11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (2023)

Author: Ross M | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Whether you have a physical condition that means you can only one hand, or are simply curious about one-handed instruments, you’ll be surprised at how many options are available.

Some of the instruments featured in this guide require the development of unconventional techniques to play one-handed. Others are relatively simple. Whatever your needs, you’ll find a suitable instrument that you comfortably play using only one hand.

Table of Contents

  • 11 Instruments You Can Play with One Hand
    • Harmonica
    • Trumpet
    • Thumb Piano (Kalimba)
    • Drums
    • Melodica
    • Trombone
    • Beatboxing

11 Instruments You Can Play with One Hand

Harmonica

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (1)

Popularized by folk singers of the 1960s, the harmonica became the weapon of choice for singer-songwriters who needed to keep their hands free to play guitar. Harmonica can be either plated using one hand, or no hands at all.

Conventionally, harmonica platers would use one hand to move the instrument across their mouth, while the other hand cups the sound holes. This allows for various notes and tones to be created.

This technique can quite easily be performed using one hand, however. In addition to that, you can also get a neck-rest which removes the need for using your hands completely.

These devices go over the head and sit in around the neck of the harmonica player. The instrument is positioned in front of their mouth, so they can move their head to play different notes while focusing on playing guitar or another instrument with their hands.

(Video) 9 Songs That You Can Play With One Hand

Keyboards & Synthesizers

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (2)

When you go to watch a live band that uses a variety of synthesizers, programmers, and samplers, it’s common to see the keyboardist juggling a range of these instruments. Although the piano requires two hands for full expression, more concise keyboards do not.

One of the main reasons that synthesizers and keyboard can be played one-handed is that you can choose which sounds you play with them. Certain instruments and presets will only require one hand to create their desired effect.

Many synthesizers also offer the choice of automating a bass note when you play a certain chord or melody. Therefore, the need for two hands is reduced, because the instrument essentially does half of the work for you!

The tricky part is navigating the various buttons, knobs, and parameters that keyboards and synths commonly house. Nevertheless, with practice, it is certainly possible to use these instruments to their fullest capacity using a single hand.

Trumpet

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (3)

The trumpet is traditionally held with the left hand, while the right-hand pushes the valves. The reverse would be apparent for a trumpet that is specifically designed for left-handed players.

That doesn’t mean that it can’t be played one-handed, though. It is relatively easy to do so once you get the hang of it. The technique involves holding the instrument solely with the right hand, supporting the weight with your pinky finger and thumb.

The rest of the fingers are then free to push the valves. Although this might take some getting used to initially, it’s a technique that many trumpet players use during live performances either as a stylistic aspect or to free up their other hand to tweak effects, and so on.

There are other ways that a trumpet can be used one-handed, too. These include the use of amount, which is popular amongst trumpet players who suffer from back or shoulder problems.

(Video) Play the Guitar One Handed

Tambourines & Shakers

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (4)

Perhaps the most simple instruments to use one-handed are shakers and tambourines. These two instruments are used for building percussion sections, and although they don’t alter pitch, their presence is significant within a piece of music.

Tambourines and shakers often don’t get the credit they deserve due to their relatively subtle sound. However, if they are removed from a piece of music, their absence is instantly noticeable.

The great thing about playing shakers and tambourines is that you can use one hand to keep the rhythm, then tap the instrument against another part of your body to emphasize the pulse of a song.

They are also valuable instruments for developing your timing. This skill is extremely important if you want to play music with other people, or along to a backing track. There’s no better way to improve your sense of time than to practice with a simple percussive instrument like the tambourine or shaker.

Guitar (Acoustic & Electric)

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (5)

With a quick search on YouTube, you can find some incredible one-handed guitarists who play both acoustic and electric. They use only their fretting hand usually so that they can create chords and vibrations on the strings.

Indeed, this is a challenge at first. But with practice, your fretting hand will become much stronger, and you will be capable of generating audible noises by tapping against the frets.

There is also usually another device involved in one-handed guitar playing: a compression pedal. These devices raise the level of your quietest notes and make them much more audible.

Other effects pedals like gain boosters and EQ are likely to help. If you want to get experimental, you can use fuzz pedals and ambient pedals like delay or reverb to create some incredible tones playing guitar with one hand.

(Video) When you need to do an audition, but have only 1 finger

Thumb Piano (Kalimba)

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (6)

The kalimba, or thumb piano as it is commonly called, is an instrument that can be played one-handed with relative ease. It is a quiet instrument that produces an array of beautiful, high-end tones.

The kalimba has a series of metal tines that are tuned to specific notes in a key. To play these notes, you pluck the tines with the edge of your fingers. The sound is then amplified by a mini soundbox that faces the player.

It’s easier to play a thumb piano with two hands, but playing one-handed is also a lot of fun. Once you master the technique, you can play fast melodies using the fingers on one hand, and the thumb piano can rest on a surface as you play.

Drums

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (7)

There are countless tales of drummers playing with one hand when injured, or of people becoming exceptional drummers playing one-handed. The beautiful thing about a drum kit is that you can use both of your feet along with your hands.

In the conventional setup, the drummer’s left foot opens and closes the hi-hat pedal, while their right foot plays the kick drum. When playing one-handed, the left foot can be used to keep time on the hats, while your hand plays the rest of the kit.

Techniques such as snare rolls and paradiddles are certainly more challenging with one hand, but they are achievable with practice. Playing drums one-handed focuses you to be more innovative, and can lead to some interesting rhythms that perhaps wouldn’t have occurred using the two-handed approach.

Melodica

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (8)

The Melodica is one of the simplest instruments to play. The tones it produces are complex and immersive, due to the combination of breath dynamics with the tonal shaping caused by pressing the keys down.

(Video) Nicholas McCarthy, One Handed Pianist performs Etude Op.25 no.12 'Ocean' Chopin arr Godowsky

Playing melodic one-handed is possible by using an attachment known as a tube. This allows you to lay the instrument flat so that you can blow into it from further away, and use your hand to shape the melody.

Despite the relative simplicity of a melodica, it is very effective when used to add textures to a chord sequence or accompany a melody, and learning it is a lot of fun!

Bongos & Congas

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (9)

Drums that are played by striking the skin with your hand are extremely simple once you master the basic techniques. Bongos and congas can easily be played one-handed, and to good effect.

The great thing about these drums is that you can change their tone by adjusting the shape of your hand, and the location of the skin that you strike. This means that when playing one-handed, you can create lots of variations on basic rhythms.

Trombone

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (10)

In my opinion, the trombone is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments we’ve ever created. You simply can’t beat the tich and powerful tone that these instruments produce.

Much like the trumpet, a trombone can be successfully played one-handed using an attachment that bears most of its weight. This mechanism straps around the shoulder and chest of the musicians, and holds it in place so that your hand is free to move the slider and adjust the pitch.

Beatboxing

11 One-Handed Instruments – Play with One Hand! (11)

Perhaps the most obvious “instrument” that can be played without the need for using two hands is the human voice. I refrained from putting singing on this list, as that would be too obvious, but beatboxing is worth mentioning.

(Video) How To Play Piano One Handed

Learning to beatbox is a great way to develop your sense of rhythm. It can also be used to create interesting percussion tracks to accompany the other instruments on this list.

Conclusion

By thinking outside of the box and being willing to learn unorthodox techniques, many instruments can be played one-handed. Using one hand may limit you initially, but in the long run, it will help you to develop a unique style!

FAQs

What is it called when only one instrument plays? ›

In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody (or "tune"), typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player (e.g., a flute player) without accompanying harmony or chords. Many folk songs and traditional songs are monophonic.

What instrument can you play without hands? ›

Because we're gonna be learning about one of the most interesting instruments that I know of the

Can flute be played by one hand? ›

One handed flutes and saxes

The Onehand instruments are full range chromatic instruments of our own design. They can be made in left hand or right hand playable. Often, players have one hand good and the other one not so.

Is pan flute one handed? ›

Pan Flute

Another woodwind that can be played one-handed is the Pan Flute, a simple and ancient instrument constructed of tubes lashed together with leather or other more modern ties today.

Can you play clarinet with one hand? ›

Peter Worrell, has designed a clarinet for single hand playing and has just launched it. Handmade to the highest specification, these beautiful instruments are suitable for Beginners to Professional players and have a unique keywork to enable one handed playing.

Which family of instruments can play only one note at a time? ›

Most instruments (e.g., saxophone, trumpet, trombone, human voice) can only play one note at a time and, therefore, can't play chords; these are referred to as single-note instruments.

Can you play a lyre with one hand? ›

Considering Lyres are normally played one handed but some high level musicians play two handed and there are even those who transition between one and two hands or specific music along with the act special lyres for two handed play exists as well as stands o keep lyre in place to allow two hands use.......

What is a music solo called? ›

In musical performance, a solo is a piece or a section of a piece that is played or sung by a single performer. This performer is called a soloist.

What is the instrument that you don't touch to play? ›

HOUSTON — The most curious quality of the theremin, one of the oldest electronic instruments, is how its eerie and ethereal sound is manipulated without the performer actually touching it.

Can you play the piano with one hand? ›

Playing Piano With Just One Hand - YouTube

Can you play a saxophone with one hand? ›

In 2000, David Nabb, an accomplished saxophone player, suffered a stroke that left him unable to use his left hand. Stelling, working with Nabb, developed a toggle-key design, which makes it possible to play the saxophone with one hand.

Do you need 2 hands to play trumpet? ›

The point is obvious with stringed instruments, but even the trumpet requires one hand for the valves and another to control tuning valve slides, support the instrument, and use mutes - and what happens when you want to turn over a page of music?

How do you play a guitar with one hand? ›

To play the guitar with one hand, you can start with the back and forth technique - otherwise known as alternate picking - which does not require you to hold the neck. You will play the strings open, that is, without holding any down. The back and forth technique is used in many styles of music.

Why is it called a pan flute? ›

The panpipes or “pan flute” derives its name from the Greek god Pan, who is often depicted holding the instrument. Panpipes, however, can be found in many parts of the world, including South America, Oceania, Central Europe, and Asia.

Who invented pan flute? ›

Definition. The pan flute or panpipes (syrinx) was a musical wind instrument first used by the ancient Greeks. Most commonly played by shepherds, the earliest use was in the Cycladic islands in the third millennium BCE, and representations of the instrument run right through the history of Greek art.

How do you play panflute? ›

pan flute tutorial - lesson 1 - how to place and blow - english version

Is there a left handed clarinet? ›

No, there is no such thing as a left handed clarinet.

Which of these musical instrument is held in one hand and played with the other? ›

clapper, musical instrument consisting of pieces of wood, bone, metal, or other sonorous substance either held in both hands or, fastened together, held in one hand, sometimes with a handle, and struck against each other.

Which instrument that you play with fingers? ›

Plucking. Plucking is a method of playing on instruments such as the veena, banjo, ukulele, guitar, harp, lute, mandolin, oud, and sitar, using either a finger, thumb, or quills (now plastic plectra) to pluck the strings.

What instrument can play the most notes at once? ›

Wherever it fits in, there's no disputing the fact that the piano has the largest range of any instrument in the orchestra. It is a tuned instrument, and you can play many notes at once using both your hands.

Can a flute play two notes? ›

Basically, the flute can play 2 notes at once, but it's not designed to. So it doesn't sound very good...

What instruments can play more than one note at a time? ›

On woodwind instruments—e.g., saxophone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, flute, and recorder—multiphonics can be produced either with new fingerings, by using different embouchures, or voicing the throat with conventional fingerings.

Can you play harp left handed? ›

You can however request a harp made for left hand dominant play and most will make it for you. Albeit at a slight surcharge, sometimes, but not always. Side note: Traditionally the wire harp was placed against the left shoulder so it was strung on the RH side.

Whats the difference between a lyre and a harp? ›

The harp has a straight neck, while the lyre has a curved one. Harps are usually larger than their counterparts, but they have fewer strings. The lyre requires two hands to play because you hold it in your lap when playing it – the harp can be played with either one hand or two depending on how you want to play it.

Did King David play a harp or lyre? ›

What sort of harp did David actually play? The instrument David played is referred to in the Hebrew Bible as a 'kinnor'. The word is usually translated as 'harp', but it was actually a lyre (a member of the zither family). Modern scholarship suggests that David played the so-called 'thin lyre'.

What is a song for two called? ›

A duet is a musical composition for two performers in which the performers have equal importance to the piece, often a composition involving two singers or two pianists.

What are examples of solo instruments? ›

Solo Instruments
  • Solo Accordion/Concertina.
  • Solo Acoustic Guitar.
  • Solo Bassoon.
  • Solo Bugle.
  • Solo Celeste.
  • Solo Cello.
  • Solo Church Organ.
  • Solo Clarinet.

What part of speech is solo? ›

A versatile word, solo means "alone" and can be used as a verb ("I get to solo in band today"), a noun ("She sang a beautiful solo"), or an adjective (I can't wait for my solo flight").

What is the easiest instrument? ›

HARMONICA

One of the easiest instruments you can take up, which is also very popular in a variety of styles, is the harmonica. The great thing about harmonicas is that no matter what note you play, it will be in key, which means even complete beginners can sound good.

What is the top 10 easiest instrument to play? ›

The 10 easiest instruments to learn for kids and adults
  1. Ukulele. The ukulele is the ultimate instrument for kids and beginners of all ages. ...
  2. Recorder. Hundreds of years ago, the recorder was so popular that leading composers would write concertos for it. ...
  3. Electronic keyboard. ...
  4. Piano. ...
  5. Guitar. ...
  6. Drums. ...
  7. Bass guitar. ...
  8. Xylophone.
8 Dec 2020

What is the easier instrument to learn? ›

The easiest instruments to learn are ukulele, harmonica, bongos, piano, and glockenspiel. Learning these instruments as an adult will be straightforward and accessible, and we've included step-by-step tips for each below.

What instrument can you play with your mouth? ›

The Jew's harp, also known as jaw harp, vargan, mouth harp, gewgaw, guimbard, khomus, Ozark harp, Berimbau de boca, murchunga or mungiga, is a lamellophone instrument, consisting of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame.

What is a Faramin? ›

The theremin - A short introduction to a unique instrument - YouTube

What instrument is played by blowing air into it? ›

Flute is played by blowing air into the instrument. The wind that you blow in, makes the air particles inside the flute shake and move back and forth.

Why is it so hard to play piano with both hands? ›

It is much harder to combine the elements of the two hands if you haven't fully understood the rhythm of what is playing on both hands. It is much better to have a clear idea of the rhythm. Practice just tapping your hands to the beat if you need to. Spend plenty of time practicing each hand separately.

What songs can you play on piano with one hand? ›

One Hand Piano Songs
  • John Williams – Hedwig's Theme. Our full tutorial to playing Hedwig's theme can be found here. ...
  • Happy Birthday to You. This is a great little melody to be able to play. ...
  • Coldplay – Clocks. ...
  • Bach – Chaconne – 2nd Partita in D Minor.

Should I learn left and right hand separately? ›

The key to any complex skill, like playing the right hand part and the left hand part together, is to break it down into smaller skills and master each part individually. This won't always make it easy to put everything together, but it will make it much more possible to play piano.

Do you need 2 hands to play trumpet? ›

The point is obvious with stringed instruments, but even the trumpet requires one hand for the valves and another to control tuning valve slides, support the instrument, and use mutes - and what happens when you want to turn over a page of music?

Can you play the piano with one hand? ›

Playing Piano With Just One Hand - YouTube

Can you play a lyre with one hand? ›

Considering Lyres are normally played one handed but some high level musicians play two handed and there are even those who transition between one and two hands or specific music along with the act special lyres for two handed play exists as well as stands o keep lyre in place to allow two hands use.......

Can you play a saxophone with one hand? ›

In 2000, David Nabb, an accomplished saxophone player, suffered a stroke that left him unable to use his left hand. Stelling, working with Nabb, developed a toggle-key design, which makes it possible to play the saxophone with one hand.

Why do people hold their trumpet sideways? ›

Rotary trumpets, often called German trumpets, are played sideways because they use rotary valves like a French horn, and are often heard in works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schumann, and Schubert.

Can a lefty play the trumpet? ›

99.9% of the time, you won't be able to see any mass-produced left-handed trumpets around very often. And yes, since it's almost impossible to find one, I'm sure there are thousands of lefties playing with a standard trumpet.

How do you play a guitar with one hand? ›

To play the guitar with one hand, you can start with the back and forth technique - otherwise known as alternate picking - which does not require you to hold the neck. You will play the strings open, that is, without holding any down. The back and forth technique is used in many styles of music.

Which of these musical instrument is held in one hand and played with the other? ›

clapper, musical instrument consisting of pieces of wood, bone, metal, or other sonorous substance either held in both hands or, fastened together, held in one hand, sometimes with a handle, and struck against each other.

Why is it so hard to play piano with both hands? ›

It is much harder to combine the elements of the two hands if you haven't fully understood the rhythm of what is playing on both hands. It is much better to have a clear idea of the rhythm. Practice just tapping your hands to the beat if you need to. Spend plenty of time practicing each hand separately.

What songs can you play on piano with one hand? ›

One Hand Piano Songs
  • John Williams – Hedwig's Theme. Our full tutorial to playing Hedwig's theme can be found here. ...
  • Happy Birthday to You. This is a great little melody to be able to play. ...
  • Coldplay – Clocks. ...
  • Bach – Chaconne – 2nd Partita in D Minor.

Can you play harp left handed? ›

You can however request a harp made for left hand dominant play and most will make it for you. Albeit at a slight surcharge, sometimes, but not always. Side note: Traditionally the wire harp was placed against the left shoulder so it was strung on the RH side.

Whats the difference between a lyre and a harp? ›

The harp has a straight neck, while the lyre has a curved one. Harps are usually larger than their counterparts, but they have fewer strings. The lyre requires two hands to play because you hold it in your lap when playing it – the harp can be played with either one hand or two depending on how you want to play it.

Did King David play a harp or lyre? ›

What sort of harp did David actually play? The instrument David played is referred to in the Hebrew Bible as a 'kinnor'. The word is usually translated as 'harp', but it was actually a lyre (a member of the zither family). Modern scholarship suggests that David played the so-called 'thin lyre'.

Is there such a thing as a left handed saxophone? ›

Vintage American horns of the '30s-'50s had bell keys on the left side. However, that doesn't make them 'left handed' saxes. The fact is, the saxophone is not right-handed or left-handed. Both hands are used equally when playing, so it makes no sense to talk about right or left handed in the case of a saxophone.

What instrument is played by blowing air into it? ›

Flute is played by blowing air into the instrument. The wind that you blow in, makes the air particles inside the flute shake and move back and forth.

What instrument do you hit on your hand? ›

The most common percussion instruments in the orchestra include the timpani, xylophone, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, gongs, chimes, celesta, and piano.

Videos

1. One-Armed Bassist (Bill Clements)
(Nate Navarro)
2. “Impossible” ONE HANDED chromatic scale revealed…
(Get Your Sax Together)
3. Playing the Lyre One Handed
(Michelle Forbes - Lyre World)
4. Trombosonic - A One-Handed Musical Instrument
(Dr. Oliver Hödl - Computer, Music and Design)
5. Frank Posey, one handed lapslide guitar player
(Poseyify)
6. Playing Chop Suey with ONE HAND!
(El Estepario Siberiano)
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