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9 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Played Musical Instruments

More than just your average Joe, these celebrities have made a name for themselves, whether it be in the entertainment industry, the media or in politics. But besides achieving notoriety in their respective careers, they’ve also reached high levels of success on the personal level – learning the piano within a few months or even playing it upside down. Get inspired by the determination of these nine celebrities and see how playing an instrument added more value to their lives.

Michelle Obama

As detailed in her hit 2018 memoir Becoming, piano was an important part of Michelle’s life growing up. Taking lessons from her great-aunt Robbie, the piano became both a way of expressing herself and likewise connecting to her family. As a child, Michelle practiced the instrument with such dedication that she literally had to be told to “give it a rest” by her family. Imagine having that kind of commitment! Inspiring, right?

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama)

Michelle with her family

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling couldn’t even play the piano before he started rehearsals for La La Land, though it’s hard to believe this when watching him play the film’s anthem, City of Stars. In this 2016 award-winning movie Gosling stars as Sebastian Wilder, a down-on-his-luck musician with a passion for jazz and a dream to revive this dying genre. Taking lessons from acclaimed musician Liz Kinnon, Gosling would practice five days a week for two hours.  And it only took him three months to reach the impressive level he plays at. Besides mastering the piano, Gosling spent time perfecting his singing chops, his dancing ability and, of course, finding his character. And he still didn’t get the Oscar…that’s rough.

Learn to play City of Stars on the acoustic guitar

Or play La La Land’s main theme on the piano with 2 singers

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ryan Gosling (@ryangoslingoffical__)

Lady Gaga

Admittedly one of the less surprising entries on this list given her star-studded musical prowess, still it might surprise you to learn that pop star Lady Gaga boasts talents in multiple instruments, including the guitar, drums and piano. Gaga was quite the musical prodigy growing up, reportedly learning piano by ear from an early age. Noticing this, her mother decided to enrol her daughters in piano lessons. Twelve Grammy Awards, 18 MTV Video Music Awards and even one Academy Award later, I’m sure Gaga is very pleased she did…

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)

Learn to play Lady Gaga’s Shallow on the piano 

James Cordon

As detailed in his tell-all 2011 memoir May I Have Your Attention Please? the Gavin and Stacey star turned Hollywood darling spent his childhood playing the cornet in the Salvation Army as well as at various school concerts over the year. Cordon himself admits that he wasn’t the most musically gifted, but, unsurprisingly to most, his sheer stage presence and impressive performance chops more than made up for it. Check out this video of Cordon jamming on the cornet with comedian Rob Brydon and music artist Mark Ronson. Cordon hadn’t played in a while so it’s a fairly shaky start (with more than his fair share of off-notes) but he soon warms into it and the end result is pretty fun!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by James Corden (@j_corden)

Albert Einstein

No doubt one of the world’s brightest minds, it may surprise you to learn that Albert Einstein was also an accomplished musician. Einstein began lessons at just six years old, when his mother arranged for him to take lessons. Though it wasn’t until he began playing Mozart’s sonatas at age 13 that things started to click for him. From this moment on, he was inseparable from his violin – or his “Lina” – as he called it, rarely leaving the house without it. We don’t know how good Einstein – there aren’t exactly any recordings of him playing. In fact, some have noted his poor technique – particularly when holding the violin – in photos that show him playing. Even if he wasn’t the best player, you can bet he had the passion!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Albert Einstein (@alberteinstein)

Lisa Kudrow

As many will know, Lisa Kudrow played the iconic character Phoebe Buffay for 10 seasons of Friends. Phoebe is perhaps best known for the recurring tune – Smelly Cat – in which she sings about the plight of a rather stinky feline. It’s a hilarious song with a very catchy tune that most die-hard Friends fans can recite off by heart. What viewers might not know, however, is that Kudrow couldn’t actually play the guitar before landing the role. The star took lessons, learning the basics that would allow her to bring the song to life. And boy did she succeed!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Lisa Kudrow (@lisakudrow)

Julia Roberts

Much more than just a Pretty Woman, the Oscar-winning and all-round superstar Julia Roberts is also an accomplished musician, mastering both the oboe and the clarinet. As a teen, she played the clarinet in her high school band – in Campbell High School. Though it’s hard to imagine Roberts as your typical “band geek”! Fun fact! I did too…though unfortunately that’s where the similarities between Roberts and I end…

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Julia Roberts (@juliaroberts)

Rami Malek

When it came to his iconic turn as the legendary Freddie Mercury in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek wanted his performance to be as authentic as possible. This meant singing lessons, movement lessons, a set of fake teeth, a very tight fitting wardrobe and, of course, that he couldn’t hide behind cut-away shots when it came to playing the piano. You can imagine Malek’s surprise, though, when he read the now infamous “Impractical Piano Scene”, which saw him playing Bohemian Rhapsody…on the piano…upside down. It was a true feat of musicianship – one Rami certainly nailed in the final cut. Makes his 2019 Best Actor win all the more impressive, doesn’t it?

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Rami Malek (@ramim.malek)

Check out our sheet music for Bohemian Rhapsody 

Professor Brian Cox

In a former life, the acclaimed physicist, known for putting the sex in physex, was a keyboard player with rock band Dare and later D: Ream. He reached notable success, particularly with D:Ream, which scored several hits, including the song Things Can Only Get Better, which reached number one in the UK charts. Nowadays, Cox is best known for his presenting career, but as you can see in this video, he hasn’t quite left his music career behind him. Or those dashing good looks…

 
 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Professor Brian Cox (@profbriancox)

 

So there we have it. From singers to actors, politicians to physicists, celebrities to you…anyone can play an instrument if they’re willing to work hard. Feeling inspired by some of these accomplished individuals? Why not give it a go yourself!

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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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