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#2033305 - 02/14/13 08:52 PM Single purpose fast hand independence learning
Grayhawk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 4
Here is a crazy but specific keyboard hand independence technique question.

Let's say you have an aspiring pianist who can play the basic blues piano chords in A minor, can improvise on a blues scale in A minor, but his hand independence is terrible. He stumbles when trying to improvise on piano when the left hand chords have any more complex rhythm than whole notes. He wants NOTHING ELSE ON PIANO, just the ability for some improv in A minor with syncopated left hand chords that stay in proper rhythm...maybe a simple 1950's blues-rock bassline or two as a bonus.

He can give you $1 million if you give him advice that he can use to achieve this simple hand independence goal in 30 days with less than 30 minutes of daily practice on a synthesizer (no pedals).

What would your advice be?

I'm mainly a guitarist and not actually with $1 million, but I thought it would be cool to learn how to jam on piano. This is inspired by The Four Hour Chef book's rapid learning section, for those familiar with it - don't learn everything, just learn the barest minimum of things that allow you to do what you want to do most, and put laser-intense focus on it in the time you have.

I can't afford the investment of time right now to go full blast into making my piano skills match my guitar skills, but two handed syncopated improv sure would be enjoyable and useful. What is my next step?

Thank you.

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#2033342 - 02/14/13 09:28 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Independent playing with two hands is one of the most difficult challenges that face new pianists. Typically they can do as you can, i.e. play a single note (or single chord) with the left hand and a simple melody with the right hand. And many struggle with that.

What you are asking is a skill that is typically built slowly as new brain mapping occurs.

Adding in syncopated rhythms ratchets up this equation more than a few notches. As a Classically trained Blues piano player, I found that it was a slow and laborious process to gain that ability.

Also, in my years of teaching, I have taught numerous Classical or Pop pianists who can play those styles decently with both hands, yet they experienced considerable difficulty learning to play a syncopated Blues rhythm and a lead with both hands as you describe.

If your skill level is limited to a whole note/chord (4 beats) with the left hand, and you want to go to syncopated rhythms, that is a huge quantum leap.

Short of having an outstanding latent ability/talent, there is no magic pill that I am aware of, and even then one would likely have to work quite a bit more than 30 minutes a day for just 30 days.

Bottom line: What you call "A simple hand independence goal" is absolutely not simple.


Edited by rocket88 (02/14/13 11:32 PM)
Edit Reason: clarity
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#2033464 - 02/15/13 12:16 AM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5344
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Grayhawk
He can give you $1 million if you give him advice that he can use to achieve this simple hand independence goal in 30 days with less than 30 minutes of daily practice on a synthesizer (no pedals).

What would your advice be?

Keep the money.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2033553 - 02/15/13 07:02 AM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: rocket88]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2107
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Independent playing with two hands is one of the most difficult challenges that face new pianists....
What you are asking is a skill that is typically built slowly as new brain mapping occurs....

Adding in syncopated rhythms ratchets up this equation more than a few notches....

Bottom line: What you call "A simple hand independence goal" is absolutely not simple.


From my understanding of physiology. I think this is training your nervous system, and autonomic mind. I do know of a man, who can help you to retrain this probably as well, or better than anyone. It will surprise you how well he understands exercise physiology. It won't be quick. He is not cheap. You can set up a call with him. His name is Scott Sonnon. He has a website.
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Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2033576 - 02/15/13 08:07 AM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: rnaple]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5344
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: rnaple
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Independent playing with two hands is one of the most difficult challenges that face new pianists....
What you are asking is a skill that is typically built slowly as new brain mapping occurs....

Adding in syncopated rhythms ratchets up this equation more than a few notches....

Bottom line: What you call "A simple hand independence goal" is absolutely not simple.


From my understanding of physiology. I think this is training your nervous system, and autonomic mind. I do know of a man, who can help you to retrain this probably as well, or better than anyone. It will surprise you how well he understands exercise physiology. It won't be quick. He is not cheap. You can set up a call with him. His name is Scott Sonnon. He has a website.

I know a few people who can do the same. I think I even met Scott once.. probably a Sambo workshop, but I don't remember.

But I think you missed the OP's sentiment where he doesn't want to put any time or effort into it, and also wants to accomplish the goal in less than 30 days. That's why I said to keep his money.
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#2033582 - 02/15/13 08:18 AM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Derulux]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Did you miss the part where the OP said he did not have the money? laugh
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#2033727 - 02/15/13 01:03 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
One of my first threads here over 6 years ago was about hand independence. No short cuts but time and lots of practice. Even today there are difficult hand independence areas for me, but much better.

Doing two hand scales helps to start...

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#2033778 - 02/15/13 02:51 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Grayhawk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 4
What a great forum! Lots of fast replies.

Rocket88 - Thank you for the thoughtful response, especially since you have the specific skill I was thinking about.

Rnaple - I heard of Scott Sonnon from his flexibility/mobility fitness videos where he has crazy reverb on his voice. If that is that the same guy he has a Navy SEAL workout on the web but I probably couldn't afford private counseling even if he offered it.

Mark - Yes, that has been a starting point for me but it hasn't improved my improv except for better fingerings on the right hand.

Derulux - Thanks for watching out for my financial future! smile

It's not that "he doesn't want to put any time or effort into it" rather it's just 30 minutes a day, hopefully to reach a specific goal relatively quickly by ignoring anything in that practice time that doesn't fit the goal.

15 hours of focused work (whether in a month or any other time frame) is substantial whether its yard work, building a guitar in the garage, or learning to juggle. I have to believe big steps could be made relatively quickly if that's the focus of daily training time.

In fact, after testing myself on some drum kit music I saw last night, I realized my independent hand movements were pretty terrible. I am not a drummer but everyone needs this kind of skill for hand independence.

I think drum-book-style rhythm practice, whether at the keyboard or slapping a leg with each hand to match the drum lines may help bring my independence up faster. It'll be a good experiment anyway if no one else has crazy breakthrough ideas to attempt.

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#2033820 - 02/15/13 04:19 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1082
Loc: Southern California
Here are a few comments from a novice (me).
Find YouTube videos or recordings that demonstrate what you seek. Some have mentioned software (Transcribe or Audacity) that will slow the sound way down, so a person can hear it more clearly.

Find people that can do what you want. They will not want to teach you for free, but you might be able to ask a question or two to help you along, or at least be able to observe them live (much better than YouTube).

Someone on the Achievement of the Week thread suggested breaking down each bar or music into tiny parts. Instead of four beats, break each beat down into sub-beats. Then for each sub-beat, is it left hand, right hand or both hands? At full speed, it might be something like 80 sub-beats (vs. 4 regular beats) for one measure of music. Slow it way down, to super-slow-motion and get the left hand, right hand, both hands, coordination at super slow speed, 1/20 then 1/10 then 1/4 speed and so on.

Cooking is not the best parallel for learning to play music. With cooking, fresh, high quality ingredients, some basic tools, and some basic skills and the food may not be fine dining but it will taste pretty good. In music, a beginner is almost always going to sound like a beginner. There are few exceptions, but it is like 1%.

Yes, some music students make better use of their learning time than others, but that seems to be more a factor of wasting time or spinning wheels vs. finding short cuts to advance quickly. Those that use short cuts often have shallow or hollow achievements.

It would be nice if it were like the movie "The Matrix," where a person could take a pill and then download a new skill in a few moments. Then again, if it didn't require any time to learn anything, nothing would be much of an achievement.

Anyway, good luck on your journey, and upload some recordings or videos if you get closer to where you want to go.
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#2033835 - 02/15/13 04:50 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5344
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Grayhawk
What a great forum! Lots of fast replies.

Derulux - Thanks for watching out for my financial future! smile

It's not that "he doesn't want to put any time or effort into it" rather it's just 30 minutes a day, hopefully to reach a specific goal relatively quickly by ignoring anything in that practice time that doesn't fit the goal.

15 hours of focused work (whether in a month or any other time frame) is substantial whether its yard work, building a guitar in the garage, or learning to juggle. I have to believe big steps could be made relatively quickly if that's the focus of daily training time.

In fact, after testing myself on some drum kit music I saw last night, I realized my independent hand movements were pretty terrible. I am not a drummer but everyone needs this kind of skill for hand independence.

I think drum-book-style rhythm practice, whether at the keyboard or slapping a leg with each hand to match the drum lines may help bring my independence up faster. It'll be a good experiment anyway if no one else has crazy breakthrough ideas to attempt.

Anytime. wink

Here's the reason what you're asking is far more difficult that it sounds: you really aren't looking for hand independence. Why? There's no such thing. The human brain is quite literally unable to perform parallel processing. So, independence is not possible. What you really are after is interdependence.

It takes time, dedication, and proper technique to achieve a fluid result. Chances are, if you can't do it now, there are underlying technique issues that have to be corrected first, before you can get to applying that technique to learning interdependence.

It takes more than 15 hours to hammer out and correct something you're doing wrong, particularly at the speed of piano playing.

You are correct that, if you had no other underlying issues, anyone could probably teach you syncopated rhythms in about five minutes. However, if you're already musically-inclined (you play the guitar, so I'll say 'yes' to that), and still can't figure it out, it's not the skill itself that's the problem. It's something else, which takes much longer to 'fix'.
_________________________
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#2033847 - 02/15/13 05:15 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7099
Loc: So. California
Just a thought.

30 min x 30 days is pretty much impossible.
But
5 min x 180 days would yield better results.

It's just the nature of the beast (building neural connections). So at least this gives a better framework to your objective. I'm not sure anyway what would need to occur in 30 minutes if the issue being learned is so limited.

Of course, this is an oversimplification though it gives an explanation of the learning process on the piano. Playing ANYTHING on the piano is a combination of so many different skills. Just learning to hit the piano and getting the desired tone, ALONE, is a big deal.

So those of us who have learned quickly have learned to do as I describe above. 5 minutes for an issue but maybe there's 10-20 issues to be handled. By the time 180 days come, progress is usually measurable. And what I'm saying is that this is not an Economics class where "all things being equal" you don't need to work on anything else. That is rather unlikely.
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#2033894 - 02/15/13 06:34 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Grayhawk, drumming is a very good path to what you want. Not exact, but builds similar skills.

Also, what Jazzwee said is right on the money. Much of what we learn at the piano matures over time, and specifically during sleep.

Thus, your practices of any one thing such as a particular rhythm should be short and perfect, i.e. go as slow as necessary to not make mistakes. This is because the old adage "practice makes perfect" is wrong.

The truth is that "practice makes permanent"... so carefully install clear and precise data into your mind/body learning system, and do it in small digestible bites, with intervals of time for the information to be assimilated.

Which is why a short time limit for learning such things is unrealistic.

Good luck to you in your quest, and all the best.

_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2033926 - 02/15/13 07:48 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Probably my favorite explanation of the topic jazzwee brought up, below - and hey, it's also by jazzwee!

http://jazzwee-blog.blogspot.com/2010/12/practice-secret-accept-that-daily.html

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#2033945 - 02/15/13 08:30 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Bobpickle]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7099
Loc: So. California
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Probably my favorite explanation of the topic jazzwee brought up, below - and hey, it's also by jazzwee!

http://jazzwee-blog.blogspot.com/2010/12/practice-secret-accept-that-daily.html


Thanks for the mention bobpickle! I forgot I wrote that!
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#2035089 - 02/18/13 02:17 AM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: jazzwee]
Grayhawk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 4
Thank for the additional responses everyone!

Sand Tiger - if your choice of the cooking analogy was because of "The Four Hour Chef" title I mentioned, the book is actually about accelerated learning with cooking being a big case study (and the author trying as hard as possible to make himself sound like the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World). It would be an interesting experiment to see if I could reach a good two-handed improv in record time.

My plan is to see if I can be like Deep Blue: A machine that is not meant to play chess in general, but specifically to beat Garry Kasparov. Of course, I'll want to see where a month of progress takes me on that score, and I can't help but imagine it will spill over into improvements elsewhere on piano and beyond.

Micro-subdividing and slow metronome work will be a major component of making this happen since the specific problem is making each hand coordinate in different rhythms. I love the blog post too Jazzwee. Congrats on your progress!

In that post you suggested working on a lot of things so practice accumulates skill in many ways. But a lot of the things I am working on (being less of a barbarian at music theory, note reading, and ear training, for starters) will be incorporated into my "other" practice. So each day, there will be a lot of "little" things that improve. But on the keyboard if I just build up some different right hand rhythms to simulate soloing while keeping the left hand trained with just a handful of syncopated beats, I might get comfortable enough to achieve this ability.

It'll be an interesting experiment anyway! In some ways coming up with the practice plans is as fun as playing itself.

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#2035264 - 02/18/13 12:25 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
krzyzowski Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/10
Posts: 108
You want to improvise.
You need total hand independence.
The left hand must NEVER be affected by the right.
This should not be hard as your brain already multi-tasks many things all the time.
Multi-task things a 5yr old can do:

Ride a bike
Play video games
Dance
Juggle
Other

Watch rock/blues/boogie players closely and see that their left is amazingly solid.
They often move or tap feet to assist syncope.
You don't need a piano to tap hand rythms, so you can practice anywhere.

Many classic players don't want independence.
Bach inventions are used to help with hand separation.
This activity must be thought of as being different from piano pedagogy, because you are really drumming, and "Never play a piano like drum" comes to mind..

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#2055724 - 03/28/13 02:33 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Grayhawk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 4
It is one month later and I want to report the results.

I am Deep Blue! Sometimes I can get 12 bars right all the way straight through! My rhythm skills are good enough to consistently get at least 10 out 12 bars of a 12 bar blues exactly correct, the other two bars are sloppy but close, and it's more a matter of piano proficiency for memorizing exactly which fingers go where than the two handed skills. With a little more time I suspect it will be "perfect" improvisation. I did not make 30 minutes a day, it was closer to 10. But it can happen fast if you focus on it!

As Krzyzowski says, look at the old boogie, blues, and rock guys– the hands must be totally independent. So I was thinking about comments by Derulux that says they must be interdependent.

This is how it must be done:

Each hand must be totally independent of the other.
Each hand must independently be totally dependent on the beat.

Early on I tried and discarded some ideas, including getting too far into the drum work. Once I could do syncopated two handed lines by slapping hands on my leg, there were diminishing returns relative to putting hands on keys. Drum work for rhythm is ABSOLUTELY needed for the start to get comfortable with any rhythmic complexities. But to know where my fingers are, I need to practice putting them on the piano.

I chose one bass rhythm: dotted quarter, dotted quarter, eighth. Simple syncopation but I like it.

I played against that with simple right handed lines, getting more complex. It sounded more like "Walk Don't Run" than true blues, but at least I had practice I could measure and speed up that didn't require improv yet.

After getting up to 120bpm on eighth notes against the rhythm, improvisation wasn't tough at all. It's knowing your way around piano IN GENERAL, rather than a particular two-handed independence skill, that makes it happen. Improv now, unto itself, is a fun way to practice the two handed benefits.

The downside:

1) No one gives free cookies out just for learning how to do this so quickly except the sample lady at Costco.
2) Now that I can do something cool on piano, I want to do more! You can focus and get just one thing done, but it would be handy to have more skills to spill together into "just being good." Practicing in A did not allow me to transfer it to another key since each key in piano has a few fingering differences.
3) It showed me how rhythmically terrible my guitar playing was. Metronome practice means everything!
4) My rhythm practice exercises didn't get more complex than eighth notes, and I find that my improv rarely uses anything more complex than eighth notes. Back to "drumming" for sixteenths and maybe some triplet patterns before I take them to the keyboard.
5) Playing without the metronome, which I only started doing two days ago, was shocking. I needed at least a bad 12 bar playthrough before I got close to sounding like the skill level I had when the metronome was on. Playing "free" is a nice skill to have, and that means syncing everything with the beat, even if it can't be heard.

Still though...I got the goal! I can jam with two-hands now. I didn't have to spend a million dollars to get it! No one else seems to be impressed beyond the point of "that's cool" with a head nod, but it proves a little focused time can build focused results and I'm thrilled with that. Good times jamming ahead!

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#2056240 - 03/29/13 01:10 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1082
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: Grayhawk
It is one month later and I want to report the results.

I am Deep Blue!
...
I chose one bass rhythm: dotted quarter, dotted quarter, eighth. Simple syncopation but I like it.

I played against that with simple right handed lines, getting more complex. It sounded more like "Walk Don't Run" than true blues, but at least I had practice I could measure and speed up that didn't require improv yet.
...

Still though...I got the goal! I can jam with two-hands now. I didn't have to spend a million dollars to get it!


Good for you Grayhawk. That is quite the achievement for one month. I'm sure you'll do much more in a couple of more months, perhaps enough to want to record and upload and share on the Piano Bar thread or the forum recital.
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#2100428 - 06/10/13 03:49 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
plunkit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/13
Posts: 20
3 months later, here I come...

I worked on this challenge with a guitar first, and later on with piano. My best strategy was to keep my foot going, tap-tap-tap.... Try the left hand against this rythm. Count aloud or in your head (one-and-a,two-and-a,) and make sense of the bass line against that. One hand at a time, with the foot, with the counting. Be a perfectionist. Blues is about rythm, for some of us.

When you get a few bars down with the left hand then work on the right hand, again all alone except for foot and counting. Way down the road then you can start to put these two hands together. If both hands make sense against the foot rythm and counting, they will probably slide in together eventually. And the payoff is that some exciting blues rythms come out of putting the hands together...when each has learned its part independent of the other. Think Jimmy Yancey. Even Fats Domino. Dr. John. Professor Longhair.

Of course you may well play much better than I do, but your question reminded me that I've worked on this a lot myself, and this was the way that worked best for me.
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#2100440 - 06/10/13 04:11 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8582
Loc: Georgia, USA
I too struggle with left-hand/right-hand independence. And, like rocket88, I love boogie-woogie and blues. Of course, rocket88 is a real pro at it… don’t think I’ve heard any boogie/blues piano players any better! smile

I must say that the repetitiveness of it is what helps me. Once you get a particular boogie style going in the left hand, you can put it on auto pilot and concentrate on the right hand.

As far as my non-boogie playing, I’ve learned that you don’t have to keep the left hand on the low bass all the time; this allows more left hand work in the middle register, close to the right hand. Also, it is my view that the left and right hands are never completely independent… they always work together in some fashion.

On the other hand… wait, there’s not another hand except the left and right. smile

Rick
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#2100605 - 06/10/13 08:16 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5344
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Rickster
Also, it is my view that the left and right hands are never completely independent… they always work together in some fashion.

thumb 100% agree.
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Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2100640 - 06/10/13 09:35 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: Grayhawk]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1720
Loc: Australia
I have been working daily on hand independence since starting my piano journey seven months ago. If there was a easy way to do I would have found it by now. As everyone says it is just a slow build up and neither did my 40 years of playing guitar give me any advantage. In my own experience I made some positive advancement when I recognized how weak my left hand fingers were and really concentrated on exercises to strengthen them.
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#2100678 - 06/10/13 10:52 PM Re: Single purpose fast hand independence learning [Re: earlofmar]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5344
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
I have been working daily on hand independence since starting my piano journey seven months ago. If there was a easy way to do I would have found it by now. As everyone says it is just a slow build up and neither did my 40 years of playing guitar give me any advantage. In my own experience I made some positive advancement when I recognized how weak my left hand fingers were and really concentrated on exercises to strengthen them.

I disagree with the idea that your fingers are weak. You played the guitar for 40 years, so by now you must be an adult. I bet you can squeeze a ball much harder than a 12 year-old. But there are some fabulous 12 year old pianists.

(It has nothing to do with "poor strength". It's actually "poor technique" that's to blame. wink )
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