I was just wondering this. First of all, it's rare that any musician has played more than one instrument in more than one band, but there are a few. So I was wondering how many musicians have been in multiple bands with Top-10 hits, and they played different instruments in each band?

I don't think you can count the obvious Paul McCartney since he played bass in both The Beatles and Wings. Tony MacAlpine has played both keyboards and guitar in bands but has never been in a band with a Top-10 hit. You can sort of count Phil Collins as both a vocalist (solo) and drummer (Genesis), but that's cheating somewhat (although I'm sure vocalists disagree).

I know this has been done by someone else, I just can't remember by whom.

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    My first thought was Dave Grohl as drummer for Nirvana and Vocals/Guitar for Foo Fighters, but the Foo Fighters have only reached #18 on the Billboard charts. Feb 24, 2015 at 19:25
  • I think you got it. This article says the single "Something For Nothing" was at #1. billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6327190/… Feb 24, 2015 at 19:32
  • Looks like that's the rock sub-chart, not the main billboard chart. If that covers your criteria, I'll add it as an answer. Feb 24, 2015 at 19:41
  • I'll +1 ya for it, at least. If no one else comes up with anything, I'll accept it too. Feb 24, 2015 at 19:51
  • Actually, I was looking at singles. Looking further, he's been part of 12 top-ten albums. Feb 24, 2015 at 20:04

11 Answers 11


Dave Grohl has done this. He was originally the drummer for Nirvana who had five albums in the top 10. He now fronts the Foo Fighters on guitar and vocals, who have had seven top 10 albums.

  • 1
    Grohl actually played all the instruments on the Foo fighter's debut album. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foo_Fighters_%28album%29 Feb 27, 2015 at 21:00
  • Can't discount Grohl's brilliant drumwork for the Queens Of the Stone Age, which he also did backup vocals for... Apr 16, 2015 at 10:55
  • Also cannot discount "Them Crooked Vultures" which he played drums. They did hit 12 on the Billboards with their first album, but playing with John Paul Jones and Josh Homme is an award within itself.
    – Jasper
    Aug 19, 2015 at 19:35

I really don't think you can discount Paul McCartney in this.

Just because he played at least 4 different instruments in at least 2 major bands shouldn't disqualify him from the category altogether.

  • Beatles - Vocals bass, guitar, drums, keyboards

  • Wings - Vocals bass, guitar, drums, keyboards

  • Orchestral works - composed but didn't play

  • The Fireman - ambient electronica

  • Collaborations - He's worked with everybody, here are just a few
    credits vary between vocals, bass, keyboards, drums & percussion
    60s - Beach Boys, Rolling Stones
    70s - James Taylor, Rod Stweart, Roy Harper
    80s - Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder
    2ks - George Michael, Eric Clapton, Tony Bennet
    2015 - Rhianna & Kanye West

He fumbled with sitar in the Beatles, but didn't in any of the others, as far as I know.
He played percussion only in 'other bands', including the Stones, but not in The Beatles.
On the Beach Boys track, he's credited as playing 'celery' so that's a distinctly different instrument ;)
He also played kazoo with Ringo Starr.

Source: Discography & others


Phil Collins, originally of Genesis.

In Genesis he played drums and (on 'Selling England by the pound') sang.

In his solo career he sings, plays the drums and plays the piano.

  • I sorta discounted Phil in my question, because he played the same instrument(s) in both bands. Feb 25, 2015 at 13:20
  • 1
    Ah, but he never played piano in Genesis to the best of my knowledge... Also, it might be worth splitting Genesis into Gen#1 (Peter Gabriel) and Gen#2 (not Peter Gabriel) as the band was seemingly quite different ! (my opinion)
    – Pat Dobson
    Feb 25, 2015 at 13:28
  • 2
    Good point. I'll +1 ya on that. :o) Feb 25, 2015 at 13:32

Sting played bass on his many hits with the Police, including “Every Breath You Take” (#1). However, he played guitar on his solo hits from The Dream of the Blue Turtles, “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free” (#3) and “Fortress Around Your Heart” (#8). Darryl Jones played bass on those songs.


Jack white, has been in a total of three bands:

  1. The White Stripes, where he played Guitar, sang vocals, ans sometimes played piano. The band had several top 10 hits, such as Seven Nation Army.
  2. The Raconteurs, in which the wikipedia article on the band lists him as playing guitar, keyboard, stylophone, mandolin and singing vocals. Both of the band's studio albums reached the top 10 in the US
  3. The Dead Weather, where he played drums, guitar, and sang vocals. The song "Hang you from the Heavens" reached number 8 in the US, and both of the band's 2 studio albums reached the top 10.

Graham Gouldman is a multi-instrumentalist who has scored hits with 10cc and Wax, among others.


Based on sheer number of instruments played, I'm sure Roy Wood deserves at least honourable mention on this…

He was in three successful bands, plus had a solo career.

The Move
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

On his first solo album, Boulders, he played just about every instrument

Instruments played by Wood on his various albums include guitar, bass, cello, flute, sitar, saxophones, clarinet, recorder, oboe, bassoon, drums, percussion, bagpipes, French horn, crumhorn, double bass and keyboards.


Michael Sembello

Michael Sembello is considered a one-hit wonder by some measures, but he has had several appearances with other artists that have reached the charts, such as Stevie Wonder and Minnie Riperton.

Minnie Riperton - Lovin' You (1974): Michael Sembello is the guitarist playing alongside Minnie.

Michael Sembello - Maniac (1983): Michael Sembello tickled the electronic ivories in the piece he would have his name attached with.


Midge Ure

Synthesizer in Visage (Fade to Grey)

Guitar/Keyboards in Ultravox (Vienna)


Paul Carrack. He charted with 4 different bands: Ace, Squeeze, Mike and the Mechanics, and as a solo artist.


Neil Finn, Tim Finn and Paul Hester all had chart topping success in New Zealand band Split Enz, and then with Australian band Crowded House.

  • 2
    ...on different instruments? Dec 14, 2017 at 16:57

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