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#1961897 - 09/21/12 01:32 AM piano hands - separate - together!
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
A timely event. I just stopped in at the local university music library and grabbed the lastest copy of a piano magazine to thumb through, "International Piano" UK.

As a beginner, most of the articles are over my head.

I have just finished Leila Fletcher Piano Book 1. Like all book ones, it deals with learning the notes and playing one hand then the other in each piece and a couple of examples of hands together for a few notes.

Like most piano Book 2s, they deal with teaching hands together.

As I struggled with hands together, I recalled what
caught my attention, Ogawa, commenting in "International Piano" UK magazine:

"One thing I always strongly recommend is separate hand practice to know everything about the hand and what it is doing.

It may seem like a long way around but in the end it is really a shortcut."

Six measures long per line, I played the right hand four times. Then I played the left hand four times.
I tried to play the hands together and I could tell the good and the bad. I could tell that it helped as I tried to play hands together but I realized as a dyslexic I needed way more practice. Next I practiced the first line, right hand 12 times and then I practiced the left hand 12 times.

I attempted to play hands together. I would describe playing the hands separate at the slow speed of a second hand of a watch, but when I did the hands together it was at the speed of the big hand of a watch which is so slow that one can just barely notice the hands moving through the measures. But it was an awesome experience because as I crawled through the measures, I realized I would have to return to the piano 10 or 20 times to bring the piece up to speed.

What happens is that when one plays the right hand, you hear the music and you feel your fingers playing the notes of the right hand and then when you play left hand, you hear the music and you feel your fingers playing the notes of the left hand separately. So when you play your hands together, the little brain and fingers try to struggle though the music with the added memory of the hands played separately and it works. Very slowly it works! .

So Ogawa is right. It seems like the long way around but it is really a shortcut.

Now if one is having trouble with timing, then obvously one has to work through each measure separately to make sure the note counts are right in your brain, but if it is just playing hands together only, then practice hands separately is the way to go.

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#1961918 - 09/21/12 02:41 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Michael_99]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 900
Loc: Italy
And another useful thing: clap your RH on your thigh while playing the LH, and vice-versa. Supposedly a drummer's trick to keep the right rhythm (according to the piano-ology guy on YouTube).
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#1961937 - 09/21/12 03:48 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Michael_99]
MaryAnn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/11
Posts: 388
Loc: Japan
I tend to hum/sing the RH as I play the LF as well. It doesn't work so well in the other direction since the melody is usually in the RH. I have also resorted to recording the RH on my iPhone so that I can play it while practicing the LH. This works best with the metronome on, both to keep the timing tight and so I know when to jump in with the LH.

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#1961944 - 09/21/12 04:06 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: sinophilia]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: sinophilia
And another useful thing: clap your RH on your thigh while playing the LH, and vice-versa. Supposedly a drummer's trick to keep the right rhythm (according to the piano-ology guy on YouTube).

I can't do it. I have no rhythm problems, hands together. But I can only tap LH while playing RH, which I do to demonstrate to students what is happening. When I reverse it, I lose physical control of the RH beat. And I don't know why.

As for hands together - or not - it's all about what gets the job done fastest. For very obvious reasons you want to learn to play as well as possible, hands together, otherwise you will never be able to sightread anything.

I would only say get hands together ASAP. If ASAP is after a week or a month and something is REALLY important, it's OK. But don't make a habit of learning everything that way.
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#1961993 - 09/21/12 09:11 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Michael_99]
atinm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Cambridge, MA
My issue with HT (hand-together) vs HS (hands separate) is that HT seems to require different "muscle-memory" . . . personally I've found that if I can do either hand separately just fine, it does not mean that I will be able to play HT, not even close. I just run into the same issues as if I tried HT at the start of learning a piece, the only plus being that I have the parts memorized as at my level the pieces are very low level. On the other hand(!), doing HT slowly, basically at the slowest speed that I can keep reading/playing and then increasing the speed as I get comfortable is the only way I can learn HT! But this might just be me and the low level pieces I am learning. Maybe at higher levels I will have to do hands separate. I have been reading interviews with many famous pianists and they all have different ways of learning new pieces, some do HS and other do HT slowly. I might fall into the HT slowly column (though I will never actually be a famous pianist such that someone interviews me for a book wink ). My goal is to be able to sight-read anything at my level and so HT is really the only way I can practice given that goal so it works out.


Edited by atinm (09/21/12 09:13 AM)

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#1962001 - 09/21/12 09:33 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Gary D.]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I would only say get hands together ASAP. If ASAP is after a week or a month and something is REALLY important, it's OK. But don't make a habit of learning everything that way.


Thats right. The final memory learning is going to be hands together, so you want to imprint that ASAP.

Do hands separate for a few times to get familiar with the notes and fingering, but put hands together very soon, going as slow as necessary. Super Super Slow is fine.
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#1962020 - 09/21/12 10:33 AM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Michael_99]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2333
Loc: Virginia, USA
I very seldom start anything hands separate these days. But what I find it incredibly useful for is phrasing. It's very difficult to hear how you are phrasing the melody when playing both hands - or vice-versa for the accompaniment. And bringing a piece up to speed is often easier if you get the "harder hand" (there usually is one!) up to speed (or even better) first and then add back in the other hand.

Lastly, memory. Well I have to disagree a little. For so called "muscle" memory, yes, hands together. But for it to stick in your brain, doing sections hands separate as well as together really helps.
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#1962079 - 09/21/12 01:17 PM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: rocket88]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 896
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I would only say get hands together ASAP. If ASAP is after a week or a month and something is REALLY important, it's OK. But don't make a habit of learning everything that way.


Thats right. The final memory learning is going to be hands together, so you want to imprint that ASAP.

Do hands separate for a few times to get familiar with the notes and fingering, but put hands together very soon, going as slow as necessary. Super Super Slow is fine.
Agree. Once you know the notes and have any weird fingerings worked out, I think it's more beneficial to see how the 2 hands work together than to master each hand separately. Don't think of it as 2 separate parts, but two hands creating one rhythmic part.

Michael, I think your success came from better familiarity with each hand. When you were able to play both hands together, I'm guessing that something finally clicked and you could see and feel how the hands were working together to create that specific pattern.

Having said that, there is no one path to success and everyone learns differently. However it worked, the point is it worked and that's a pretty cool thing. Try it on another song and see if it works again.
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#1962092 - 09/21/12 01:48 PM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: rocket88]
Bentissimo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/12
Posts: 31
Loc: Illinois, USA
Originally Posted By: rocket88

Do hands separate for a few times to get familiar with the notes and fingering, but put hands together very soon, going as slow as necessary. Super Super Slow is fine.


Agreed. Unless something looks pretty difficult I just start HT and go slow. If I do HS, it's once or twice through just to get the 'feel' and fill in fingerings if needed. I've tried doing the whole 'play each hand separately 20 times and then go HT and it will all magically come together', but that never seems to work for me. HT feels like a completely separate chunk of muscle memory that ignores the HS chunks (note the impressive technical language).
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#1962103 - 09/21/12 02:04 PM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: Michael_99]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Bentissimo, Your language gets the point across, so its fine!

As for learning HS vs HT, I recently tried to play a rather complex phrase of a Classical piece that I knew well, but playing it with just one hand, and was surprised that I was lost, could not play it well.

Then I played it HT, and it was fine.

Non-scientific confirmation that the final memory map is HT, so that is what you should practice at the earliest practical step in your practicing.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1962107 - 09/21/12 02:15 PM Re: piano hands - separate - together! [Re: rocket88]
packa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/05
Posts: 1397
Loc: Dallas, TX
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Non-scientific confirmation that the final memory map is HT, so that is what you should practice at the earliest practical step in your practicing.

Or, it's nonscientific confirmation that if your final map is ONLY HT (i.e. you can't play it any other way), then your musical knowledge of the piece is incomplete. At least, this seemed to be the view of both of my major teachers, who often asked me to play short sections of just the melody or just the left hand of a piece when working through various theoretical or interpretive issues. Even when I have largely "learned" a piece, I still sometimes practice just part of one hand or another for various reasons.
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