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Say you need some cheerful music to draw attention to yourself, but can't find anyone to help you. Then do it yourself!

Some definitions of One-Man Band define it as "being able to play two or more instruments at once." Others say "three or more instruments at once," and some purists even define it as "three or more instruments at once while able to remain mobile while cranking out the jams." "At once" is definitely the real key phrase needing to be emphasized here; while it's true that musicians like Prince, Trent Reznor, and Dave Grohl have played all the instruments on some of their albums, we wouldn't refer to any of them as One-Man Bands. (In fact, we have another trope entirely about them.) Of course Rule of Funny says the more instruments the funnier -- and of course they're all badly tuned and played with no sense of melody or rhythm, prone to causing the person stuck in such an arrangement to tumble and get tangled in the resulting mess. Pretty much a Dead Horse Trope these days (except for the very occasional street performer), but a Period Piece or Historical Fiction may still have them as background characters.

Compare with I Am the Band, where one musician plays each instrument separately and combines the tracks to sound like a full band. Subtrope of Street Performer.

Examples of One-Man Band include:


Anime

  • Urusei Yatsura: A disappearing, faceless ghost one-man band is one of the many weird things Ataru witnesses in the Non-Serial Movie Beautiful Dreamer.

Film

  • At the beginning of Mary Poppins, Bert is seen operating a one-man band (consisting of an accordion, a bass drum, a bicycle horn and several cymbals, just to name a few instruments).
  • While not quite "one man", several The Three Stooges shorts feature two of the Stooges practicing performing as a "Two Man Quartet", each playing multiple instruments at once in this manner.

Literature

  • In Dead Beat, Butters of The Dresden Files constructs a suit to make himself into a One Man Polka Band. He then proceeds to use it to control zombie Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window: The titular Totto-chan causes trouble in class when she spots a one-man band under the window of her classroom and calls him over for a performance.

Live Action TV

  • A one-man band once visited Shining Time Station and played music with a bass drum on his back, smashing cymbals, a harmonica strapped at his neck, and more.
  • The Two Ronnies claimed to be the only 'Two Man One Band' [1]

Stand Up Comedy

  • Rich Hall did a bit about these, talking about how "playing the guitar and harmonica at the same time is the sign of a genius, but as soon as you put some cymbals between your knees for accompaniment..."

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In a Pixar Short called "One Man Band", there are two of these competing with each other.
  • In the earlier Pixar short Tin Toy, the eponymous toy is a one-man band. This turns out to be a disadvantage when he encounters a scary baby and tries to hide, because he can't move without playing a tune.
  • In Aladdin, the Genie briefly turns himself into a one-man band to celebrate Aladdin's engagement to Jasmine.
  • Bugs Bunny did this several times in various Looney Tunes shorts, often using his prehensile ears to play additional instruments.
  • The Simpsons once saw Homer have a flashback to his teenage years where he played in a one-man band. He had a bass drum on his back, a guitar in his hands and a bicycle horn at his feet, and would sing.
    • During a Whole-Plot Reference to Mary Poppins, Groundskeeper Willie played a one-man band in the park, followed by a Shout-Out to the water scene in Flashdance as he dumps water on himself while lying back on a chair, still wielding his one-man band paraphernalia.
  • Characters attempting to wake up a Heavy Sleeper are often seen employing a one-man band (after trying Banging Pots and Pans or other loud noises), to no success.
    • Variation: In the Looney Tunes Back Alley Oproar, Sylvester has been keeping Elmer up all night with his loud singing. At one point he lulls Elmer to sleep with a lullabye...and just as Elmer happily drops off, Sylvester jolts him up with a raucous one-man-band routine.
  • Done by Pinkie Pie in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Swarm of the Century". Apparently, it's the only way to get rid of parasprites.

Real Life

  • Basically the whole point of theatre pipe organs (properly called 'unit orchestras').
  • Robert Johnson could play melody, rhythm, and bass line on his guitar, stomp his to give a drum part, and sing, all simultaneously, acting as a one-man five-piece band.
  • The Cigo Man Band from Croatia. He plays the guitar, tambourine, kazoo, drum, harmonica as well as singing!
    • He's also recently added a bike horn and bike bell.
  • Jazz musician Roland Kirk would often play three saxophones at once.
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