Musicians who play all/most of the parts on their albums?

The only one I know of is Elliott Smith, who wrote, sang, and played guitar, piano, and drums for his albums. When he signed with Dreamworks, I think he also did a majority of the production work, as well.

Are there any others like him?

Trent Reznor. He is Nine Inch Nails.

I think Aldo Nova played everything but the drums on his albums, but I’m not positive about that.

Paul McCartney played bass, lead guitar, and drums, as well as backup vocals, on The Ballad of John and Yoko.


Todd Rundgren played all the parts on most of Something/Anything. Side 4 (the second half of the second CD, if you have the album on CD) features other players, though.

Happy Rhodes’ first 4 albums are 100% her, though often it sounds like a full choir behind her.

One of my current favourite albums is Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar, a weird, cheerful mix of mariachi music, eastern european gypsy music, pop music, Decemberist leaning folk sounds with no guitars.

Beirut is really Albuquerque teenager Zach Condon who plays accordion, keyboards, saxophone, clarinet, mandolin, ukulele, horns, glockenspiel, and percussion. He has a drummer and a cellist sit in but the rest is him.

Lenny Kravitz.

Ack, that 5 minute rule!

I just wanted to add that I don’t think Lenny’s much of a songwriter but he’s a good musician. His earlier albums were all done analog (when everyone else was going digital) and played every instrument on every track. He’s gotten far too “maintstream” for me, I liked him much better in his Are You Gonna Go My Way days.

I think Moby does this kind of thing.

McCartney plays all the instruments on his first solo record. Unfortunately, it’s an abysmal record.

Much of John Fogerty’s solo catalog has him playing everything.

Sufjan Stevens

On his album Michigan, he played everything except trumpet and trombone.

And by everything I mean oboe, English horn, piano, electric organ, electric piano, banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, recorder, wood flute and various percussion.

Emitt Rhodes played and sang everything on his debut album. Not sure about the others, but it’s definitely all him on the first one. He wrote, engineered and produced it, too. It’s a '70s classic that everyone should hear.

Mike Oldfield famously played pretty much everything on Tubular Bells, and pretty much everything but the drums on TBII. (And the bagpipes, played by the LA Police Dept. Band.) On TB they nearly wore out the tape from the number of overdubs they did. He played nearly everything on Ommadawn and Amarok also.

And another vote for the suckiness of the McCartney solo album.

The artist formerly known as ‘the artist formerly known as prince’. I used to call him TAFKAP. Now I call him TAFKA-TAFKAP.

I believe Sidney Bechet was the first musician to do this. On April 18, 1941 he recorded two sides of a Victor 78 on which he played clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, piano, string bass and drums. The two sides were The Sheik of Araby (of which there were two takes) and Blues of Bechet, and the label credited the performance to “Sidney Bechet’s One-Man Band.”

There were no tape recorders or multi-track mixers in those days, so for each instrument they made a new master, with Bechet playing along with the previous record. Needless to say, the sound wasn’t very good - there was a lot of generational loss, especially with the first instruments recorded.


The (really obscure, I think) musician Loney, Dear appeared for the Canadian iTunes free music of the week with the song “I am John”. It’s incredible that it’s entirely written, performed, and mixed by him. With very basic equipment, no less.

…and on edit, you can listen to some of his songs here.

I vaguely recall Eddie Corgan playing everything but the drums on a Smashing Pumpkins album.

Me too, Gentle Robot … but my songs all suck.
Steve Vai does that on his solo albums. Also the early Joe Satriani stuff.

Also on McCartney II, and on at least one or two Beatles tracks (including, IIRC, “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”).

Adrian Belew plays all the instruments on at least some of his solo albums. (And, speaking of Belew, he’s co-produced and contributed guitar parts to a couple of albums by multi-instrumentalist Rick Altizer, who otherwise plays almost everything on them.)

Former Replacements drummer Chris Mars has released solo albums on which he plays most of the instruments.

I’m fond of the albums of power-pop multi-instrumentalist Richard X. Heyman.