10 Musical Instruments That Can Be Played With One Hand

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Written by David Walker
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There are many reasons you may be interested in instruments that you can play with one hand. Perhaps you have a medical reason. Or maybe you are simply interested in an instrument that’s convenient to play.

Many very common instruments can be played with one hand just as easily as with both hands. From percussion to woodwind instruments, we have found just what you’re looking for.

So here is our list of 10 musical instruments that can be played with one hand. Enjoy reading!

1. Harmonica

One can play the Harmonica three ways: using both hands, one hand, or no hand at all! You have probably seen someone playing it, with no hands involved, as the neck-mounted Harmonica rig is so popular.

The Harmonica produces a distinct sound that accompanies sad songs with its whiny and often sorrowful sound. However, it can also be played fast, lending an upbeat zing to rock and roll songs.

Blow into this rectangular piece of metal and you will produce a variety of tones. Slide up and down to discover the Harmonica’s individual notes and characteristically tinny sound.

The Harmonica is a very popular instrument. It is small, lightweight, and portable. You can store it in your pocket and you can quickly learn to play it. Even legendary performers like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan have enlisted this instrument to accompany their guitar playing or singing.

2. Tin Whistle

Feadog Brass Irish Penny Whistle - Key of D

Another lightweight woodwind on this list is the Tin Whistle, which is exactly what it sounds like from its name. It is also called the Penny Whistle because it can be bought for a penny.

Think of this instrument as a simple flute with only six holes that produce seven manageable notes. However, only five of those notes can be played with one hand.

Modern whistles are made of brass and feature a plastic mouthpiece. Those which are made of all-metal, PVC, or wood are less common.

The Tin Whistle’s affordability and portability made it a popular instrument in households. Not only that. It also became popular in English, Irish, Scottish, and American traditional music. In fact, these days, this instrument is the most popular in Irish traditional music.

3. Didgeridoo

Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo is a very unique Australian wind instrument. It produces a one-of-a-kind sound that is reminiscent of a dog’s growl.

This ancient instrument traces its origins to the aborigines of Australia 1500 years ago. It consists mostly of a hollow cylinder that the musician blows air into. He then buzzes his lips to produce this signature sound.

These cylinders can be several feet long and often rest on a stand as you would see when someone plays the harp. Because these instruments are often propped up in order to be played, they require one hand or even no hands at all.

This unique and impressive instrument produces a wide range of sounds and is extremely important to the culture and heritage of Australia.

4. Trumpet

TheTrumpet

Our next instrument is one of the most recognizable on this list. The Trumpet is a brass instrument that was originally used as a signaling device. It was only used as a musical instrument somewhere between the late 14th and early 15 centuries.

This orchestral brass instrument is essential to so many different types of musical styles. And jazz musicians continuously improvise on playing this instrument.

Many professional trumpet players commonly use just one hand to play the trumpet, even if they don’t need to. Because it’s possible to play the three valves with just one hand.

In fact, you can do so without the need for mounts or stands. But if playing the instrument for long periods of time, it’s more convenient to use a mount.

5. Pan Flute

Pan Flute

Another woodwind instrument that can be played one-handed is the Pan Flute. This is often found in depictions of ancient Greek culture, which could make it one of the oldest instruments on this list.

Pan Flutes are made of different materials such as bamboo, reeds, or giant cane. But they can also be made of plastic, ivory, metal, or wood.

Some Pan Flutes can have as less as four tubes. Others have as many as eighteen, producing tones that can be achieved by such a simple instrument. The tubes are organized from shortest to longest, to achieve the tones desired for a particular song.

You can definitely play the Pan Flute using only one hand. That is, if the instrument is considerably small. The larger ones are heavy and so you’ll need two hands to hold them up, or a stand.

6. Tambourine/Maracas

Tambourine

Instruments like the Tambourine or Maracas may not be as in demand as other instruments. But these percussion instruments are still essential to many different types of music. They help keep the beat and provide colorful accents with their distinct sounds.

The Tambourine is a lightweight circular frame drum made of wood. It has durable skin or plastic stretched across the diameter. The edges of the circle are fitted with small cymbals for added sound when you hit the instrument.

Maracas, on the other hand, are hollow instruments. They’re often made of a dried-out gourd or other similar object. These instruments feature a slender handle with a hollow bulb at the end.

The hollow bulb is then filled with seeds or beads that rattle and hit the sides when you shake the instrument. Although Maracas come in pairs, they can be easily played with one hand and are simple to learn and play.

In the same way, you can play the Tambourine with two hands. But you can also hold it with one hand and shake it or tap it against your hip or knee.

7. Synthesizers

A Synthesizer is a musical instrument that can produce an almost endless array of sounds. The first successful digital synthesizer came out in the early 1980s, a time when the market for this instrument grew.

This instrument was invented to provide a synthetic copy of another sound, whether that’s a piano, drums, or something else entirely. That makes the Synthesizer not only one of the most accommodating instruments to play with one hand, but also one of the most diverse.

Synthesizers can often look like a keyboard or piano, or they can be much smaller. A smaller model with fewer keys is even easier to play with one hand.

However, many models of Synthesizers will produce great results even when played with one hand.

8. Drums

The Drums are probably the last thing on your mind when you think about instruments played one-handed. The drummer in the video above is proof that it’s possible!

This percussion instrument is considered the world’s oldest musical instrument. It has gone through changes over the years and comes in different sizes and shapes. But the basic design is the same.

A Drum consists of a cylindrical shell with one or two heads. A single-headed Drum has a skin stretched over one end of the shell. Double-headed Drums are covered on both ends. The shell serves as a resonating chamber for the sound.

The sound that the Drum produces can be high-pitched, quiet, loud, resonant, or low-pitched. It depends on factors such as the construction of the shell, the type of drum head, and the shape.

The Drum is such a versatile instrument. Play using a single drum, or a set of drums. Use one hand or both or a pair of sticks.

9. Rhythm Bones

Some of you may not be familiar with our next instrument. Simply called the Bones, this is a folk instrument that’s traditionally made of animal bones.

The Bones are commonly made using the rib bones or lower leg bones of a cow. Modern ones are now made using wooden sticks shaped like a bone. They come in pairs that are usually five to seven inches in length. They are curved and held with the convex sides facing one another.

To play, the musician places the Bones between the fingers. He then moves his wrist so that the pair knocks against each other. The instrument produces a clacking sound.

Although the Bones appear simple, it can be tricky to learn to play them. You need lots of practice to figure it out. And when you’ve learned enough, you can upgrade by playing with two sets.

10. Piano

We come to the last entry of our list with the Piano. Invented in Italy in the 1700s, the Piano is typically one of the first instruments that children learn. And it can also be played using just one hand.

Modern Pianos consist of 52 white keys and 36 black ones. There are also two main types: the grand Piano and the upright Piano. Though the grand Piano sounds better, the upright Piano is more commonly used. It’s smaller and cheaper, making it popular for those wanting this instrument.

One can learn to play simple or complicated tunes on the Piano, depending on skill level. This makes it a great instrument to play with only one hand. Just check out the pianist above if you don’t believe us.

Summing up Our List of Instruments You Can Play With One Hand

There is no limit to making music. Thankfully, there are instruments that enable us to play using just one hand. This is advantageous for people who have disabilities and can only use one hand. Or those who want to use multiple instruments at the same time.

You can discover and enjoy different genres of music while you learn to play these instruments. From the harmonica to the piano, there are endless opportunities to explore. Choose one of these instruments and enrich your life with music.

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David is primarily a trumpet teacher and performer based in PA, USA. He's been playing for over 40 years and in that time has taught over one thousand students to play the trumpet.