Two, three, four?
April 5, 2012 9:35 AM   Subscribe

What musical instruments require more than one performer to operate?
posted by jayCampbell to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
They're home-built, but the Blue Man Group* have a few.

*Not actually a group for sad men
posted by bondcliff at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you count a gamelan?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pump organs? Though I guess they have motorized air compressors or something these days.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2012

Originally, pipe organs required both an organist and one or more person devoted to pumping the bellows. Modern pipe organs use a machine for this, of course.
posted by baf at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by Lynsey at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite is the Octobass.

Oh, and if you count it I saw a large thundersheet that was held by two people once.

On preview (darn, Lynsey beat me to the organistrum by seconds).
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2012

courting dulcimer
posted by neroli at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Handbell Choir.
posted by Aquaman at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Arguably, the Purdue University Marching Band's World's Largest Bass Drum. I mean, theoretically, it could be played be one person if it were stationary, but it is used in a marching band, and in practice involves six people—two drummers (one on each side of the drum) plus four to march it around.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:19 AM on April 5, 2012

This one, which I invented with my collaborators at the University of Manitoba.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of what DevilsAdvocate says above: Certain "single-player" instruments, like the cymbals, can also be played by two people in certain contexts. In a marching band performance, the cymbals can be played by the person holding them, and also with drumsticks or mallets by a percussionist standing/marching next to the cymbal player.

I suspect this isn't really what you're asking though, is it?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:48 AM on April 5, 2012

On the topic of instruments that *can* be played by more than one person but are not *required* to be, many pieces are written for "one piano four hands", a concept which can also be done amazingly on guitar.
posted by aimedwander at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2012

Response by poster: What sparked the thread was 10 hands on a guitar.
posted by jayCampbell at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2012

Best answer: I do research on collaborative musical instruments, so let me tell you about some multi-performer instruments.

A giant marimba played by a whole village in africa. (footage from the bela fleck film "throw down your heart".)

Soundnet, a giant web played by sensorband.

Global String.

There is an artist in the bay area who makes giant strings (like 25 feet long) intended to be played by more than one person. I can't remember what they are called though.

Tooka, a two-person collaborative flute.

The league of automatic composers and the hub frequently did collaborative pieces over a network.

I'm presenting a collaborative instrument at a conference in a week. There is no good explanation of it on the web, but here is a video of the piece.
posted by ianhattwick at 10:02 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The giant strings you're trying to remember are most likely Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument. Thrilling, huge, complex sound in person, very hard to capture in sound (esp. YouTube-quality sound) but worth a google!
posted by kalapierson at 6:36 PM on April 6, 2012

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