One Man Band. Image Credit: O.C. Knox, Athol Depot, MA
One Man Band

I’ve been tracking this phenomenon on YouTube for a few weeks since I saw a great one man band video pop up on Laughing Squid or some similar blog. I’ve always loved the one man band for the sheer entertainment value of a performer talented enough to do more than one thing at once to create music and the planning and engineering necessary.

Of course, the first time I remember seeing the one man band was in the Classic 1964 musical Mary Poppins when Bert plays, sings and dances with his one man band kit. The great thing with this kind of OMB is that the mere act of marching or dancing plays the instruments.

Here’s another one from Pixar that runs in front of their various movies featuring TWO one man bands.

Here’s a more modern example of a one man band street musician.


One way to accomplish a OMB without the whole Dick Van Dyke getup is with looping. With this technique a musician will play and instrument and/or sing and record short snippets then play it back while the go on to play. The effect builds a rich musical experience without having more than one person on stage.

Here’s a short song that gives you an idea of what it sounds like. Listen to the what he is playing and try to pick out what is the loop and what is live. Watch what he does with his feet. That starts and stops the loop and/or changes the effect on the guitar.

Probably the coolest, and certainly my favorite loop artist is Andrew Bird. Here’s a set he played at TED. Little longer, but worth the listen and watch.

Andrew Bird is incredible. He plays multiple instruments and sings and whistles. His violin playing adds a lot of depth to the experience as he plucks the string and strokes them with a bow.

Two headed guitar

Another way to do a one man band is to have two instruments in one and be REALLY good at playing them/it. Here’s Guitarist Mark Kroos playing Deuling Banjos on a single double neck guitar. Pretty spectacular.


Another way to do the whole OMB thing is to record yourself playing different parts of the same song individually, then mix them together in a video/track after words. There are lots of versions of this, one of which I posted a while back was about toy food. Below is the great Pamplamoose performing My Favorite Things, also from Mary Poppins. Which is probably a good way to end this: Poppins in Poppins out.


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