The lockdowns associated with current coronavirus pandemic have sparked production of self-duets. The Austrian-German concert violinist Augustin Hadelich has released a lot of piano-violin self-duets on his YouTube channel.

Back in 2016, fiddler Katy Adelson produced this interesting cello-violin self-duet -

Also back in 2016, Fran Guidry produced a guide to producing video self-duets using Reaper on YouTube and in his blog.

Self-duets predate the YouTube era. Back in 2006 on the album "You Raise Me Up: The Best of Aled Jones" there was a track featuring the adult, baritone Aled Jones accompanying his younger treble self on his 1985 hit "Walking in the Air".

Is this the earliest recorded self-duet? Have many musical artists been producing self-duets before lockdown?

  • This sounds like it would be more fit on the Music Fans SE. – Dom Aug 1 at 18:44
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    @Dom According to the help center (music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic) "What topics can I ask about here?" - "music theory, notation, history, or composition". This is asking about music history – Brian Towers Aug 1 at 18:47
  • History is on topic, but this seems more in vein of the history questions that are better cared for on the Music Fan SE (there are several questions on the music fan's SE about recording firsts). The question to me seems to be more about finding the earliest out of appreciation rather than the typical topics of the site. There's not necessarily a hard line, but it feels more towards the fan site. There have also been other discussions about what qualifies as a history question in the past: music.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2867/… – Dom Aug 1 at 18:55
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    FYI, when I was studying for my Bar Mitzvah in 1973, my temple's cantor had released an album containing a song where he sang all 5 parts of a vocal quintet. – Barmar Aug 2 at 19:41

Self-duets of the sort you have in mind are an example of "overdubbing", a technique allowing a musician to record one part and then record a second part while playing back the first. The technique goes back to the very early days of recording technology. Wikipedia has a brief history.

The earliest example of a "self-duet" mentioned in the Wikipedia article is Sidney Bechet's 1941 recording of "The Sheik of Araby", on which he plays all of the instruments.

However, depending on how expansive you want the definition of "self-duet" to be, keyboardists have been playing self-duets since, at least, the invention of counterpoint for those instruments. One obvious example is the fugue, which requires the keyboardist to play several "voices" simultaneously. For example, here is Bach's Fugue in C Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 (BWV 846).

If you require one musician to play to separate instruments, then whoever invented the "one-man band" would be the originator of the self-duet. This web article places one-man bands as early as the 13th century.

Certainly one of the oldest combinations of two instruments played simultaneously is the pipe and tabor, to which the earliest references appear in the 13th century.

Wikipedia corroborates this.

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    I would speculate that the "self-duet" is even older than the 13th century, and likely dates to the first time humans began creating music. Singing and clapping hands, for example, would be a "self-duet." There's also throat singing, which could be consider a form of self-duet. – Aaron Aug 1 at 20:10

By no means the earliest, but I'm just dropping this in as about the only appropriate place we've ever had for this example.

This guy is Yattie Westfield, apparently out of Birmingham, Alabama. The only footage of him you ever find is shot on phones, so sound & picture isn't great, but once you got beyond the initial, "WTF? OMG! Really? No!!" this is quite a display of limb independence.

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