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Topic Options
#1228786 - 07/09/09 12:31 AM Left Hand Trouble
SilverSunlight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/09
Posts: 12
I need some help with my left hand when playing by ear. I'm mostly a classical pianist, but I play by ear sometimes for fun. I find it easy to figure out the melody by ear and put chords with it, but my problem is that my left hand accompaniment is always really boring. I never know what to do with my left hand. I usually just end up doing open spaced chords, arpeggios, or really boring broken chord patterns that I repeat over and over. How can I make my left hand part more interesting?

Piano & Music Accessories
#1228814 - 07/09/09 04:33 AM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: SilverSunlight]
dario77 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/09
Posts: 35
play melody in left, while stabbing chords in teh right

also try echoeing melody that is played in right hand

#1228846 - 07/09/09 08:44 AM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: dario77]
dave solazzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/09
Posts: 160
Loc: syracuse ny
you could play some stride patterns with your left hand...or a walking bass line.

#1228885 - 07/09/09 10:44 AM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: dave solazzo]
SilverSunlight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/09
Posts: 12
Pardon my ignorance, but what's a stride pattern and a walking bass line?

#1228889 - 07/09/09 11:03 AM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: SilverSunlight]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3443
Originally Posted By: SilverSunlight
Pardon my ignorance, but what's a stride pattern and a walking bass line?



Walking Bass:

Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.

#1228970 - 07/09/09 02:15 PM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: rocket88]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4534
I'm also mostly a classical player, but I try to get in
as much jazz and popular playing as possible. I've
been struggling with the same things you describe
for years. I've tried wading through jazz method
books but soon gave up from the sheer tedium of it.

What I've found thus far is that it seems to be beneficial
to do as much improvising as possible. This thing
about playing by ear which you describe I also tried, but
I personally found that this is sort of like putting the cart
before the horse. That is, what you need to do is
develop the ability to improvise first, then the ability
to play songs by ear should come naturally over time.

To improvise I use 4-note seventh chords, which seem
to be a good compromise between basic 3-note triads and
the larger 9th, 11th, and 13th chords. Using just
sevenths in the l.h., you can improvise all kinds of
things in the r.h., and just these "block" chords in
the l.h. is nothing to sneer at. Sevenths are already
pretty sophisticated in themselves--note in classical
music how much impressive stuff is just "block" chords
in the lt. and elaborate improvisatory stuff in the
rt. And of course you can also do improvisatory
things in the l.h. too.

This is where classical music comes in. A lot of
folks like to rigidly separate classical and jazz,
but they're really much the same, and when playing
your classical pieces you should always be on the
lookout for sounds and patterns and techniques that
you can add to your jazz improvisation. What kind of
stuff does the the r.h. do in classical? What does the
l.h. do? These things can be added to your jazz
improvisation. And thus your classical practicing
will be beneficial to your jazz improvisation practice.

Another thing I've found beneficial is to play
jazz and popular pieces from the score. There are hundreds
of books you can buy with fully written out scores
of jazz and popular songs. By playing them, you get
ideas of how to arrange and improvise, and you train
your ear for this kind of playing.

#1228972 - 07/09/09 02:28 PM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: Gyro]
SilverSunlight Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/09
Posts: 12
Thanks for all the advice, everyone. Gyro, I actually don't play that much jazz. I usually play familiar folk songs, pop songs, and Christmas carols. I would like to learn jazz but I don't know the first thing about it so it seems really intimidating. How would I go about learning a little jazz improvisation? Where should I start? Also, would it help my left hand problem if I listened to recordings of piano music and tried to imitate the left hand patterns that they use?

#1228975 - 07/09/09 02:37 PM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: SilverSunlight]
Swingin' Barb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 889
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: SilverSunlight
How would I go about learning a little jazz improvisation?

Have you checked out the following thread in the Adult Beginners Forum?

"Jazz Study Group: Autumn Leaves, ATTYA, etc."

You can jump in there at any time. It is very informal.


Edited by Swingin' Barb (07/09/09 02:38 PM)
A Sudnow Method Fanatic
"Color tones, can't live without them"

To hear how I have progressed since 2006, check out: http://b.kane.home.mindspring.com

#1229094 - 07/09/09 08:02 PM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: Swingin' Barb]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4534
Play the chords DFAC, EGBD, and FACE with the l.h.
Using just those three chords, in any order, you can improvise
all kinds of jazz-like tunes with the r.h. Then
you can add more chords, and so forth.

#1229718 - 07/10/09 06:42 PM Re: Left Hand Trouble [Re: Gyro]
JazzPianoEducator Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/09
Posts: 203
Loc: Denver, CO
If you plan on playing solo piano your left hand approach will be different than if you plan on playing with a group (ie a bass player to put the root notes in the bass)

My suggestion is to check out the following:

Learn some simple walking bass lines over the blues progression
Learn from LH boogie patterns over the blues progression
Take a song and learn the chord progression in multiple inversions so you get comfortable varying how you play the chords in your left hand and so they are not always in the same inversion
Check out rootless ii-V-I voicings (more advanced)
Experiment with playing 10ths in your left hand

Getting a good left hand is about working on your technique but also learning how to be creative in using the chords presented to you. The more you learn to improvise your LH accomp on the fly the more interesting your playing will sound. Try and get familiar with the feel and sound of as many voicings as you can.

Hope this helps!


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