Most of us are familiar with Perfectsinger, Ed Sheeran. And as one of the highest-grossing artists of the 21stcentury, most of us will also know that Ed is a guitar-playing maestro. But do his musical talents end here? Can Ed Sheeran play the piano?
Ed Sheeran can play several instruments, including the piano, guitar, cello, bass, and drums. In recent years, however, Ed has clarified that his piano playing isn’t quite up to scratch, which is why he never plays the piano live on stage.
Instruments may be an integral part of Ed Sheeran’s superstar image, but it hasn’t always been this way. If you’re interested in learning about Ed’s journey from piano novice to guitar genius, then keep reading!
Learning to Play
You often hear famous musicians say that musical ability runs in their family’s DNA, and this is somewhat true for Ed. Although neither of his parents are music whizzes, Ed’s older brother Matthew is a successful composer and orchestrator, having worked with the likes of Stormzy, Andrew Bocelli, and KT Tunstall.
So how did John and Imogen Sheeran bring about their children’s insane musical talent?
Unlike other kids growing up in the 90s, Ed and Matthew’s exposure to technology was extremely restricted. Speaking to Music News in 2015, Ed said:
“Mum and Dad made sure they stimulated us rather than leaving us to our own devices. For years we didn’t have a terrestrial TV in our house. […] Mum didn’t want us to be sat in front of the TV all the time.”
So what did Ed do instead? Well, at the age of 4 he joined his local church choir. It was here that his musical interest was piqued.
Over the following years, Ed dabbled with both the cello and piano. Luckily, the Sheeran’s had a grand piano at their family home in Suffolk, so Ed could practice whenever he felt like it.
“My youngest memory was probably learning ‘Chopsticks’ or something like that”, Ed told one interviewer.
But Ed was by no means a child prodigy – he showed interest in music but was never particularly dedicated. Of course, this all changed when Ed was 11 years old and attended an intimate Damian Rice concert with his father.
Speaking of the gig, Sheeran told the Telegraph: “I had a little bit of a chat [with Damian] and kind of had an epiphany like “wow this is exactly what I want to do”.
The Academy of Contemporary Music
By the age of 11, Ed’s love of music, particularly guitar-playing and songwriting, was fully ignited. As a teenager Ed continued to master his craft, noting:
“So all the time that my friends were playing Grand Theft Auto I was sat there practicing the guitar over and over again.”
His parents were extremely supportive of his musical endeavors, with Sheeran’s father offering to take him to gigs as often as he could.
By the time Ed had finished school and college came around, he’d fully committed himself to music. At the age of 16, Ed enrolled at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford.
Reports from Ed’s time at college are currently on display at the ‘Ed Sheeran: Made In Suffolk’ exhibition in Ipswich. The collection was curated by Ed’s father.
Amongst the articles on display is a series of letters from Ed’s college tutors. One of the reports reveals that Ed received 6 F grades – he failed modules on songwriting, professional musicianship, music industry prep, and style development.
Not a lot of people had faith in Ed’s musicianship, but one man who did is music teacher Ian Johnson:
“He wasn’t the greatest singer and he wasn’t the greatest guitarist. But he definitely was an incredible performer and he could definitely write a song. He didn’t ever give up”.
Live on Stage
Thankfully it all worked out for Sheeran, who got his big break after dropping out of college to go on tour with Just Jack.
While his guitar abilities have got more and more advanced, Ed’s mastery of the piano has declined. To this day, Ed will not play the piano live on stage.
In 2017, he told the crowd at his Boston gig:
“I have a song that’s on my album which has piano on it that I wish I could play live. Now when I say I can play piano, I can play it to a standard of rehearsing it a lot in a recording studio, and recording it but I don’t feel like it’s good enough for people to pay money to see”.