Music is an integral part of human culture, and it goes without saying that “Star Trek” made that a part of every show in every era. From the beginning, fans of “The Original Series” heard Spock play the Vulcan lute in quite a few episodes. Viewers watched as their Vulcan science officer jammed with the hippies on the way to Eden with his lute.
In fact, Leonard Nimoy had quite an interesting musical career himself, releasing several albums. Perhaps his most notable works were the “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” and “Gentle On My Mind,” which Elvis Presley would make a hit of his own. Nimoy even met guitar icon, Jimi Hendrix. But for his appearances on Trek, Nimoy never actually played the instruments on film. Someone else did while he went through the motions as best he could.
The same goes for Garrett Wang, whose character (Harry Kim) performed the clarinet in the U.S.S. Voyager during their long trip back to Earth. Wang said that he did not know how to play the clarinet; he met regularly with a coach who made sure it looked like he could play the instrument.
“I have a clarinet coach; somebody who comes in here and makes sure I’m fingering the correct notes,” Wang told Trek Today in an interview in 2000. “I’m definitely a stickler for authenticity, and I hate it when I watch something, and someone’s playing an instrument, and you can definitely tell that they are not playing the instrument.”
“So every episode where you have seen Harry play the clarinet, I have always made sure that I’m fingering the correct notes to the music, although I do not play the clarinet on a regular basis, just for the show.”
Though Wang’s “fingering” looked very convincing, he was not actually playing the clarinet. This brings up whether the other famous Trek actors played the instrument their character is associated with. From the world of “The Next Generation,” fans can quickly identify Captain Picard with the flute, Mr. Data with the violin, and Commander Riker with the trumpet.
Can Patrick Stewart Play the Flute?
One of the most highly regarded TNG episodes is “Inner Light,” which featured Picard living another man’s life until the end of his days. Picard (Patrick Stewart) learned a multitude of valuable lessons through the life of Kamin, which would influence his real-life back on the Enterprise.
Central to the story was Kamin’s flute playing, which he practiced throughout the years. This song would return with Picard to the Enterprise, and he would return to the Resskian flute in later episodes. In fact, the music for the main title sequence in “Star Trek: Picard” features a few notes from the flute from “Inner Light.”
But did Stewart play the flute in “Inner Light” or any of the other episodes? The answer is “no.” According to the person who actually performed on the flute for “Inner Light,” the flute seen on the episode was a non-playable prop. According to Memory Alpha, Brice Martin instructed Stewart on the correct way to hold the prop and the proper fingering.
While Stewart was at least holding the prop flute in “Inner Light,” it is an entirely different story for the episode “Lessons.” For that one, another set of hands operates the flute while Stewart holds it in his mouth. A bit strange, but it seemed to work until fans like the sleuths of Reddit pointed this out.
Can Brent Spiner Play the Violin?
Mr. Data was that android who wanted to be more human. So, he was always trying to do things that humans did, like paint and perform music. Data’s instrument of choice was usually the violin, but he did play other instruments.
Thank the internet for blowing this up very quickly — the man who brought Data to life (Brent Spiner) cannot play the violin. A Google Group conversation from 1990 captured the thoughts of fans who had just watched Spiner pretend to play the violin on the episode “Sarak.”
One fan said it was a “grotesque botch of the violin.” At the same time, another broke down all the errors Spiner made while holding the instrument. They said he was “holding the instrument too low, not depressing the bow which” and “his fingering was all wrong.”
If you did want to hear a great violin player named “Data,” then please look up Ms. Barbara Data, a professional violinist from London.
But, much like Nimoy, Spiner has had a successful singing career outside of Trek. His album “Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back” is a favorite of many Trek fans.
Can Jonathan Frakes Play the Trombone?
Finally, there’s William T. Riker, who seemed to always be walking around the Enterprise-D with a trombone. While there were a few episodes that made fun of his struggles with the instrument — “Future Imperfect” was one — Riker kept on trying.
So, in real life, can Jonathan Frakes play the trombone? Yes! Frakes plays trombone and has been known to perform for fans at conventions. Frakes played trombone as a part of the marching band while a student at Penn State.