8 Great One-Handed Instruments
There are plenty of musical instruments that can be played with one hand. They are an excellent choice for those that want to play multiple instruments at once while also being great for those with disabilities.
Some of the more traditional musical instruments can be adapted to be played with one hand through the use of mounts and adapters.
We also cover some great initiatives, such as the One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust. They have some great information on this topic, and they hold competitions for design solutions that enable instruments to be played with one hand.
The trumpet is one of the best instruments to play with one hand because you can play its 3 valves with only one hand.
It’s very possible to play the trumpet with one hand without the use of any additional mount or stand. But if you find it hard to hold your trumpet for long periods of time, getting a mount or stand would be a good idea.
When you choose to get a stand, getting a trumpet adapter may be advantageous as it will provide full support for the trumpet as it rests on the stand, such as the one here: https://www.ohmi.org.uk/shop.html
2. Harmonica (No Hands)
The harmonica is one of the very few instruments that do not require hands for playing. You may find it tricky at first; however, once you get the hang of it, it becomes as easy as playing any instrument with your hand.
To begin with, your tongue needs to be on the harmonica holes. When you place the harmonica in your mouth, the low pitches should be closer to the throat, and the high pitches must be outside the mouth. You should hold the harmonica with the holes facing your right cheek.
For lower pitches, you will need to launch the harmonica farther from your mouth.
In order to become a pro harmonicist, you have to know when to hold the harmonica in your mouth tight and when to gently loosen it to achieve the sound you want.
3. Drum Set
It’s very possible to play the drum set with one hand. There are several famous one-handed drummers, such as Rick Allen (the drummer from Def Leppard).
Some one-handed drummers use extra pedals or make use of electronic elements in their drums to fill in some of the gaps. However, they’re not required—with enough training, you could definitely play some solid beats one-handed on a regular drum set. You may just need to adapt the beats a little (e.g., have a smaller amount of hi-hat strokes, and maybe less complex fills).
Don’t be afraid to experiment with gear placement. Being comfortable and having a good balance should be your number one priority. Therefore, having the majority of your cymbals on one side of the kit might be something to consider.
Playing the trombone using a single hand is quite similar to playing the trumpet.
It only requires one hand to pull and push the tubing. However, we recommend getting an adapter that would hold this on your shoulder or onto a stand, as balancing a trombone on one shoulder without any external support is going to be a challenging task.
When it comes to the piano/keyboard, you might not be able to play many full compositions. However, you could certainly play many melody lines for a band and let another musician play the bass part. In fact, this may work very well in a band, as it wouldn’t interfere with the sound range of the other instruments.
That said, the only limit is your creativity and hard work. Nicholas McCarthy is a masterful single-handed pianist whose work you can take inspiration from.
6. Pan Flute
Pan flutes are a bit different from traditional flutes because they usually consist of a wider array of pipes that are lengthened gradually. Even though they have a different composition, they are played the same way as concert flutes. Different pipes of the pan flute are used to achieve different pitches.
Various sized pan flutes are available in the market, some of which can be played using one hand while others cannot.
If you are using a smaller pan flute, it can be played like the harmonica, but if you wish to use a larger pan flute, you should get a stand to support it.
7. Sequencers, Drum Machines, MIDI Controllers
Electronic instruments are relatively easy to play using a single hand.
Let’s start with drum machines. This electronic instrument imitates drum kits by creating drum beats and patterns. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the vast majority of them would be easy to use with one hand.
Sequencers are hardware or software-based instruments that allows the users to program their musical notes and rhythms on the fly. On the face of it, they are somewhat similar to loopers but with way more flexibility in the way you tweak and change the sounds.
A MIDI controller is a piece of hardware that allows you to control other instruments. Most often, they are used to control virtual instruments using software on your computer. A MIDI controller must be connected to another digital device such as your laptop. These come in different forms—either keyboard types, drum pads, control surfaces, or other miscellaneous types!
The human voice is the most versatile instrument of all, and it requires no hands!
With singing, you can express yourself however you like because you can sing on any subject matter without being constrained by factors except your singing range.
The One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust
With the aim of making music accessible to everyone, The One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust offers teaching programs for adults and children with physical impairment.
However, the activities are not just limited to teaching. A competition organized by OHMI each year asks manufacturers to create a product that is easy to use with a single hand. This is a very useful way of pushing the boundaries on these musical instruments, while also spreading awareness about musicians with physical impairments.
The OHMI website has a large assortment of instruments you can purchase or hire, all of which are suitable for one-handed musicians.
We hope this has shown you some of the best one-handed instruments. There are plenty of instruments that can be mastered by a single-handed player without any issues.
Even if your preferred instrument is not on this list, it’s very possible that adapters or modifiers may be available to make them one-handed. If this is not the case, music is all about creativity, and you can adapt the instrument and play it however you like. In fact, you might come up with a type of technique or sound that hasn’t really been thought of before.