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Musical Instruments You Can Play With One Hand

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Musical Fun For Everyone!

Making music is lots of fun. In the same way children with limb differences are encouraged to participate in sport, the same drive should be applied to helping them enjoy music! For many children, having an upper limb difference can be a barrier to making music as most instruments need two dexterous hands and arms to play. However, there are a number of musical instruments you can play with one hand - the piano immediately comes to mind here, and indeed we can point to one hand concert pianist Nicholas McCarthy as proof of that.

And with organisations such as OHMI Trust also making instrument adaptations specially designed for people with physical disabilities,the possibilities only open up even more. Even better, right now the instruments and adaptations available through the OHMI Trust mean that the instruments you can play with one hand cover both more traditional woodwind, strings, and brass, as well as more modern electronic instruments. With support like this in place, it really feels like today a limb difference is no barrier to becoming a musician, no matter what instrument a given person intends to play. Let’s take a look at some of the options…

The Saxophone

This adaptation provides one-handed ability to play a full chromatic scale. Operation of the keys normally played with the right is achieved by using micro-switches located on, or around, the left hand keys.

The Recorder

Second on our list of instruments you can play with one hand is an old school favourite, but its quite different from the ones your teacher used to hand out during your recorder lessons at school! This 3D printed one-handed recorder is achieved by the addition of extra key-work that gives the player access to notes the other hand would usually play. This ingenious mechanism allows performance over the full range of the recorder with just one hand.

The Guitar

A conventional guitar technique requires the player to use one hand to select a note on the fretboard and another to play the strings - a definite two-handed technique. In contrast, use of a Chapman Stick changes all of that, and adds the guitar to our list of instruments you can play with one hand. Notes on The Chapman Stick can be generated by a simple and direct tap of the string on the fretboard with the finger of one hand. Note selection and actuation of the string are combined in a single one-handed action, meaning that people with an upper limb difference can play!

The Trombone

Trombone Support Brackets are a range of small clips that may be fixed to a cymbal stand to hold different models of trombone steady for one-handed playing. It can also be completely assembled and dismantled using only one hand.

The Drums

Last but definitely not least on our list of instruments you can play with one hand... the one people are most likely to know about. After all, professional metal drummer Rick Allen has been playing with Def Leppard since 1978, despite famously losing an arm in a car crash in 1984, and you've probably also seen Abby Caulk (aka 'One-handed Drummer extraordinaire') going viral too - but did you know she invented the assistive strap she uses herself.

The elastic/fabric strap allows dynamic movement when playing the drums and is described by Abby to work a lot better than the duct tape she used to use - check out this video from Abby herself describing just how it works.

Do you play an instrument, an instrument yourself, or can you think of any other instruments you can play with one hand? Why not let us know in the comments section below, or head back to our blog page for more articles including how to communicate using sign language with a limb difference, limb difference and school, limb difference awareness and some amazing limb difference charities!

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