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#1709692 - 07/08/11 01:09 PM Independence of hands
Monco Offline
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Registered: 03/31/10
Posts: 38
A couple of months a go when I was playing jazz very often, I didn't have much trouble playing 3:2 and stuff like that.

Now I'm practicing some pop arrangement of a song and it has a particular accompaniement pattern which isn't hard, but it is hard in conjuction with the melody.

Apparently I suck big time at the indepence of hands. I think it's because I looked at the matter from a wrong angle.

1. There is a complete indepence of hands. Both hands can do entirely different things. (Your brain is devided by two so to speak).

2. Calculating (that's what I did). You look at how the notes fall and how both hands have to ineract.

So when people talk about the indepence of hands, how does that work for them? How do you practice difficult rhythms? Do you look at how the hands should interact or do you have complete indepence of hands?


Edited by Monco (07/09/11 01:17 PM)

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#1709752 - 07/08/11 02:39 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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(BTW: independence) smile
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#1709781 - 07/08/11 03:25 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
Gyro Offline
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First, you always play hands-together, never hands-separate. If you're asking this, I suspect, like many players, you've gotten into the habit of practicing hands-separate, maybe with the idea that practicing hands-separate will somehow get them playing independently, but nothing could be further from the truth. In real playing you play hands-together, and you'll never get them playing together if they're used to practicing their parts separately.

Second, if, like many players, you use a metronome, throw that damned thing away before you get to the point where you can't play without it.

Third, get rid of the idea of playing in time. The whole idea in music is to play slightly out of time, not in clockwork-precise time. This is called rubato. For example, if you're practicing scales, don't be obsessed with playing both hands in exact time with each other. If they're slightly out of sync with each other, that's just great, because that's how things are supposed to be in real playing.

Fourth, start improvising, that is, sit down at the piano and just dig in with both hands and play completely by ear, with no concern for theory and doing things the correct way. This is how you really learn about the piano and what you can do on it. When you improvise, there is no such thing as right or wrong notes, or correct time, or right or wrong anything. Anything and everything goes when you improvise. I'll bet you've never improvised like this before. If you had experience doing this, you wouldn't be asking this. You need this kind of experience if you want to play jazz impressively.

If you're practicing hands-separate, and with a metronome, and always being obsessed about playing in strict time, and with no experience in improvising, is it any wonder your playing sucks? Throw the idea of strict time out the window, and your playing will improve.

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#1709911 - 07/08/11 07:44 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
Dave Horne Offline
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Registered: 07/07/04
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Gyro, there are so many bad pieces of advice in your thread it's difficult to know where to start.

I'm tired and am going to bed. I'll return with some practical advise.

Gyro, are you ever going to share concrete examples of your playing with us? Dispensing such advice shouldn't be done silently.
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#1709943 - 07/08/11 09:56 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
I actually covered this very question on a topic in the ABF.

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

Warning: Science Alert

When a person learns hands separately, each hand is under the control of its respective primary motor cortex. The right hand is controlled by the left motor cortex and the left hand is controlled by the right. When you play hands together, the cerebellum tries to co-ordinate the hands so they act in unison. At this point, playing hands together is very difficult, because your brain understands each hand as comprising a separate behaviour (or neurological pattern of firing). Over time (i.e. with practice) a new circuit develops and the basal ganglia takes over the role that the cerebellum was playing. This new circuit which encompasses both primary motor cortexes, the supplementary motor cortexes, and the basal ganglia is much faster than the first with the cerebellum because, in essence, there is no co-ordinating of the limbs anymore. Your brain understands the movement of both hands as encompassing a single behaviour (or neurological event).

This is why you can't think of your two hands as separate entities. Your brain literally views the movement of both hands as a single behaviour/event.


Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

I maintain that [true/absolute] hand independence does not exist. It is an illusion that results because we cannot see and remember the entire set of contingencies that have acted upon us. The hand independence you observe is only a superficial observation in the same way that a stick in water appears bent. Let me explain. Your ability to manipulate the dynamics, etc. of each hand individually is a function of your prior learning. e.g. If you have never played/practiced FF with the left hand while the right hand is doing something else in pp, then I guarantee you that you will not be able to do this the first time you try, regardless how much hands seperate practice you do.

You can actually test this:

1) Learn a challenging, but not too challenging, peice hands together and never attempt to play it hands seperatley until you can play it reasonably well. I bet you will be able to play it hands seperatley on your first try.

2) Now learn a entirely new piece (again challenging but not too challenging), but learn it only hands seperatley. Once you have mastered each hand flawlessly and up to tempo, try playing it hands together for the first time. You won't be able to do it.

Here is another experiment to illustrate:

You can probably draw a triangle with your left hand and a square with your right hand both pretty well. But try doing this at the same time. It takes practice because your brain needs to processes the simultaneous action of both hands as one event. Now if you keep practising with numerous 2-dimensional shapes, eventually you will be able to quickly draw two shapes you have never drawn before, and this is not because your hands have become independent. It is because your hands have learned so many various patterns of behaviour that in all likelihood the two new shapes you have never drawn before will contain similarities to stuff you have drawn in the past.

This is why even experienced concert pianists who rarely perform Schoenberg have such a difficult time. The patterns in his music are not similar to the things they are used to playing (e.g. Beethoven, Chopin, etc).

My point is that the independence you think is there is actually not. You are just performing previously learned behaviours, and when you look at it from the perspective of a repertoire of learned behaviours you see that there is no actual independence when you play hands together.


My writing is perhaps a bit convoluted. NeilOS put it far more simply in the same thread.

Originally Posted By: NeilOS

You have two hands but only one brain, so the hands are not independent of one another. They can be made to sound and even feel that way, though. Both hands move horizontally together in time; this is what makes the music. Both hands also have to come together at various points vertically; this is what happens technically.

So, try feeling where the hands come together vertically, noticing which finger in each hand has the down stroke. This will help you to feel in control of the hands, make them seem independent. Try playing scales or a five-finger pattern in triplets in the R.H. and duplets in the L.H, exaggerating the pulses, really noticing the fingers of each hand that play at the same time.

When you say that your hands give each other cues, you are quite correct. They play off of each other and are therefore interdependent. I call this choreographing the hands.

There has been some talk of practicing hands separately. This can be useful if a particular hand has a problem. But if each hand can play its part fluently, then it's best to practice them together in order to feel the coordination. No need to perform three tasks when one will do nicely.


The full thread is here: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...playing%20.html

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#1709946 - 07/08/11 10:11 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: polyphasicpianist]
ando Offline
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Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3953
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Excellent summary, Polyphasic. thumb

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#1709947 - 07/08/11 10:11 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
david_a Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
To add another angle of thinking (but it agrees with what's already been said):
In piano practice, you hardly ever change the way your hands work. Almost all the time, (and most definitely this time), you change the way your brain works.

Perceiving the two hands differently (perceiving three ways: feeling, hearing, and sight), and showing the brain how to operate the two hands differently, are all parts of what you are working on. Training the hands themselves does little for you here.

(Re. three ways of perceiving: In general, if during this process you smell your hands or taste them, then you're playing piano very strangely. Stick with just three ways if possible. smile )
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#1709950 - 07/08/11 10:17 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: ando]
chercherchopin Offline
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Registered: 04/25/11
Posts: 550
Loc: Dystopia (but not Dystonia!)
Originally Posted By: ando
Excellent summary, Polyphasic. thumb

Oh definitely, Polyphasic, thank you very much for that post! That material really did bear repeating (especially for people like me who didn't see it before in ABF).

I've long felt that HS practice and HT practice somehow imprint differently in the brain -- though I had no absolutely no knowledge of the science behind it. I actually feel like I have some understanding now. smile
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#1709955 - 07/08/11 10:23 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: chercherchopin]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
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You are all very welcome. smile

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#1709960 - 07/08/11 10:32 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Gyro]
liszt85 Offline
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Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: Gyro
First, you always play hands-together, never hands-separate. If you're asking this, I suspect, like many players, you've gotten into the habit of practicing hands-separate, maybe with the idea that practicing hands-separate will somehow get them playing independently, but nothing could be further from the truth. In real playing you play hands-together, and you'll never get them playing together if they're used to practicing their parts separately.

Second, if, like many players, you use a metronome, throw that damned thing away before you get to the point where you can't play without it.

Third, get rid of the idea of playing in time. The whole idea in music is to play slightly out of time, not in clockwork-precise time. This is called rubato. For example, if you're practicing scales, don't be obsessed with playing both hands in exact time with each other. If they're slightly out of sync with each other, that's just great, because that's how things are supposed to be in real playing.

Fourth, start improvising, that is, sit down at the piano and just dig in with both hands and play completely by ear, with no concern for theory and doing things the correct way. This is how you really learn about the piano and what you can do on it. When you improvise, there is no such thing as right or wrong notes, or correct time, or right or wrong anything. Anything and everything goes when you improvise. I'll bet you've never improvised like this before. If you had experience doing this, you wouldn't be asking this. You need this kind of experience if you want to play jazz impressively.

If you're practicing hands-separate, and with a metronome, and always being obsessed about playing in strict time, and with no experience in improvising, is it any wonder your playing sucks? Throw the idea of strict time out the window, and your playing will improve.


To the OP: We at PW still haven't figured out if Gyro does this on purpose or not. In any case, use antonyms as a translating device while reading his advice. wink
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#1709967 - 07/08/11 10:43 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: polyphasicpianist]
liszt85 Offline
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Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist


There has been some talk of practicing hands separately. This can be useful if a particular hand has a problem. But if each hand can play its part fluently, then it's best to practice them together in order to feel the coordination. No need to perform three tasks when one will do nicely.



What you say makes sense but for the fact that you forget the role of the ear. When you start practicing something hands together, you sometimes are unable to focus equally on the sound produced by both hands (especially if its an intricate piece in terms of intertwining melody lines, etc, not necessarily technically hard. For less advanced students, this might also be hard for simpler pieces). So in general, there is an advantage to at least playing the hands separate at least a couple of times to HEAR what each sounds like, so that you can decide how exactly you want each of them to sound. You can then put them together and try to listen to both hands carefully to try and see if the desired individual articulation has been achieved for the right overall effect. Like I said (in brackets) earlier in this post, for beginners, it might be a useful exercise to do a couple of runs of hands separate even for simpler pieces to teach them to give sufficient attention to the sounds produced by either hand.

If you're talking about extensive practice for hands separate, I agree. That's not necessary for the less technically challenging pieces.



Edited by liszt85 (07/08/11 10:43 PM)
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Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
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Next in line:
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Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1709978 - 07/08/11 11:20 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: liszt85]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
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Yes you are correct, but I think that is really a different issue than the one the OP is trying to get at.

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#1709982 - 07/08/11 11:45 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: liszt85]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 9015
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist


There has been some talk of practicing hands separately. This can be useful if a particular hand has a problem. But if each hand can play its part fluently, then it's best to practice them together in order to feel the coordination. No need to perform three tasks when one will do nicely.



What you say makes sense but for the fact that you forget the role of the ear.

Yes, the ear. Perhaps I'm missing something polyphasicpianist (that's a load to type out), but certainly when practising 5 finger exercises (as in Dohnanyi), initially one needs to do them hands separate, otherwise how can you really concentrate on what each hand is doing? Dohnanyi himself, nobody's fool, emphatically recommends doing all his exercises hands separate 'and only later on, with both hands together'.

In advanced concert repertoire that might depend on the pianist, but I couldn't imagine learning the Bb minor Scherzo of Chopin without extensive hands separate practise in the middle section. I wonder if even pianists of the calibre of Rubinstein, Michelangeli or Argerich worked out that section hands separately. There's just too much going on otherwise. (Okay, maybe it only took Argerich an afternoon of hands separate.)

I've never heard of anybody recommending study of Chopin's Op 10/12 without first working out the left hand by itself, if only to settle on a workable fingering.

My two pence, FWIW.

I would like to edit this a bit to say that when polyp says if each hand can play its part fluently... well then hands separate would certainly be superfluous. I was only talking about the initial stages of learning. Sorry for the confusion.







Edited by argerichfan (07/08/11 11:55 PM)
Edit Reason: An additional thought.
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#1709986 - 07/08/11 11:59 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: argerichfan]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
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This very topic was covered in the same thread I mentioned earlier as well. Here is what I wrote then, and I think it is just as apt now:

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
I think we need to make a distinction between playing and listening. The actual physical motor responses are understood by your brain as a single event/behaviour. But your brain does not hear these events, it hears the sound of the piano which is external to you, even though you are in some sense the actual cause of these events.

I think what you are describing above is just focusing the scope of your attention. For example, suppose you are in a crowded room talking to someone. Your attention is focused on what the person is saying, but, if you choose to, you can focus your attention so you hear all the people in the room at once. Similarly, when playing the piano you can choose to listen to only your left hand, even though your right hand is playing different notes at the same time. I bet if you tried you can listen to the separate parts, it just takes practice.

Try it with this fugue. There are 3 voices (i.e. independent melodies), close your eyes and try to hear the highest voice, then restart the recording and try and hear the lowest voice. Then do it again trying to hear the middle voice. Then try it again, but try and listen to the piece as a whole (this is actually surprisingly difficult because each voice enters separately, but can be done with a little practice).




let me know if clarification is required

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#1709991 - 07/09/11 12:11 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: argerichfan]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
Originally Posted By: argerichfan

Yes, the ear. Perhaps I'm missing something polyphasicpianist (that's a load to type out), but certainly when practising 5 finger exercises (as in Dohnanyi), initially one needs to do them hands separate, otherwise how can you really concentrate on what each hand is doing?


Sorry, now that I think about more, I am not certain I understand what you are asking here? Could you please explain. What do you mean by "how can you really concentrate on what each hand is doing?"


Edited by polyphasicpianist (07/09/11 12:15 AM)
Edit Reason: Added stuff

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#1709997 - 07/09/11 12:32 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: polyphasicpianist]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 9015
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

Sorry, now that I think about more, I am not certain I understand what you are asking here? Could you please explain. What do you mean by "how can you really concentrate on what each hand is doing?"

Fair enough, mate. Take the trill exercises in the Dohnanyi. Wouldn't you want to do them hands separately so that you can individually check each hand for accuracy and evenness? Once you are satisfied with that, then do them hands together.

Same thing with the exercises in 3rds. I have found that when practising the hands together, my left hand sometimes 'cheats' and doesn't strike both notes exactly together. Only hands separate weeds out this wretched blight on my technique.

Ultimately I think it's more a matter of what works best for us.
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#1710023 - 07/09/11 01:38 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: argerichfan]
liszt85 Offline
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Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: argerichfan

Ultimately I think it's more a matter of what works best for us.


I think there's more to it than that but I'm sure you're just saying that to be nice. wink What works best for people in general (unless someone is a genius, which very few of us are) is the method that allows one to focus well enough on the output of each hand to make sure they're doing the right thing.. hands together work well enough for simple pieces, but a case can be made for beginners to do some amount of hands separate even for the simpler pieces.

Since you mentioned the Bb minor Scherzo, I just started working on it.. I'm on page 2 today. I spent an hour doing the left hand eighth notes (Db maj section after the opening booming chords) separate because the fingering firstly is tricky.. I had to figure that out. There is an additional problem with figuring out fingering here. When practicing slow, a particular fingering works very well but it needn't work well at presto (which is the target speed). So I need to check if the fingering works for presto.. I found that some didn't, and I had to change the fingering all over again. I then had to make sure I was playing them legato, etc. Its not easy to focus on various details if one plays both hands right from the beginning..
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Current:
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Next in line:
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Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1710028 - 07/09/11 01:49 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
Lingyis Offline
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Registered: 09/15/09
Posts: 832
To barge in and risk misunderstanding both parties, I think pppianist and argerichfan are talking about slightly different things.

Polyppianist is saying how your brain need to adapt to putting two hands (or, individual fingers, for that matter) together, so if you practice each hand separately your brain has to go through the hand-together learning again anyway.

So to use this line of thought, to gain accuracy and evenness in one hand--essentially the same logic (I presume) applies to two fingers. Or three, or four, or five. You train your brain (basal ganglia according to pppianist) to get used to those movements.

What's implicit in argerichfan's conclusion is the issue of (time) efficiency. For someone, practicing both hands together saves time; for another, he/she is better off practicing both hands separate.

======================

My guess is that for most people, the need to pay attention to details means it's quite a bit faster to practice starting off with separate hands. You can do it with both hands it's just less efficient I believe.

On a mildly related note, I don't totally agree with "having practiced hands together you can play hands separate". For instance, if I've memorized a piece with both hands, because of motor memory (I guess that'll be from basal ganglia? or another part of the brain?) I can rarely play back hands separately from memory. I can think of other examples where you end up not able to decouple (without practising) the two hands back into left and right hands.

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#1710030 - 07/09/11 01:53 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: argerichfan]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist

Sorry, now that I think about more, I am not certain I understand what you are asking here? Could you please explain. What do you mean by "how can you really concentrate on what each hand is doing?"

Fair enough, mate. Take the trill exercises in the Dohnanyi. Wouldn't you want to do them hands separately so that you can individually check each hand for accuracy and evenness? Once you are satisfied with that, then do them hands together.

Same thing with the exercises in 3rds. I have found that when practising the hands together, my left hand sometimes 'cheats' and doesn't strike both notes exactly together. Only hands separate weeds out this wretched blight on my technique.

Ultimately I think it's more a matter of what works best for us.


Okay I get what your asking now. The answer, unfortunatley is not a simple one. Here is the thing. Contrary to what some people like to say, our brain can only focus on one thing at a time. It can do multiple things, but in terms of conscious control, you can only deal with one thing at a time (this is why muscle/procedural memory is so useful). We know this from numerous types of experiments, esp. dichotic listening. However, what your brain can do is shift its attention between things (just like you might shift your attention from one melody in a fugue to another).

Now your question is essentially, if I learn the peice hands together, from the beginning of the learning process, how do I focus on the accuracy and evenness of my playing when I am so busy trying just to co-ordinate my hands? (I hope this is a good interpretation)

The answer is you can't really, it is one or the other, unless you practice in very small sections that your brain can reognize as stuff you have done before (this is what Alfred Brendel did).

This means you have effectively 4 options on how to practice.

1) You can practice hands together from the very beginning in large-ish sections. This means accuracy and evenness will suffer a bit until the circuit with the basal ganglia has been formed (i.e. when muscle/procedural memory kicks in) and you effectivley do not have to pay any attention to the basic co-ordination anymore and can freely focus on evenness and accuracy. (This is just sight-reading BTW)

2) You can practice hands together from the very beginning in very small sections. These sections have to be so small that you are able to not worry about co-ordination because they will seem like familiar movements. Slowly you can assemble these small sections into larger ones until everything is as it should be. This is Brendel's method.

3) You can learn the entire piece hands separately first. This will allow you to more easily focus on the accuracy and evenness of the notes. But when the time comes to combine your hands you are still going to need to focus on co-ordination. Essentially what is happening at a neurological level is that by only working on the piece hands separately, you have created the necessary motor circuit in both the left and right primary motor cortex. But because you have not worked on co-ordinating the hands, the circuit connecting (via the basal ganglia) the left and right primary motor cortexes has not been formed. Now when you practice hands together that circuit will begin to form, but you will not (in the early stages of doing this) be able to focus on evenness and accuracy anymore. Your brain will do its best to shift attention back to this when it can, but ultimately you will be very limited and accuracy and evenness will ultimately suffer during this stage because trying to co-ordinate the hands will require so much attention. Hopefully though, all the effort to work evenness and accuracy into each hand automatically caries forward without you having to make the effort to do so (this will only happen if you have learned it to the point where muscle/procedural memory can work its magic).

4) You can do a bit of everything during each practice session.

Ultimately, any of these methods will work as well as the others it is really a matter of what you prefer. Personally I like a combination of the first and second method, just because it corresponds to sight-reading so well. I find learning a piece hands separate first to be detrimental in this regard just because when I put my hands together I tend to only read the right hand/treble clef with my eyes and ignore the bass clef. The first and second methods force me to look at both clefs. But that is just me, other people may not have this problem.

The point is this, all the psycho babble and neuro-speak I talked about in the first post and this post will not really help us practice any better except in one sense. It tells us that practising hands separate does not help co-ordination or create independence in the complete/absolute sense***. So if anyone practices hands separately because they think this will make practising hands together easier, then they are just wrong and wasting their time. (This is the ultimate reason why C.C. Chang's book "Fundamentals of piano practice" is garbage, he advocates precisely this).



***By complete/absolute sense I mean point #1 of Monco's original post

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#1710034 - 07/09/11 02:19 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Lingyis]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
Originally Posted By: Lingyis
On a mildly related note, I don't totally agree with "having practiced hands together you can play hands separate". For instance, if I've memorized a piece with both hands, because of motor memory (I guess that'll be from basal ganglia? or another part of the brain?) I can rarely play back hands separately from memory. I can think of other examples where you end up not able to decouple (without practising) the two hands back into left and right hands.


There is an explanation for this, but it is a bit convoluted. But the simple answer is this: the brain (because of all the practice) understands the piece as a single behaviour and the hands are now dependent upon one another as memory cues. Your brain, essentially, no longer needs the circuit that would allow you to play hands separately so it has forgotten it. This is why I wrote "reasonably well."

Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Learn a challenging, but not too challenging, peice hands together and never attempt to play it hands seperatley until you can play it reasonably well. I bet you will be able to play it hands seperatley on your first try.


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#1710068 - 07/09/11 05:16 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
Dave Horne Offline
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I would approach this by slowly playing both hands at the same time without even trying to think about what it is I am playing - just slowly and methodically playing through something that requires independence, excuse me, indepence. smile My way of practicing is to play something as fast as possible (translates to very slowly) without making a mistake.

Now having said that, if you can't play each hand by itself or independently, why would anyone think that playing both hands always together, especially in the learning process, would be better?

The use of a metronome was mentioned - I learned a very long time ago that, if a piece is in 4/4, there is great benefit in having the clicks represent beats two and four - you then are forced to supply the stronger beats yourself. My sense of time improved greatly when practicing with the beats on two and four (in 4/4) especially at extremely fast tempos.

There also seems to be a tendency here to over explain everything in that a simple response to a common problem becomes longer than the US Constitution.
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#1710089 - 07/09/11 07:12 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
chercherchopin Offline
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Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
The point is this, all the psycho babble and neuro-speak I talked about in the first post and this post will not really help us practice any better except in one sense. It tells us that practising hands separate does not help co-ordination or create independence in the complete/absolute sense***. So if anyone practices hands separately because they think this will make practising hands together easier, then they are just wrong and wasting their time. (This is the ultimate reason why C.C. Chang's book "Fundamentals of piano practice" is garbage, he advocates precisely this).

So far, though, this discussion hasn't given much consideration to technical mastery of new challenges in advanced repertoire (as compared to the 'familiar' movements mentioned in connection with the 'Brendel routine'.)

I do agree there are many reasons Chang's book could be considered garbage ... and yet his idea of repetitive, high-speed, hands-separate practice of small isolated chunks (his 'parallel sets') for this specific purpose -- technical mastery when the brain is not simultaneously attempting to coordinate the two hands -- was actually the idea that I found most valuable (and of personal practical benefit) in his entire book!

I'm thinking this relates somehow to the point in NeilOS's post that you quoted ... where he distinguishes between the horizontal flow of music and the vertical consideration of what's going on technically. Sure, the drawback of any HS practice is that ultimately the hands have to be put back together for that coordinated horizontal movement. But I think nonetheless that some technical ('vertical') issues -- the 'new' movements that are precisely what makes advanced rep technically challenging -- really are most efficiently treated HS despite the extra HT learning curve that must follow.
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#1710107 - 07/09/11 09:18 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
liszt85 Offline
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At your very first piano lesson of your life, did you play hands separate or hands together? wink Why is it well established that you teach each hand to play separately first and then put them together? If the brain really were all that confused between the HS and the HT situations, this would be an utter waste of time. I think people are overestimating this (or rather underestimating the brain). I'm sure many of the same neurons in addition to others are involved when you make the transition from HS to HT. Many synapses probably won't require much changing at all when making this switch. The neurons that do the coordination task are probably the ones that will require learning to modify their synaptic strengths (I can get into extreme detail about how this happens via Ca2+ ions and the action of neurotransmitters via receptor channels, if people want me to but I suspect that might take away the focus of this discussion).

So I really don't think the HS and HT processes are all that independent of each other, certainly not to the extent that pppianist seems to think, IMO.
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#1710113 - 07/09/11 09:43 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: liszt85]
chercherchopin Offline
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Originally Posted By: liszt85
At your very first piano lesson of your life, did you play hands separate or hands together? wink Why is it well established that you teach each hand to play separately first and then put them together?

Well -- assuming instruction in classical piano, anyway -- one big reason for that was we probably didn't know how to read music at all! With no prior knowledge of musical notation, it seems unreasonable (or impossible?) to think that the brain could simultaneously process the recognition/identification of notes in two staves and their durations and their locations on the keyboard and play them with both hands simultaneously.

Once a student can identify at least a limited range of notes, of course, HT sightreading becomes possible. But if the written forms of the notes themselves are taught one hand at a time -- one staff at a time -- I think it's for a very good reason ... which I can't quite correlate to issues of HS vs. HT practice for pianists who've already reached a reasonable level of advancement.
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#1710119 - 07/09/11 10:07 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: chercherchopin]
liszt85 Offline
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Originally Posted By: chercherchopin

Once a student can identify at least a limited range of notes, of course, HT sightreading becomes possible. But if the written forms of the notes themselves are taught one hand at a time -- one staff at a time -- I think it's for a very good reason ... which I can't quite correlate to issues of HS vs. HT practice for pianists who've already reached a reasonable level of advancement.



So do you believe its just because they have to be taught how to read that its approached HS and not HT?

How about the issue of coordination (the issue of articulation adds on, when we later talk about advanced pianists and advanced pieces)? Lets say instead of musical notation, you have note names written out for the beginner (also assume that they all get equal values). How would you approach teaching a beginner to play this? Would you get them to play HT or HS first? I can imagine some people going the HT route but I would still get them to play HS first just so that they can pay attention to what's going on in their individual hands before they play HT.

It generalizes to advanced pianists because the relative difficulty of the pieces is still about the same. A beginner finds fur elise as technically challenging as an advanced pianist finds Islamey. If you advise HS practice for beginners, there is no reason why it shouldn't help advanced pianists when they tackle challenging pieces (and I assume pianists tackle challenging pieces on an everyday basis).
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#1710140 - 07/09/11 11:13 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: liszt85]
chercherchopin Offline
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Originally Posted By: liszt85
So do you believe its just because they have to be taught how to read that its approached HS and not HT?

Well, yeah ... but I don't think that's at odds what what you go on to say here:

Quote:
How about the issue of coordination (the issue of articulation adds on, when we later talk about advanced pianists and advanced pieces)? Lets say instead of musical notation, you have note names written out for the beginner (also assume that they all get equal values). How would you approach teaching a beginner to play this? Would you get them to play HT or HS first? I can imagine some people going the HT route but I would still get them to play HS first just so that they can pay attention to what's going on in their individual hands before they play HT.

Anyway, it was this next paragraph that I found most helpful, and I thank you for clarifying this:

Quote:
It generalizes to advanced pianists because the relative difficulty of the pieces is still about the same. A beginner finds fur elise as technically challenging as an advanced pianist finds Islamey. If you advise HS practice for beginners, there is no reason why it shouldn't help advanced pianists when they tackle challenging pieces (and I assume pianists tackle challenging pieces on an everyday basis).

I agree with the value of HS practice in challenging pieces! As I wrote earlier (when PPP basically called Chang a crock), that specific idea was one of Chang's propositions that I thought made complete sense.

And I also agree with you that HS practice isn't so very independent of HT practice that the subsequent learning curve of HT after HS is anything really formidable. (I do it in 'chunks'.) And if anything, it's very worth it -- for those truly demanding passages that really require the HS practice to begin with.

Also FWIW ... even though Chang and his book have just been a tangent to this discussion, it might be worth clarifying that he does not advocate HS practice first under any and all circumstances. IIRC, he was quite clear that HT practice from the start is in fact more efficient where it's practical -- that is, where the technical challenges consist of manageable and familiar movements like have been described above in the 'Brendel routine'.
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#1710160 - 07/09/11 11:56 AM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: chercherchopin]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Just to clarify, I never said Hands separate practice was useless. All I have shown was that it doesn't make your hands more independent. That's it.

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#1710177 - 07/09/11 12:18 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: liszt85]
polyphasicpianist Offline
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Originally Posted By: liszt85
I'm sure many of the same neurons in addition to others are involved when you make the transition from HS to HT. Many synapses probably won't require much changing at all when making this switch.


Yes, you are correct. This is why, in a nutshell, I said it ultimately does not matter whether you learn a piece hands separate first or hands together first. One way or another the respective primary motor cortex of each hand needs to form its circuit. The only difference is when you practice hands together the connection via the cerebellum and then later by the basal ganglia begins to form earlier. Which sounds like a good thing, but just remember it is at the expense of evenness, accuracy, ect (unless you use Brendel's method, which most people can't actually tolerate in large doses).

If you insist on learning a piece hands separate first, then all this science speak does actually tell us something I forgot to mention. You should get each hand perfect to the point where muscle/procedural memory is used and you no longer need to think about accuracy or execution. By doing this the loss to accuracy, execution, evenness, ect. will/should be minimal when you have place your attention on the co-ordination aspect.

Hope this cleared things up. smile

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#1710193 - 07/09/11 12:51 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: Monco]
liszt85 Offline
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I don't care which is done first.. what needs to be done first is to plan exactly what you want to articulate with either hand. If you don't need HS to do that, that's fine. In many cases you would and in those cases HS first is helpful (one isn't required to practice HS for too long but one must play them separate to hear what each sounds like or must sound like).

Learning an entire piece HS first does not make sense and I do not advocate it. When learning by chunks, if that chunk is a "busy" chunk, then its useful to play HS first to hear exactly what you desire each hand to do. That's all I'm saying. Furthermore, if you agree this is true for the more difficult pieces for advanced pianists, you should probably also agree that its useful for simpler pieces for beginners because the relative difficulty is what matters. Based on what I read in your last couple of clarification posts, I don't think we necessarily disagree.

The question of independence needs a slightly different answer.. but I didn't understand the question in the first place. How do you define independence of the hands? Both hands work together based on input from various sources, sound being one. Tactile information from the contact on the keyboard adds information too that you can base your apparently independent playing on (but in truth may not be all that independent due to mutual information from the other hand's contact with he keyboard for instance).

Independence is also in the brain. Now if by independence you only mean the ability to play separate things reasonably accurately with either hand simultaneously, the hands needn't be all that "independent". Do you see what I mean? Even the most difficult of polyrhythms, people don't practice them by playing the left hand polyrhythm a hundred times, the right hand polyrhythm a 100 times, and then put them together. That does not work. Ask Mike Mangini, the drummer. He will tell you that what matters is how well you know how the two polyrhythms interact.. you need to know what they sound like when combined. So no amount of HS practice will do you any good (I mean, it helps to a certain extent of course to be able to play each of those polyrhythms on separate hands.. so if you can't already do that, its probably useful to do that. I'm talking about people who already know their basic single hand polyrhythms).
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Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1710196 - 07/09/11 12:56 PM Re: Indepence of hands [Re: polyphasicpianist]
chercherchopin Offline
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Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
Just to clarify, I never said Hands separate practice was useless. All I have shown was that it doesn't make your hands more independent. That's it.

Thanks for clarifying, as that seems different from what you wrote here:

Quote:
So if anyone practices hands separately because they think this will make practising hands together easier, then they are just wrong and wasting their time.

If I read that correctly, you were saying that HS practice doesn't make your hands more coordinated.

But, as you go on to say, 'in a nutshell, I said it ultimately does not matter whether you learn a piece hands separate first or hands together first' -- so I guess in this broader context both readings make sense.
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