8 Musical Instruments That Can Be Played With One Hand

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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 diverse types of music.

From percussion to woodwinds and string instruments, there are so many creative options for musical instruments that you can play with one hand. In fact, many very common musical instruments can be played with one hand just as easily as with both hands.

Let’s take a look at some of them now, starting off with the didgeridoo.

1. Harmonica

Although this list is about instruments you can play with one hand, there’s actually an instrument that can be played with no hands at all.

You have almost definitely seen someone playing the Harmonica without using any hands, as the neck-mounted harmonica rig is so popular.

Everyone from legendary performers like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan to street performers have enlisted this device to help play without using your hands.

A harmonica produces a distinct sound that colors many blues tunes with its whiny and often sorrowful sound. However, a harmonica can also be played very quickly, 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.

This simple instrument is powered completely by the directed air escaping from your lips.

This instrument commonly appears in many music styles invented in the United States, from blues to country western.

Harmonicas are a lightweight, inexpensive, and accommodating instrument that pretty much anyone can learn how to play, hands or not.

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.

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.

If the first image that came to mind when you thought of a tin whistle was the countryside of Ireland and Scotland, there’s a reason for that.

This instrument is commonly found in many of the traditional tunes of the British Isles and can even be called the Irish Penny Whistle.

3. Didgeridoo


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

An ancient instrument that traces its origins to the aborigines in Australia 1500 years ago, it consists mostly of a hollow cylinder that the musician blows air into and buzzes their lips to produce this signature sound.

These cylinders can be several feet long and often rest on a stand, like you would see when someone plays a 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

The Trumpet

One of the most recognizable instruments on this list, the Trumpet can be easily played with one hand.

This orchestral brass instrument is essential to so many different types of musical styles throughout the globe.  Jazz musicians endlessly improvise on this swift and exciting instrument.

It’s become synonymous with nobility to use the trumpet to announce their arrival with the most head-turning fanfare and ceremony possible.

Many professional trumpet players commonly use just one hand to play the trumpet, even if they don’t need to.

5. Pan Flute

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.

The tubes are organized into lengths, from shortest to longest, to achieve the different tones that are desired for a particular song.

Pan flutes are often found in depictions of ancient Greek culture which could make it one of the oldest instruments on this list. 

They’re also possible to play with one hand, but you will have more luck with a smaller pan flute as the larger ones are heavy and so you’ll need two hands to hold them up.

Pan flutes can range from only four tubes to up to eighteen tubes, giving a vast array of different tones that can be achieved with this simple instrument.

6. Tambourine/Maracas


While instruments like the Tambourine or Maracas may not take a prolonged trip to center stage very often, these simple instruments are still essential to many different types of music.

These percussion instruments help keep the beat and provide colorful accents with their distinct sounds.

A tambourine is a lightweight circular frame drum made of wood with a durable skin or plastic stretched across the diameter.

The perimeter of the circle is studded with small cymbals to make a combination of a rattling and chiming percussion sound when you hit it against your palm or hip.

Maracas are hollow instruments, often made of a dried-out gourd or other similar object. These instruments feature a slender handle you hold with a hollow bulb at the end.

The hollow bulb is then filled with seeds or another object that will freely rattle and hit the sides as it’s shaken producing a sound.

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 just hold it with one hand and shake it or strike it on your body.

7. Synthesizers

A Synthesizer is a keyboard-like device that can produce an almost endless array of sounds.

They were commonly integrated into music starting in the 1980s, giving that era its signature electronic sound.

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 and keyboards will produce great results when playing with one hand.

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.

8. Piano

And finally, as well as a synthesizer, believe it or not, the Piano is also a good instrument for playing with only one hand too.

Having been invented in Italy in the 1700s, they are typically one of the first instruments that lots of children learn.

There is a wide range of different pieces to learn of lots of different skill levels, which makes them a great instrument to play with only one hand.

You can play more than simple tunes with one hand too. 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 are so many wonderful instruments that you can play with one hand that no one should ever feel limited to making music.

From the trumpet to the harmonica, bongos to a synthesizer, there are endless opportunities to explore.

Instruments that you can play with one hand come from all over the globe.

This means you can discover and enjoy all kinds of different genres of music while you learn.

Choose one of these instruments and enrich your life with music.

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Written by David Walker
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.