Research: Instruments

What instruments should you have in your band? There isn’t a list of required instruments for your band. The Beach Boys used a theramin to play a melody made famous in “Good Vibrations.” George Harrison used a sitar in The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” after months of learning the instrument. Who can forget “Money” by Pink Floyd? Yes, that’s a cash register. Let’s take a look at some instrument choices that are known to accommodate a successful rock band.

Guitar – Few rock bands play without a guitarist. Many play with two. It is considered by many to be at the heart of rock music. That being said, it may be hard to think of rock bands who don’t use guitars. Elton John can manage to rock pretty hard without a on piano guitarist – though many times you will catch him playing with one. The same can be said for Ben Folds. And nowadays, more and more artists can be heard rocking out through electronic sounds rather than a guitar thanks to pioneers like Kraftwerk and Nine Inch Nails. The guitar has been made famous in rock music through songs like “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin and “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Drums – It may be even harder to find a rock band without a drummer because most of the time, it is really hard to rock with no percussion. Almost every rock band has a drummer, and the ones who don’t often use other forms of percussion instead, like bongos or an electronic drum machine. It’s not going to feel like rock music without drums because they provide the backbeat that keeps the musicians and the audience rocking and rolling. The drums have been made famous by guys like Rush’s Neil Peart and Mitch Mitchell, whose fame should be noted because he backed a guitar god, Jimi Hendrix.

Bass – Although a staple in rock music, the bass guitar is not used by some notable artists. The White Stripes have rapidly evolved in to one of the biggest names in rock music, and they have never had a bass player – even their one famous bass line in “Seven Nation Army” was played with an effect pedal over Jack White’s 6-string.  For most rock bands however, it is hard to sound good without a bass player to hold the music together. Some of the best bassists include Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Les Claypool, Paul McCartney, and Sting.

Piano – Piano does not play a huge part in rock music but is used very often. Paul McCartney was known for switching between bass and piano in the Beatles and still plays piano songs today. As I previously mentioned, Elton John was certainly playing rock music in his younger years. Many other bands use pianos and keyboards as well.

Voice – Don’t forget about a voice! This is a crucial part of having a good band because most of the time, the singer will give your band personality. Bands like Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith would have never made it without their voices (Freddie Mercury,  Mick Jagger, and Steven Tyler respectively). That being said, some rock artists do manage to portray enough personality through their instruments to do well without a singer, especially in recent years. Consider artists like Steve Vai (a famous guitarist leading an instrumental band), Explosions in the Sky (who became rather popular after providing the music for the movie Friday Night Lights), and Godspeed You Black Emperor (a power force in instrumental rock music since 1994).


Created by Wade Powell