What Instruments Did The Beatles Play?

Beatles Main Instruments

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr burst onto the scene in 1963 as The Beatles. They were one of the first bands to write their own songs, and play all their own instruments. Besides the standard guitar, bass guitar and drums, they used a wide variety of non-traditional instruments as well. So which of these instruments were played by The Beatles members?

John, Paul, and George all played guitar and bass guitar on various songs, and while Ringo handled most of the drumming, Paul also recorded drums on several songs later in their career. Paul and John most often played any keyboard parts, and even Ringo played piano on one song! 

Let’s break down what each member played through their career, and look at songs where each experimented with a non traditional instrument. 

What Instruments Did Each Beatle Play?

Main Members of The Beatles

These are the instruments that each of the Beatles played. The lists are formatted such that their main instrument is first, and their weakest (or least common anyways) is listed last.

What Instruments Did Paul McCartney Play?

Paul McCartney played these instruments:

  • Bass Guitar
  • Electric Guitar
  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Piano
  • Drums
  • Recorder
  • Clavichord
  • Mellotron

The most proficient instrumentalist in the band was Paul. His main instrument was Bass Guitar. He is often cited as being one of the most influential bass players of all time. He also played some of the most famous instrumental lines in The Beatles, including the guitar solo in “Taxman,” the famous acoustic guitar in “Blackbird,” the iconic piano in ‘Lady Madonna,” and the drums in “Back in the USSR.” 

He also played the recorder (you remember that thing you had to play in 3rd grade right?) on “Fool on the Hill,” the clavichord on “For No One,” and the famous mellotron intro on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” 

What Instruments Did John Lennon Play?

John Lennon played these instruments:

  • Rhythm Guitar (Acoustic & Electric)
  • Harmonica
  • Electric Piano
  • Bass Guitar
  • Clavioline

While John often chided his own playing, others have cited his driving rhythm guitar as being one of the key components in The Beatles’ sound. In the early days of the group, John often played the harmonica, such as “Love me Do” and “I Should Have Known Better.” 

John also played the electric piano on “I’m Down” as well as “Come Together.” He played the bass part in the “Long and Winding Road” (in several instances during tracking, John did a long slide up on the bass, almost causing the song’s lead singer, Paul, to laugh during the take). 

John also played the unusual instrument Clavioline on “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” If you’re being generous with the definition of “instrument,” you can also put John down for “playing” the water bubbles in “Yellow Submarine.” He was blowing through a straw into a cup of water. 


What Instruments Did George Harrison Play?

George Harrison played these instruments:

  • Lead Guitar
  • Sitar
  • Swarmandal
  • Moog synthesizer

George stands as one of the most original and recognizable lead guitarist in Rock. His solos on “Something,” “Let It Be,” and “Hey Bulldog” are melodic and soaring. 

George is also responsible for the introduction of the Sitar, a traditional Indian instrument,  into western popular music. He first used the Sitar on “Norweigan Wood” in 1966 after a transformative trip to India where he met Ravi Shankar. 

George also played another Indian instrument, the Swarmandal, on “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Within You and Without You.” George also played a Moog, a newly introduced synthesizer, heavily on the Beatles penultimate album “Abbey Road.” Listen to the solo on “Because” to get a sense of the sounds that could be created on the Moog. 

Synthesizers were only just becoming popular as The Beatles were creating their final album, and the integration into “Abbey Road” makes one wonder what The Beatles could have done with synths if they had stayed together. George also played the Bass occasionally, most notably on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” 


What Instruments Did Ringo Starr Play?

Ringo Starr played these instruments:

  • Drums
  • Tambourines
  • Maracas
  • Bongos
  • Timpani
  • Piano
  • A Suitcase
  • Many other Percussion Instruments

Depending who you talk to, either Ringo was the luckiest man on earth to have found the other three Beatles, or The Beatles are the luckiest lads to have found Ringo. 

Ringo spent almost all of his Beatle time behind the Drum Kit, and while he wasn’t flashy like a Keith Moon, his drumming was unique, and really allowed the songwriting and vocals of the rest of the band to shine. 

Interesting of note is Ringo is untrained and left handed. This made his drum fills non standard because he would lead with his left, not the right hand like almost every other drummer. 

Besides a drum kit, Ringo also played many other percussion and hand percussion instruments. The most common would be Tambourines and Maracas, but he also played Bongos on songs like “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” Timpani on “Every Little Things,” and even a suitcase on “Words of Love!” 

Besides drums and percussion, Ringo could play a little piano, most notably contributing on the final bombastic E Major chord that concludes “A Day in the Life.” 

Which Beatle Was The Main Drummer?

Ringo Starrwas The Beatles main drummer. Ringo played on nearly every Beatles song, with a few notable exceptions. The group’s first single, “Love Me Do,” featured session drummer Andy White, after producer George Martin thought Ringo was not strong enough for the band. Paul McCartney also played drums on a few tracks, including “Back in the USSR” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”

Other notable contributors 

George Martin

The Beatles producer was a classically trained pianist, and contributed often on their recordings. The piano solo in “In My Life,” for example, was George Martin. He recorded the piece at half speed on piano, and then sped it up to the original tempo. This gave it the unusual tone and also allowed him to play a more baroque inspired line. Beside the piano, George Martin also contributed on Organ, Harmonium, Harpsichord, and Clavichord. 

How Many Beatles Songs Did George Martin Play On?

George Martin contributed piano or keyboards on 26 tracks throughout The Beatles career. He was considered by many to be “The 5th Beatle.” 

Billy Preston

Billy Preston was brought in during the “Let it Be” sessions, and was the only outside member to play with The Beatles during their final live performance on the rooftop of Apple headquarters in London. Billy most often contributed with his Fender Rhodes, a type of electric piano, including the now iconic solo on “Get Back.” He also played the B3 Hammond organ on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Let it Be.”  

David Mason

Now one of the most iconic piccolo trumpet solos in pop music, the solo on “Penny Lane” was played by David Mason. He was a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, where he became the principal Trumpet. 

Eric Clapton

Already one of the most established guitarists in England, Eric Clapton furthered his legendary status when he was invited to be the only guest guitar soloist to play with The Beatles. Delivery his signature “Slow Hand” style, that is Clapton on George Harrion’s “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.” 

Did Eric Clapton And George Harrison Remain Friends?

Yes. Despite George’s wife Pattie leaving him for Clapton, George and Eric remained great friends. Clapton even organized “A Concert for George” after Harrisons passing in 2002. 

What Instruments Are Used In Come Together By The Beatles?

Come Together is a perfect example of The Beatles playing their strongest instruments to the highest level. 

In the song Come Together by The Beatles, Paul McCartney plays the Bass Guitar, John Lennon plays Rhythm Guitar and Electric Piano, George Harrison plays lead guitar, and Ringo plays drums. 

Paul plays his signature melodic bass line that gives a groove not replicated by The Beatles before or after. John holds a steady chuck berry inspired rhythm guitar part that keeps the energy throughout the song. George plays his unique lead guitar lines, which are featured during the outro of the song. 

George plays almost the highest notes he has on his guitar, a very difficult place to make a guitar sound good. Ringo’s drums are so recognizable, most people can recognize the song even if you took away everything but the drums! His tom work shows off his left hand leading style, which most drummers would have played differently. 

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