates about his drumming skills. People on the internet sometimes express the view that Ulrich may not showcase the technical finesse expected of a professional drummer. While fans note occasional improvements in live performances, opinions on his drumming abilities vary. Some even humorously liken him to comedian Bill Bailey, underscoring the importance of talent in the world of music. The ongoing discussions around Ulrich’s drumming keep the online music community lively with diverse perspectives.

16. Meat Loaf

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Meat Loaf wasn’t exactly known for shredding on the guitar, but leave it to him to bring a touch of humor to the conversation. In his autobiography, he playfully pointed out that his songs were already on the longer side, imagining the chaos if he added guitar leads—a scenario he comically dubbed a potential disaster. While he might not be your go-to for guitar wizardry, Meat Loaf’s performances and distinctive voice have solidified him as a true rock icon.

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17. Zappa

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Zappa once claimed he couldn’t sing and play guitar simultaneously. However, the genius move was having Steve Vai, a virtuoso guitarist, in his band. Zappa’s candid admission might have been a humble nod to the complexity of his compositions, where intricate guitar work and vocal acrobatics demanded a unique approach.

With Zappa, it wasn’t about his instrumental skills alone; it was the orchestration of talent within his band that created the mesmerizing musical icon he’s celebrated as. So, while he humorously downplayed his multitasking abilities, the sonic genius of Zappa’s ensemble speaks volumes about his musical talent.

18. Morrissey

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Morrissey, the man of mystery, insists he’s got guitar skills, but spotting him wielding one is like finding a unicorn. And catching him at the piano? Well, that’s almost as rare as getting a backstage pass to the unicorn party. While Morrissey’s haunting vocals and poetic lyrics steal the show, his instrumental ability remain a tantalizing enigma, adding a touch of mystery to the icon’s musical aura.

19. Andrew Fletcher

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Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode had a unique approach to playing instruments. Some might say he had a minimalist style—he mainly clapped his hands on stage and occasionally gave his keyboard a pretend workout.

In the studio, his main gig seemed to be sharing opinions rather than playing actual notes. Yet, he humorously dubbed himself “the best one-fingered keyboard player in the world.” It’s quite a ride to ponder how this fascinating character managed a 42-year-long career in a massive band.

20. Machine Gun Kelly

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Machine Gun Kelly, or MGK, is caught in the crossfire of a musical discussion among fans. They said, if you can’t conquer the solo of your own song on the guitar, maybe give it a rain check for the live show. Some observers speculate that he’s more comfortable strumming while seated, and his dedication to looking cool may sometimes overshadow his guitar playing—rocking that low-slung guitar for the aesthetic. It’s a fine balance of style and skill that keeps the audience guessing and the debate alive in MGK’s musical realm.

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21. Ray Davies

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In the legendary saga of “You Really Got Me,” Ray Davies, frontman extraordinaire of The Kinks, is enshrouded in a musical mystery. The tale suggests that Davies’ guitar wizardry on the track might have fallen short of perfection, leading to the intriguing addition of Jimmy Page, perhaps in a slightly inebriated state, to strum in and save the day—or, more precisely, the riff. Despite The Kinks’ counterclaims, a lingering shadow of uncertainty remains, inviting fans to delve into the mystery surrounding Davies’ role in shaping the electrifying rock anthem. Well, what do you think about this?

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