How to Set Up a One Man Band

By Carl Hose ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Computer
  • Audio software
  • Guitar
  • Harmonica
  • Harmonica holder
  • Tambourine
  • Electronic keyboard
  • Drum machine
  • CD player
  • CD-R
  • 1 or 2 Microphones
  • Microphone stand
  • PA system
  • 2 Amplifiers (50 or 100 watts)
  • Amplifier cords

A true one-man band is a lone performer who not only plays all of the instruments on his recordings, but plays most of the instruments in concert, as well. Learning how to be a one-man band is extremely challenging and requires the ability to play several instruments and a great deal of coordination. Becoming a one-man band also takes planning in addition to skills. Being a one-man band isn't easy, but it can be creatively and financially rewarding.

Plan your songs. Choose songs you'll be able to recreate in a live setting with the instruments you play. Select songs for which you can record supporting rhythm tracks. These songs should include bass, drums, and a keyboard or guitar for the backing track. The choice of guitar or keyboard on the backing track depends upon the instrument you play in your one-man band setup.

Record your songs on the computer, using any audio software that allows you to record and mix. Record your backing tracks (bass, drums and rhythm guitar) onto one track. Run a microphone straight into your computer. Then, select and play a drum pattern from your drum machine. Play your bass line along with it. Next, play this track back as you add another instrument, such as keyboard or guitar. With this setup, you can layer any instruments that you won't be able to play in a live setting. Burn the backing track to a blank CD-R and take it with you anywhere you wish to perform.

Set up the proper sound equipment for live performances. Run a CD player through a small PA system to play your backing track while you perform. A small personal PA system is sufficient for smaller clubs, while larger performance venues typically have in-house PA systems available to performers. Use a large portable CD player (or "boom box") for your backing track if you plan to perform on the street.

Set up instruments and equipment close together. Use a guitar stand with a cradle to hold your guitar as you play. Place this stand directly in front of where you will stand while performing. Hook a harmonica holder around your head to hold it within reach of your mouth at all times. This allows you to sing and access your harmonica when you need it. Place your electronic keyboard on a stand to your right or left, within easy reach.

Amplify sound safely and appropriately. Run your keyboard and your guitar through separate amplifiers. Use a microphone to amplify your harmonica and your vocals. Place the microphone stand just slightly to one side of your guitar. This set up allows you to reach all your instruments, handle all equipment and perform along with your backing track with ease.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.