Artists Playing Their Own Instruments: What’s The Big Deal?

Contributed Anonymously:

I just wanted to make my opinion about something that bugs me often, and please read, I am not trying to offend anybody. But anyways, many times people seem to discredit an artist for their talent by saying “well they don’t play their own instruments, so that means that they are just cookie cutter pop stars with no talent.” And I just question this: What’s the big deal? Some people say that an artist is more talented when they play their own instruments because it’s harder, but jeez, I know many people who aren’t even 12 who can sing AND play instruments. Does that mean that they’re more talented than the Backstreet Boys because they supposedly don’t play their own instruments? Does that mean that it will make them more talented and famous than Janet, who has never been seen to play an instrument at all?

I mean seriously, what’s the big deal? If you are going to discredit artists who don’t play their own instruments as less talented than those that do, then you might as well ask why a songwriter doesn’t sing their own songs? That’s hard too right? But wait, he can’t sing, so why should he or she try to? The same should go for an artist who can’t play an instrument. The people who do play instruments, such as Coldplay, Alicia Keys, and Norah Jones, were trained to play the instruments they played BEFORE they became famous, it’s not like they automatically HAD to be taught how to play their instruments as soon as they earned a record deal. For instance, if an artist wasn’t really taught to play instruments for the stage, or haven’t played any at all, why should they feel obligated to play an instrument once they become famous? If it’s not their craft, and if they simply didn’t have the training, then why must they play an instrument to prove their talent? Will they become more talented just by strumming a guitar without actually knowing how to play it? After all, that means they’re playing an instrument right?

So in other words, those who do play instruments deserve credit because they were actually taught how to play their instruments long before they became famous. So yes, it makes them really talented, but it doesn’t necessarily make them the greatest artists in the world all because they can play the piano or guitar while they sing. Look at artists like Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, or Cher…what instruments did they play? None. And yet, they’re legends. Look at Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, and the Backstreet Boys, they didn’t play instruments while they were really famous in the good ol’ boy band days, and yet they were pop icons and always will remain pop icons of their day no matter what.

I say that an artist should be credited for what they were actually taught and for what they were actually good at. I mean really, Coldplay, Alicia, and Norah didn’t naturally learn how to play instruments the moment they touched it, they were taught how to do it, and they perfected the craft to do it and how they can truly be independent and more involved with their music. It doesn’t really make them more talented, it just shows that they are artists who are more involved with their music. If the artist doesn’t play an instrument, then so what? And after all, do we necessarily need to see Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Lindsay, and all these other pop artists play instruments to their songs that don’t even need acoustic instrument playing? Better yet, do we need rappers to play instruments to their loud raps too? The music genre of Coldplay, Alicia, and Norah are absolutely perfect for them to shine their talents at playing instruments. The same goes for artists like the Beatles and even KISS, apparently how would they be the Beatles and KISS if they didn’t actually play their own instruments?

But not all artists necessarily can translate their music or genre well by playing a guitar, a violin, a flute, a recorder, whatever. If they can, great, but if they can’t, then so what? Music (or listening to it) is all about enjoying it for what it is, not concentrating and dissing the music and the artist all because an unknown musician or piece of technology is playing the music instead of the artist.

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15 thoughts on “Artists Playing Their Own Instruments: What’s The Big Deal?

  1. shuddafucup says:

    Ya know from a very far-off distance, this seems like a well put in essay, but when I look closely at it all it’s saying is ‘blah blah blah I HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO WITH MY LIFE blah blah blah IM A F**KING LOSER blah blah blah I NEED TO GET LAID blah blah blah’. Its been a long day and I’m already tired as it is, I don’t need an essay to make me snooze. GET A LIFE PEOPLE!!!!!!

  2. RobScott says:

    This HAS to be written by galleta. HAS to be. Either way, I think since the backstreet boys are a boy BAND, people expect them to know how to play an instrument or write a song or two of their own. Even Britney is capable of doing that. So what does BSB have to offer anyone? Boy bands who can croon are a dime a dozen. You can’t say BSB has more depth than other boy bands, because it’s not their depth. Their supposed depth has been written and played for them. All they have to do is sing in key, memorize a couple dance steps, and hope all 5 can be sober enough to put on a 2 hour show every few years.

  3. demo2314 says:

    u know what, let’s step away from BSB for a minute because it seems that all of you that replied to the this article still can’t get over the fact that BSB is huge despite they don’t play there own instruments. you guys say they suck because of that, but what about 112, temptations, jagged edge, new edition, b2k, and other groups that just dance and sing like BSB? WOULD YOU call 112 a boy band, there 5 guys that sing and dance just like BSB, they don’t play any instruments, WOULD YOU call jagged edge a boy band, cuz they do the same thing…….U know what i think, you wouldn’t call them a boy band b-cuz there BLACK…..once you call them that they knock you the f……k out! WHY not give BSB the same respect, there not gay, 2 of them are f……..kin married to pretty ass ladies, with a kid, and one of them went out with paris hilton, and dumped the bbbiiiittttcccchhhh. so don’t hate on BSB cuz if your white and bashing them cuz they don’t play there own instruments you’re only putting down your own f….. kin race!!!

  4. galleta says:

    Sorry folks but I didn’t write this although I have the same question. I to don’t believe a singer has to write their own songs or play their own instruments. I play guitar but I have a not so good voice, should I be penalized if I write the music for someone else? A singers voice is their instrument. Basings ones likes or dislikes on a group solely on the fact that they do not play an instrument is silly.

  5. Jules says:

    Thanks… This is a great read.

    I dream of becoming a musician someday, but my problem is that I feel that I’m just not cut out for instruments. At all. I love playing guitar and I’m still working at it, but in reality, I want to be known for my lyrics and voice. I know that musicians who can’t play instruments can be heavily criticized in our modern society, and so the fact that I lacked skill in that department always made me feel somewhat incomplete as a musician. This article makes me feel a lot better about what I’m doing. Thank you, again. Here’s my YouTube channel if you want to stop by:

  6. Hassan says:

    Actually, Janet Jackson plays piano. She even played accompaniment on “Control”.

  7. Fred says:

    I don’t think anyone has an issue with singers, short of Milli Vanilli. A singer’s “instrument” is their voice.

    People do have an issue with those who portray themselves as playing an instrument but do not, whether it’s live or on an album.

  8. Jalisha says:

    Janet Jackson does play piano “let’s wait awhile” she plays it

  9. Nihal says:

    Dude, I will have to agree on most stuff on what you said, that people judge talent based on playing an instrument. However, most people are upset because Pop music is all digital and people rather hear the songs played physically rather than a computer doing all the work. This is why people claim that these Pop artists have no talent.

    But, at the same time, I agree with your point. However, it would be nice to see these people perform using an instrument or voice after they have did the work in the studio.

    The biggest complaint I have with Pop musicians is how they get all the exposure but yet, they ONLY sing and the music is made by someone else. That, I have a problem with. Regarding playing an instrument, if they can’t play one (though most of the time its not that difficult to strum a guitar note) learning to play it would make more people appreciative on their musical ability and if they REALLY want a track with an instrument in it, then they should get an expert player to play the instrument to their song.

    The bottom line is, most people hate Pop artists not playing their own instruments because they don’t do anything!

  10. Nihal says:

    UPDATE: There’s nothing wrong with an artist who never plays instruments in their music, like for instance I make music using the computer entirely, but at the same time, knowing how to play an instrument is really a plus on the artists side.

  11. ariel says:

    uh, maybe because they’d rather DANCE than do something useful? Seriously? I’d rather see you attempt a tambourine than breakdance on stage.

  12. Paul says:

    Well the way i see it, people who can play instruments and write their own music are artists, the likes of Bowie, Prince, Kate Bush etc, whereas the likes of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys etc who cant, are performers. I honestly think its as simple as that. So to refer to Britney Spears as an artist would be false, she is a performer, its more image based. Someone else more talented will write the songs, she performs them and millions of deluded kids take it for granted that she is the mastermind behind it all, when in actual fact she is just a puppet.

  13. charlotte says:

    Being able to sing AND play an instrument doesn’t mean you´re more talented. If you´re talented for one, you´re talented for 2 or more. It´s just that learning 2 instruments asks more effort put into it than learning just one. I know many very talented people (I´m in the classical field) who don´t need to practice more than 3 hours a day to be successful. So if they wanted, they could play 2 instruments (most “common” talented people do practice 6h a day). So it really is a question of choice, interest and hard work rather than talent…

  14. Jamie says:

    The funny thing about BSB is that they have always played instruments on their own. Each one of them plays multiple instruments, each one of them writes, arranges, produces, etc. Brian was the first to do ALL of those things on their second album Backstreet’s Back in 1997. He wrote and produced a song that was literally just him and his guitar. And, he performed that song live too. They’ve written songs on every album since then. They just don’t force writing every single song or playing instruments on every single song of theirs if it doesn’t need it. That’s pretentious. Singing is damn hard to do, so it’s beyond ridiculous to dismiss vocal groups just because they don’t play instruments. What about Boyz II Men? They’re a vocal group that CAN play instruments, but choose not to. And they’ve inspired pretty much every vocal group that’s around today, especially BSB.

    Somebody asked the question what do BSB offer, if they don’t play instruments or write their own songs? They offer their voices. That’s their instrument. And no, it’ not easy to find “plenty of boy bands who can croon.” Most of them don’t have very good voices. BSB set themselves apart by the fact that they sing live, they have excellent vocals and they utilize vocal polyphony in their harmonies. NSYNC was good too, but they were held back by the fact that only Justin and JC sang. And, Justin’s voice was way too nasal back then. These two groups CAN sing. If they don’t play instruments, fine. Music snobs need to get over it. Not all music requires people to be playing instruments in every song and writing every song, just because you say so. Since when does all music have to be the same or sound the same?

    Singing is a talent, just like playing instruments is a talent. While it’s great if a singer does write their own songs, I don’t find that to be absolutely necessary. And, I think people put way too much importance on that. It’s not hard to write a song. Anyone can do that. Writing a great song is different. Sometimes, that comes from someone other than the singer themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    This just seems like a whole lot of jealousy over the fact that BSB, NSYNC and the like were so big based just on their voices. And yeah, they danced a little too (NSYNC danced more, because BSB focused on vocals). Big deal. People want to be entertained. These types of groups aren’t going to go away, so get over it. And FYI, there are plenty of musicians who play instruments and write their own songs whose music is terrible.

  15. Jamie says:

    Britney Spears is different. She can’t sing and never could, no matter how many times her fans will tell you to watch her Star Search performance from when she was 10 years old. lol She had an above average voice for her age, but it wasn’t great by any means. She’s written maybe two songs her entire career, but her fans will latch onto her getting a writing credit for songs in liner notes, claiming she writes her own stuff. They’ll also go on and on about how Britney can play the piano and came up with the piano melody for Everytime, even though she’s only played the piano once that I’ve seen. She’s lip-synced her entire career, and is basically drenched in Autotune on her albums. I like her songs, but the girl has no voice.

    At least, BSB and NSYNC’s debut albums came out before Autotune was invented (1996 and 1997 respectively). They sang live (BSB more than NSYNC, since JC admitted in early interviews NSYNC sang to prerecorded vocals to focus on dancing). BSB still sings live. Even when Brian’s vocal issues from his vocal tension dysphonia and dystonia were really bad, he still sang live anyway. BSB have proven multiple times they play instruments at their shows. They’ve performed plenty of songs where Brian, Nick, AJ and Howie are playing guitar, while Kevin is playing the piano. They’ve done this at soundcheck parties a lot. Kevin’s even talked more than once about learning the piano at a young age. And actually, AJ plays more instruments than all of them. He plays a bunch of different instruments, including the violin. Nick also plays the drums. Brian can play the piano, he has two guitars and two pianos in his home studio. AJ and Howie can play bass guitar. They do not belong in the same category as Britney Spears.

    Britney’s talent was dancing, and she hasn’t been able to do that well for over a decade now. She was a performer, not an artist. BSB and NSYNC can actually sing. They actually are musicians, particularly JT. Michael Jackson was also a performer, yet he could play instruments and wrote his own songs. He was an anomaly. There are not many like him who can do all of those things even decently, let alone at a high level of excellence. People have different talents. Not every musician needs to be a jack-of-all-trades. If you know what you’re good at, why not stick to that? But, it’s also clear that the people in here bashing BSB and the like need to actually do their research first.

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