Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What is a one man band?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

Do you have a talent for playing a musical instrument? Some of us do, and some of us don’t. It’s possible for anyone to learn to play an instrument. But some people just seem to have a special ability to coax beautiful music from a piano or a guitar.

As hard as it is for some people to learn to play a musical instrument, would you believe there are some people who can play more than one instrument? It’s true! In fact, there are some people who can play many instruments at the same time! They can create the sound of an entire band all by themselves.

We call such a talented person a one-person band.  In the past, a single person playing a lot of instruments was a one-man band. Sometimes, this term is still used.

A musician playing multiple instruments at the same time might use their hands, feet, and mouth. One example of this might be a contemporary folk singer who uses their voice, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica mounted below the mouth. They might even use mechanical devices to produce music.

Other one-person bands can be much more complex, though. Wind instruments can be strapped around the neck. Drums can be mounted on the back and connected to foot pedals. Cymbals can be worn between the knees. Maracas can be tied to the arms. Stringed instruments can be slung over the shoulders. If you’re a one-person band, you can be as creative as you want to be!

Playing more than one musical instrument at a time has a long history. Simple combinations of the flute and a snare drum date back to the 13th century. One-person bands with four or more instruments date back to the 1800s.

Today, it’s still possible to find one-person bands. Sometimes you’ll see them at street fairs or parades. If you ever get the chance to see a one-person band perform live, take it. Seeing one person play multiple instruments at the same time live is fun!

Modern technology has developed to the point where just about anyone can be a one-person band . . . at least on a recording. If you can play many musical instruments, it’s possible to play them each one at a time while recording. When you’re done, you can mix all the tracks together electronically. This makes a recording on which you played all the instruments.

Several popular musicians, including Prince and Paul McCartney, have been known to record music in this way. It may not be quite as impressive as playing all the instruments live at the same time. But it’s still quite a feat to be able to play so many instruments at a level worthy of a musical recording!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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