Despite what society may say, yes, it is possible to become a world famous musician if you educate yourself. History has proven it with many rock and jazz musicians known as music legends without any formal music training. Even jazz musicians known for their technical skills, such as Louis Armstrong and Thelonius Monk, taught themselves their instruments.
And in rock, self-taught musicians are more prevalent. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest and most famous self-taught musicians who have taken the world by storm.
1. Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)
Louis Armstrong was undoubtedly one of the most famous and accomplished jazz musicians of all time.
A legendary trumpeter, Armstrong was also a unique vocalist with an instantly recognizable voice. He is probably best known for the song “What a Wonderful World”.
Armstrong was born in an area of New Orleans so poverty-stricken and dangerous that many called it “the battlefield.” A nice Lithuanian Jewish family in the area helped him buy Armstrong’s first ever machine.
But what is surprising given his musical knowledge and techniques is that he will not have formal music training.
Juvenile detention was the only place anyone had bothered to channel Armstrong with this music.
2 – Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)
If you’ve ever taken guitar lessons, you know how little you learn in just a month. And that was the extent of the legendary man in Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s official music apprenticeship.
He felt restricted in his creativity and wanted to make his own music right away. Cobain formed Nirvana in 1988.
It took several years of work before this popular band hit the charts and ended up founding a new music genre: grunge.
Kurt Cobain has become one of the world’s most famous and culturally important guitarists of all time.
With that, the American music scene brought about a drastic change from exuberance and confidence in the 1980s.
3. Richard Wright (1943-2008)
Richard Wright’s feat of teaching himself how to play keyboard and guitar is made all the more impressive when you consider him a member of Pink Floyd.
This British band is known for their sophisticated vocals. Wright and the other members of Pink Floyd grew up in London, and the band formed there.
He has always had multifaceted musical interests, ranging from jazz to rock. Pink Floyd has always pushed the boundaries.
Wright’s keyboard was an integral part of the band’s brand sound. Includes Pink Floyd’s bestselling albums the wall, And The dark side of the moon, Beside I wish you were here.
4- Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
Frank Zappa was one of the most extraordinary and unique musicians of the 20th century. A brilliant guitarist, he was also a composer and singer with expertise in a variety of musical genres.
With 60 albums to his name, Frank Zappa was still composing music towards the end of his life.
Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but spent his last childhood near Lancaster, California. This was when Zappa’s eclectic musical tastes began to form and grow.
That Zappa was able to reach such heights as a composer without formal training is a testament to his genius.
5. Jack White (1975-)
Like the other self-taught musicians on this list, Jack White has always had an amazing natural talent.
He never formally studied music, instead taking his own path in how to learn and what approach to take.
He learned four instruments without lessons: in addition to the guitar, he plays the keyboard, bass and drums.
The tools he started with weren’t even bought for him. He had just used the machines his brothers had tried and had lost interest in.
White has his own individual style in terms of his repertoire and instruments. He is famous for enjoying ancient tools.
6. Elton John (1947-)
It’s hard to think of any other artist with more natural musical talent than Elton John.
Remarkably, this pianist and singer taught himself piano when he was a young child.
Three-year-old Elton John, then Reginald Kenneth Dwight, listened to the songs and repeated them on the piano.
Later on, Elton ended up completing some formal piano practice.
The classical training he received at the Royal Academy of Music in London as a teenager honed his already formidable talent. He attended this institution as a teenager.
250 million Elton John albums have been sold worldwide, and he has achieved critical acclaim.
7. Dave Grohl (1969-)
A member of Nirvana until Kurt Cobain’s death, Dave Grohl would continue the Foo Fighters front.
Nirvana was a cultural phenomenon and the Foo Fighters were a huge success, and they continue to make music today.
Dave Grohl makes his achievements all the more impressive by the fact that he is a self-taught musician who plays drums and guitar with extraordinary ability.
Remarkably, Dave has admitted to not being completely familiar with any guitar chords. He explains that he has a different understanding of the instrument than musicians who have received a formal education.
When it comes to drums, Grohl only had one lesson before deciding to teach himself.
8. Amir (1958-2016)
The prince liked to maintain an aura of mystery about his past. To be fair, he had a traumatic childhood.
His father abandoned the family, but left the piano, which the prince was drawn to.
Taught himself on the piano, Prince soon expanded his horizons to include other instruments and different genres.
Prince was a very successful and popular artist, submitting nominations for 38 Grammy Awards. He won seven of those.
This artist even won an Oscar for Purple Rain when he created the song’s score.
Prince maintained his popularity throughout his career until he tragically passed away in 2016.
9. Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Thelonious Monk, the legendary jazz pianist, was primarily self-taught. Monk began his life in New York at the age of four, when his mother moved there.
It didn’t take long for this musician to get interested in music. He was six years old when he started trying to learn.
The fateful moment occurred when Thelonius Monk began playing the piano when he was ten years old. Fortunately, his grandparents owned one of these machines.
Another element in a monk’s musical development was participation in the Baptist church’s choir. Louis Armstrong was among the many musical idols of Thelonious Monk. Among others, the Duke of Ellington and Fat Waller.
10. David Bowie (1947-2016)
A true musical maverick, David Bowie was born unique as David Robert Jones in Brixton, a legendary area of London, United Kingdom.
Its design was as cool as its originality.
Bowie is known for playing many musical instruments, including guitar, bass, percussion, piano, and harmonica. He has taught himself on all of these machines.
Most of us don’t realize that David Bowie was largely ignored when he released his debut album in 1967. Which is why you never heard of David Bowie in the Summer of Love discussions.
He would have made a breakthrough in the end.
11. Keith Moon (1946-1978)
Even someone who is often called the greatest drummer in rock history can teach themselves. Keith Moon was part of a legendary band, The Who, and was a self-taught musician.
Keith Moon’s unique drumming style was a key factor in his band’s critical acclaim and commercial success.
He was a pioneer in percussion, devising a new style that made drums more than just an “introduction” instrument. Keith Moon’s drum set was remarkably large.
This percussionist started with teen bands as he was born in North West London, in the suburb of Wembley. His style was noticeable from the start.
12 – Noel Gallagher (1967-)
Noel Gallagher is a self-taught guitarist who was the lead guitarist and vocalist for the popular British band Oasis in the 1990s.
Still, legends, especially in their hometown of Manchester, Oasis have a distinct sound created in part by the playing of Noel Gallagher.
This guitarist is known for the unique way he arranges the strings and creates rhythm with his guitar.
Noel was only 13 years old when he started teaching himself guitar, and his natural talent soon became apparent.
Noel Gallagher was joined at Oasis by his brother, Liam, the lead singer. The feud between the two brothers became famous, but it did not detract from the reputation of the band.
13- Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
If you asked most people to name a guitar genius, they would probably say Jimi Hendrix. What made his skill even more remarkable was the fact that Hendrix was completely self-taught.
The left-handed musician did not have the opportunity to learn to read musical notes during his short life.
Jimi Hendrix started his life in Seattle, Washington. Childhood was a terrible time for Hendrix, with all the stress of poverty and his father’s alcoholism.
From the moment Jimi Hendrix discovered music, his solace and the most important thing in his life, his first instrument was a ukulele he found in a pile of trash.
Summarizing our list of famous musicians
It is clear that there are many self-made musicians who have reached the heights of fame and fortune.
We hope you will be inspired to spend more time practicing your machine with this surprising list.
Don’t worry if you can’t afford the lessons.
If you are dedicated and willing to work, you can get done on your instrument.