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#2043254 - 03/05/13 08:47 AM Some questions on hand independance
Smiss Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/30/12
Posts: 13
Hi PW!


I haven't played for long (don't know if I would even call it playing) anyway my question is about hand independance.

Im basically a complete beginner but ive been trying to play abit here and there before buying my own DP.

As far as ive understand hand independance comes from pratice but my question is more about how to practice, let me explain.

One of the pieces ive been wanting to learn is river flows in you by yiruma (yes I know waaaay above my level and I also know that I need to practice easier stuff before) and I can't play it yet (no suprise). But ive been trying an easier version just for fun with chords played in the left hand as opposed to scales and ive noticed that im able to play chords decently and can keep them at a ok rhythm while playing a melody in the right hand because usually you press a chord with left hand and a key with right hand at the same time. I also manage to play scales in left hand if only that hand is playing that part and then the right hand continues from where the left hand stopped, as long as only one hand is playing scales im able to do it decently in either hand.

Now to the problem any piece, dosen't matter which if the left hand is supposed to do a simple scale progression at a steady rhythm while the right hand plays a melody i pretty much come to a complete stop. I seem to be able to do stuff when the hands are in synch but when different rhythms / patterns are required from each hand im done.

So my question is what is the best way of practicing to get better at this? I understand this takes time and some of the pieces ive been trying for fun probably is a long way ahead but I still wanna get better at hand independace =)

thanks for reading.

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#2043268 - 03/05/13 09:25 AM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
Andy Platt Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2424
Loc: Virginia, USA
Different rhythms stop me dead in my tracks when sight reading so it's not a problem that gets "solved" easily ... wink

This is one of the most common issues facing beginning pianists. Golden rules are quite simple (but surprisingly difficult to actually put into practice): Slow down until you can do it easily (that might be really really slow); get each hand separately mastered and then (slowly again) try to put it together. Mix those up as needed for a specific phrase.
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#2043276 - 03/05/13 09:44 AM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1100
Loc: Southern California
I found offset scales to be a useful beginner exercise. They can be parallel (same note) or contrary (one hand starts at the top of the scale, the other at the bottom). The offset is half a beat. So start with the right, play a note, half a beat later, play a note on the left. Continue on down or up the scale. Then have the left hand lead and the right hand follow.

It sounds very simple to the advanced beginner, but I found it difficult at first and found it to be a useful way to help with hand independence. Next, a person can play two notes or three notes on one hand and then follow with the other, moving up and down a scale.

As far as the piece, take one bar, and break it down into micro beats, say four or eight sub-beats per beat. Figure out when each hand goes, or if both go during each micro beat. Then slow it way, way down and carefully play it correctly with the count you have figured out. At some very slow speed it will be doable. Repeat. Some on the forum say repeat five times without errors, starting that five count over if there are any mistakes, and then end for the day.
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#2043355 - 03/05/13 12:29 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
Smiss Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/30/12
Posts: 13
Thank you both for your answers! I will try out your methods.

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#2043408 - 03/05/13 02:35 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1178
Since you mentioned not having a piano yet, I would recommend also just tapping the different rhythms with your hands, or with the specific fingers you would use while playing. It simplifies things for you by taking away the additional task of playing the right notes properly.

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#2043430 - 03/05/13 03:19 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5381
Loc: Philadelphia
The most common issue here is that the hands alternate moving "together", then "opposite", then "together again", then "opposite again". What I mean is not rhythm, but motion. This quickly-changing motion causes a lot of problems for experienced pianists, let alone beginning pianists.

If we could sit down together, I could show you several ways to work through this, but over the internet, I can only offer one. Slow down until you can play it right. Go as slow as you need to. Line up the notes vertically--make sure the LH and RH play together when they are supposed to. Feel that pulse, and let it drive your playing.

When you feel like you can speed it up a little, don't. Keep it slow.
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#2043546 - 03/05/13 07:37 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Smiss]
beechcraft409 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/11
Posts: 192
Especially when first beginning, slowing it down and not overwhelming yourself is key. Even if it is so slow it doesn't sound like music, the immediate goal isn't to make music, it is to learn how to use your hands together. Find something with a single whole note in the left hand and 4 quarter notes in the right, I started with a little beginner version of 'Let It Be' that was just like I described.
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#2043632 - 03/05/13 10:36 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: beechcraft409]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Slowing down as everybody says is the key. I would only add one thing. If you have to slow it down so much in order to play correctly making the piece seem too long to get through, then the music is really just too hard for you at the moment. Put it away and come back to it in a few months and see if it's easier then.
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#2044029 - 03/06/13 04:49 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: 4evrBeginR]
Quarkomatic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/10
Posts: 75
Loc: Toronto, ON, Canada
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
Slowing down as everybody says is the key. I would only add one thing. If you have to slow it down so much in order to play correctly making the piece seem too long to get through, then the music is really just too hard for you at the moment. Put it away and come back to it in a few months and see if it's easier then.


I have to disagree with this. To get both hands playing together when the rhythms are different, it's very helpful to go as slow as 1 beat every 4 seconds, with each syllable in 1-e-&-a lasting a full second. But often times, after playing it at that tempo a few times, it will suddenly click. I don't think you can judge the overall difficulty of the piece by the degree to which you have to slow down a complex section just to get it for the first time.

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#2044042 - 03/06/13 05:19 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Quarkomatic]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5381
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Quarkomatic
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
Slowing down as everybody says is the key. I would only add one thing. If you have to slow it down so much in order to play correctly making the piece seem too long to get through, then the music is really just too hard for you at the moment. Put it away and come back to it in a few months and see if it's easier then.


I have to disagree with this. To get both hands playing together when the rhythms are different, it's very helpful to go as slow as 1 beat every 4 seconds, with each syllable in 1-e-&-a lasting a full second. But often times, after playing it at that tempo a few times, it will suddenly click. I don't think you can judge the overall difficulty of the piece by the degree to which you have to slow down a complex section just to get it for the first time.

Sorry, but I have to strongly disagree. If you need to slow it down that much, then your time would be better spent on other things. There is no reason to slow the music down to q=15.

I'm not going to say, "Don't try that piece because it's too hard for you," but I will say that your time would be far better spent working on overcoming the technical issues that cause you to have to go that slow.
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#2044047 - 03/06/13 05:27 PM Re: Some questions on hand independance [Re: Quarkomatic]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
There is some truth to what you say, but if you have to slow so much to 1 beat every 4 seconds in order to figure out something, your technical skills, in particular your sight reading skill is not up to the challenge of the piece in front of you.

Or another possibility is that you didn't developed your sight reading skills, or your reading skills did not keep up as you advance in repertoire. This is a pretty common problem. I think not being able maintain their sightreading level with their repertoire level puts lots of beginners in a rut as they find learning more advanced music taking more and more time.

I was experiencing this just when I registered for piano exam and frantically had to get caught up to the sight reading and hearing portion of the exam. Only 2 months into this preparation, I find that all my current music got significantly easier to learn. My teacher even commented last lesson that I made a lot of progress for a new piece in just one week. I have all my sight reading exam books all the way to level 10 and at level 10, you must be able to sight read more or less at the correct tempo level 7 repertoire. Can you imagine if your sight reading skill was only at level 3 when faced with level 10 repertoire? This is probably one of several reasons why it is so hard for beginners to get past intermediate piano.

In any case, my point is, at some point, you must be able to simply sight read a complicated rhythm and play on-demand, without needing to count 1e+a. Eventually, you reduce it to 1+2+3+... then at some point, you should be able to play the complex rhythm just counting 1,2,3. Ok, I'm not at the 1,2,3 counting phase yet, but that's what my teacher tells me, and she could play counting only 1,2,3 with some seriously complex rhythm in between the beats.
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