Guitarists who started off playing another instrument

Lots of famous guitar players started off playing other instruments. Taking piano lessons at home or any musical instruction in school helps create a good base for learning any instrument! 

Here are some guitarists who started their musical journeys with instruments that aren’t guitars. 

Dave Grohl (drums)

Foo Fighters frontman and guitarist Dave Grohl famously played drums in Nirvana starting in 1990. After Kurt Cobain’s 1994 death, Grohl formed the Foo Fighters, moving to lead vocals and guitar. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins tragically died in 2022, and Grohl provided the drums on the band’s newest album (coming out June 2). 

Eddie Van Halen (piano)

“Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum” by Carl Lender is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The future founders of Van Halen, brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, started taking piano lessons at a young age – Eddie was six when he started playing. He even won first place at multiple piano competitions in Long Beach, Calif. The boys’ parents wanted them to become classical pianists, but they were enamored by rock music. Originally, Eddie was playing the drums while Alex played the guitar, but after he heard Alex play the drums on “Wipeout”, they switched. 

Learn Eddie Van Halen’s signature style with this player study course!


Prince (piano) 

“Prince NSJ” by PeterTea is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Prince was known as a multi-instrumentalist, often playing all the instruments on his records, although he’s best remembered for his guitar and vocals. The child of a jazz singer and a pianist/songwriter, Prince Rogers Nelson wrote his first song, “Funk Machine” on his dad’s piano at age seven. 


Joni Mitchell (piano) 

Prolific singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is known for her guitar playing (and her use of alternative tunings), but she started out playing classical piano. When she was older, she wanted to learn guitar to play country music (which was rapidly growing more popular), but her mother discouraged her, so she initially played ukulele. 


Mick Mars (bass) 

“Mick Mars” by Casey Hugelfink is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Longtime Motley Crue lead guitarist Mick Mars joined his first band – a Beatles cover band called “The Jades” at age 14, playing bass guitar. 


Jeff Beck (vocals) 

“Jeff Beck” by MandyHallMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Before he became one of the most influential guitarists of all time, Beck sang in a church choir at age ten. 


Chris Cornell (drums) 

“Chris Cornell” by christopher simon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Legendary Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell took piano and guitar lessons as a kid, but started his professional career with Soundgarden on drums. The band had another drummer come in a year after their inception to allow Cornell to focus on vocals and rhythm guitar. 


Great guitarists who learned later in life

Great guitarists who learned later in life


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