Playing the piano with both hands: How the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. Whether on the drums, guitar or piano, when both hands are required to perform different things at the same time, beginners initially face a major hurdle to overcome. But how can this be done? How do you learn to use both hands simultaneously for different movements? And not only the hands, but especially the fingers of both hands.
Contrary to a well-known saying, the left hand of a pianist already knows what the right hand is doing. The perfect cooperation of the left and the right hand is the desired goal here. But this can be learned. To get you there faster, we’ve put together a few tips to help you train the coordination and independence of your two hands, making two-handed piano playing easier. These tips are general and suitable for both young and adult piano students.
1. Learning to coordinate: Practice makes perfect
What qualities do I need to learn to play the piano with both hands?
Generally speaking: motivation and patience. Whatever you want to achieve on the piano, it rarely comes by itself and requires practice and time. If you want to learn a piano piece, for example, small, individual practice steps often help to achieve the larger goal in the end. Your hands can be trained: The more often and regularly you play and practice certain sequences of notes and melodies, for example, the better and more sustainably the sequence of movements is internalized and ‘stored’ in the brain. It’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve learned it, you can’t unlearn it. But you have to be motivated to do so, because without your own motivation you will not reach your goals … and this is not only true for playing the piano.
2. Proceed slowly
How do I make measurable progress in piano playing?
Progress is made by starting with simple pieces and thereby acquiring the skills that are the prerequisites for more challenging piano pieces. Don’t unnecessarily overtax yourself, your hands, and your brain by setting goals too high from the start. Starting with fast and difficult piano pieces is the wrong way to go. Music is not a marathon! Every piano teacher says that. Even an athlete works out his or her performance through regular training. First practice the problematic section of the respective piano piece at a slow tempo and first make sure that the right notes are hit without focusing on the rhythm.
This step also allows you to work on fingering, which plays an important role in coordinating the fingers. When fingering and notes are correct, then resort to the metronome for assistance in learning the rhythm. The tempo setting of the metronome is deliberately slow in the first step. If the rhythmic playing then works flawlessly, you can gradually increase the metronome tempo. After practicing consistently for a while, you will notice how smoothly and easily you can play the passage that was previously difficult for you. If your hands get tired and you start to cramp up, it’s better to take a short break and start again later at the tempo where you left off
3. Practice each hand separately
Why should you practice a new piece with each hand separately at first?
Playing different rhythms, chords or melodies with both hands at the same time is not so easy! Also, don’t forget the dynamics, which have to be practiced on top of that. Here it helps to look at the work of the respective hand isolated at first. First practice the left or right hand separately until both run smoothly. Then slowly try to combine the movements of both hands. Depending on the difficulty of the piece, you may want to look note by note at when the hands are playing simultaneously, where there are passages where only one of the two hands is active, and so on. Give your brain a chance to grasp these details, and it will quickly reward you with fluid, two-handed piano playing.
4. Divide practice steps
Why should a difficult piano piece be divided into smaller parts for practice?
A piano piece with three or more pages of notes, quickly seems like a very thick book that is never finished. It’s different with just a few measures to practice. With or without sheet music: If you want to learn a piece of music on the piano, take small sections of the piece first and practice them using the other tips that appear in this article. If one section goes smoothly, it’s the next one’s turn, and so on. At the end, you can string together all the sections you’ve learned, and you’ll suddenly be able to play through even an extensive theme, the length of which might have scared you off before.
5. Practice coordination also in everyday life
How can you practice the independent action of both hands also in everyday life?
One of the most important basics of two-handed piano playing is the independence of both hands from each other. You can work on this not only when you are sitting at the piano: small exercises that promote the coordination of the hands can also be incorporated into everyday life. This includes drumming with both hands on your trouser legs to your favorite music, as well as braking and clutching with your feet when driving. After all, the legs also need to be trained so that at some point the piano’s sustain pedal can also be used. In principle, any activity that involves different actions of the respective hands and legs will ultimately benefit better coordination on the piano.
6. An exercise to start with
How do I put into practice what I have learned?
You’ve read through all the tips, but don’t quite know where to start now? Here’s a little exercise that will help you get started: Take a simple sequence of notes (e.g. C-D-E-F-G) and play it simultaneously up and down with your left and right hand. If this works without any problems, shift the sequence of notes in the left hand up by a whole tone (i.e. on the left: D-E-F#-G-A). Now play the different sequences of notes simultaneously and gradually increase the tempo. The shifts can be continued at will, and the tone sequences extended. This increases the difficulty of the exercise and trains your coordination when playing the piano. Practice makes perfect.