How Many Musical Instruments Did Prince Play?
Prince performed all vocal lines and played all 27 instruments in his first album, “For You.”
It’s highly impressive, though quite a few of these were the same families of instruments (guitars, basses, keyboards/synths, drums/percussion), many of which were just different models of these classes of instruments. This probably explains why many non-musicians would look at the instrument listing and say, “I have no idea what half of these instruments are!”
Here is the instrument listing from Prince’s first album. He played ALL of these and sang every vocal line:
“electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, bass synth, singing bass, fuzz bass, electric piano, acoustic piano, Minimoog, Polymoog, ARP String Ensemble, ARP Pro Soloist, Oberheim Four Voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, and finger snaps.”
Of course, Prince was an absolute genius! The amount of creativity, vision, and songwriting and arrangement skills it would take to create such an album is, of course, absolutely amazing.
Although Prince was gifted at playing many different instruments, I think it’s better to approach his music from the quality of his playing rather than the quantity of instruments he used.
For example, if we’re going to go off sheer numbers in the same manner, a regular percussionist might play 20 instruments!
Let’s break these up a bit into their categories of instruments.
- Electric Guitar
- Acoustic Guitar
- Bass synth
- Electric piano
- Acoustic piano
- ARP String Ensemble
- ARP Pro Soloist
- Oberheim Four-Voice
- Fuzz bass
- Water drums
- Finger cymbals
- Wind chimes
- Orchestral bells
- Brush trap
- Tree bell
- Hand claps
- Finger snaps
From 1993 to 2000, Prince changed his stage name and was referred to as “The Artist” (short for The Artist Formerly Known as Prince). This was due to a dispute with Warner Bros. and the meaning behind it is that entertainers were referred to as ‘The Artist’ on their contracts.
Whatever the case, no musician encapsulated the term as well as Prince. He was a true well-rounded artist. He was a musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, with each aspect being good as the previous one. “The Artist” was a force both in the studio and live, utilizing his talents to switch effortlessly between instruments and put on a masterclass show.
You’ve heard popular songwriters say that it takes 10,000 hours to become a good songwriter. That was certainly the case with Prince. Since the beginning of his career to his end, it is estimated that prince wrote over 500 songs, naturally, a lot of those songs weren’t released. At one point, he even vowed to write a song a day. He was relentless and a true master of his craft.
Prince was an absolutely gifted musician who had amazing skills and talent for many different instruments. Of course, he was an excellent songwriter as well, making him one of the best musicians of our time.
I hope this article has shed some light and helped you understand exactly what instruments he played and what went into his amazing creative works.
Prince Image by: jimieye from flickr.com – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimieye/, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons