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#2116552 - 07/12/13 10:12 AM Hand independence suggestions
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1098
Loc: Southern California
Bill Hilton suggests some hand independence exercises on Youtube. These include:
* contrary and parallel scales
* play scales with the weaker hand, and a simple repeating bass pattern with the dominant
* playing a piece you know, reversing the roles, have the left play the treble notes, the right play the bass
* Many Baroque pieces can be good practice

Hilton suggest some other scale work, such as doing different keys left and right (eg: C major scale on the left, G major on the right), doing basic scales on one hand, and thirds on the other. He also says something about jazz players warming up on Baroque music to help them to get ready for live improvisation. The connection between Jazz and Baroque is interesting.

As a beginner I found most of the suggestions to be rather difficult to neigh impossible. One exercise I found on my own was offset scales. Play one hand half a beat behind the other, then have the other hand lead.

Hilton says to keep doing the exercises, that the hands never really become independent. That thousands and thousands of reps are needed by most people to get to a reasonable skill level.

I'm sure there are more things to try, and those reading along have their favorites that they will mention. A search turned up several threads on the topic, though some were back to 2005 and 2008.
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#2116565 - 07/12/13 10:51 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
keyboardplaying1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/10
Posts: 52
Loc: Winnipeg
The second exercise you mention is good, try coming up with random patterns besides scales in the weak hand, start slow and gradually make it faster.

At least for me, I find that even when I'm playing an exercise or piece with my left hand playing a melody, and the right hand playing bass notes, it still feels like my right hand is leading, and with the left hand I'm just trying to hit the right notes at the right times, without thinking of it as a melody. It seems that you have to get past this type of thinking to really get good hand independence.

Maybe try playing melodies with the left hand alone, focus on expression and dynamics, then add a right accompaniment only when you feel ready?

Anyway, that's all I've got
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#2116752 - 07/12/13 08:13 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: keyboardplaying1]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1098
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: keyboardplaying1

Maybe try playing melodies with the left hand alone, focus on expression and dynamics, then add a right accompaniment only when you feel ready?


Thanks for the reply. I tried playing melody with the left hand on Ashokan Farewell. It was humbling. If anyone tries some of the other suggestions, please report in.
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#2116807 - 07/13/13 12:09 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger
* play scales with the weaker hand, and a simple repeating bass pattern with the dominant
* playing a piece you know, reversing the roles, have the left play the treble notes, the right play the bass
* Many Baroque pieces can be good practice


I've read that conventional parallel motion scales are actually of zero pedagogical value in this context because they teach your hands to move in sympathetic (the opposite of independent) motion. (http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2173.msg18976#msg18976)

I have, however, read things that confirm the above three suggestions. I believe there's especially great value in playing baroque repertoire, because of all of the great (musically and didactically) polyphonic and contrapuntal compositions produced therein. In terms of what these could do for a pianist's technique and musicianship, the benefits are staggering.

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#2116812 - 07/13/13 12:33 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5375
Loc: Philadelphia
My two cents: if you're having hand "independence" issues, it's a technique problem; nothing more. There are several ways to attack it. One is to flop parts around and play them with other hands, and change rhythms, and do all kinds of things that might help you figure out what's wrong with your technique in that one instance.

The other, and in my opinion, better way, is to address what, exactly, is wrong with your technique so you don't fight this problem every time you sit down to the piano.
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#2116825 - 07/13/13 01:23 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
Tubbie0075 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 544
I find that when I practice scales, I usually lead with my right hand. I find it quite interesting to consciously taking the lead with the left instead.

When learning new pieces, practice hands separately. Listen to the left hand when you put the two together. If you find it hard to listen, make the left hand louder than the right (as if it's the melody). Baroque music is good because of contrapuntal (2 or more melodic lines interwoven in the music) so the left hand plays the melodic line here are there and it makes you listen to the left more.

Good luck!

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#2116827 - 07/13/13 01:24 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
For me, the key was getting more comfortable simply tapping different rhythms with each hand. I might have one hand repeat some simple-ish pattern, while the other taps more adventuresome counter-rhythms. Or I would have the adventuresome hand read rhythms while the other hand kept a counter-beat. That latter option is also great for helping with music reading speed.

Later this can be taken to the piano by playing a very simple chord based ostinato with one hand, and the other hand doing interesting rhythms, either improvised or read from rhythm exercises.

I started this being super phobic about improvising, so I would simply play a five finger pattern up and down in an interesting rhythm with the improvising hand. Eventually I would pass the boredom threshold and starting having melodic ideas that sounded more interesting than pentascales wink )

Or I would read single-line rhythms with one hand while doing the ostenato with the other, but try to choose interesting melodic notes with the rhythm reading hand.

It's clearly beneficial to switch hands here, but I will admit to being more comfortable with the ostenato in my left hand and the rhythmic and melodic adventures in my right. Writing this will hopefully remind me to switch hands more often! laugh


Edited by tangleweeds (07/13/13 01:26 AM)
Edit Reason: typos hide during preview
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#2116829 - 07/13/13 01:27 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Sand Tiger, I have read your post, here:

Bill Hilton suggests some hand independence exercises on Youtube. These include:
* contrary and parallel scales
* play scales with the weaker hand, and a simple repeating bass pattern with the dominant
* playing a piece you know, reversing the roles, have the left play the treble notes, the right play the bass
* Many Baroque pieces can be good practice

Hilton suggest some other scale work, such as doing different keys left and right (eg: C major scale on the left, G major on the right), doing basic scales on one hand, and thirds on the other. He also says something about jazz players warming up on Baroque music to help them to get ready for live improvisation. The connection between Jazz and Baroque is interesting.

As a beginner I found most of the suggestions to be rather difficult to neigh impossible. One exercise I found on my own was offset scales. Play one hand half a beat behind the other, then have the other hand lead.

Hilton says to keep doing the exercises, that the hands never really become independent. That thousands and thousands of reps are needed by most people to get to a reasonable skill level.

I'm sure there are more things to try, and those reading along have their favorites that they will mention. A search turned up several threads on the topic, though some were back to 2005 and 2008.

____________________________________________

I am a beginner of about a year and a half.

I don't understand what is being said about "hand independence". Allow me to explain from my perspective and perhaps someone can explain what I don't understand.

I first learned from a beginner piano book to play fingers of one hand and then play the fingers of the other hand for many pieces. Then the piano book introduced me to the playing of 1 finger/piano note on one hand and then one finger/piano note in the other hand - but both being played at the same time. My brain did just fine until I had to play both with one note from each hand and I would freeze - and tried to coax my brain to play the fingers/notes at the same time. After several weeks or a month my brain began getting used to playing 2 notes at the same time. After many months, it was okay. My brain quit freaking out on me and now everything is good, no problems.

So now, I crawl through the measures slowly without making mistakes and I can play the music fine as long as there are no unknown notes on ledgerlines I don't recognize. So my brain reads the notes and plays the notes as presented and makes my fingers play the right notes - again I am crawling through the measures at a slow pace that my brain can handle it without errors.

This is where I get stuck when people say they have issues with hand independence because my brain does what it is supposed to do at an appropriate speed.

If I make a mistake then I stop and try to figure what went wrong. Did I read the music wrong? Did my brain use the wrong finger?

I get the impression that a finger goes crazy and wanders off doing something terribly wrong and I don't understand.

So please explain what am I not understanding about playing the piano regarding hand independence. Thanks.

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#2116833 - 07/13/13 02:10 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Michael_99]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Originally Posted By: Michael_99
If I make a mistake then I stop and try to figure what went wrong. Did I read the music wrong? Did my brain use the wrong finger?

I get the impression that a finger goes crazy and wanders off doing something terribly wrong and I don't understand.


I agree with the finger going crazy feeling. I think what happens is that I panic, and it feels like my hand is thinking "I need to do something here! Don't know what! Do anything!!!" so it just goes and hits some random key, hoping for the best.

It feels like there's a lapse or imbalance of attention, where I think too much about what one hand is doing, and my mind forgets what the other hand is supposed to be doing.
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#2116843 - 07/13/13 02:59 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: tangleweeds]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
tangleweeds, I have read your post, here:
Originally Posted By: Michael_99
If I make a mistake then I stop and try to figure what went wrong. Did I read the music wrong? Did my brain use the wrong finger?

I get the impression that a finger goes crazy and wanders off doing something terribly wrong and I don't understand.


I agree with the finger going crazy feeling. I think what happens is that I panic, and it feels like my hand is thinking "I need to do something here! Don't know what! Do anything!!!" so it just goes and hits some random key, hoping for the best.

It feels like there's a lapse or imbalance of attention, where I think too much about what one hand is doing, and my mind forgets what the other hand is supposed to be doing.

______

Thanks, for your explanation. Now I understand.

Piano playing is no different than typing in the sense that if you type faster than you are capable of typing, you will make mistakes - same with the piano.

The ability to type fast or to play the piano fast is based on a gradual increase of speed and increase of complexity of music. So it takes many months and eventually many years to type fast or play the piano presto. The brain sends a signal the minute you try to play too fast by making/playing a wrong note.

That is why generally it takes at least 10 years of playing to be able to play complex music at Presto speed - practicing 4 to 6 hours per day. The brain learns slowly over a long period of time to do thing well - perfectly.



Edited by Michael_99 (07/13/13 03:01 AM)

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#2116991 - 07/13/13 01:23 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
KurtZ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 995
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
Don't forget Bartók: from the easiest, "For Children", "First Term at the Piano" and the well known graded vols 1-4 Mikrocosmos. All filled with combinations of parallel and contrary motion, stacatto with legato etc.

Kurt
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#2117005 - 07/13/13 01:46 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
At the moment, hand independence is very much my focal point, particularly playing different rhythms with the different hands together.

I emailed my teacher yesterday about his thoughts and he recommended to do contrary motion exercises, daily for a period of time.

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#2117054 - 07/13/13 03:20 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
I have never thought that the main issue with hand independence is technique.

Technique certainly has to be present to actually play the piano, and piano music that demands more advanced hand independence is somewhat more advanced than the "Mary had a little lamb" level of playing, so I assume that one has progressed somewhat technically when having problems with music that presents hand independence issues.

Having said that, I have had several very obvious examples of people who have very good advanced technique at the piano, yet when faced with new styles of hand independence, were simply unable to play those new styles.

The first person is myself.

In addition to Classical music, I play professionally Blues, New Orleans music, and Boogie-Woogie music. Those styles have within themselves certain rhythm challenges that require a complicated rhythm pattern played with one hand, often the left hand, while a variety of rhythms are played with the right hand, all within the same tune, at the same time.

When I began learning those styles of music, my existing technique was pretty good...I had been playing since a young boy, and played the Rachmaninoff C# Prelude, for example, not music that is at the highest level, but that requires decent technique. Yet I was a complete klutz with these new rhythms. Bottom line, I simply could not play them.

The other example(s) are, in the last few years I have attempted to teach Blues, New Orleans music, and Boogie-Woogie to several fairly advanced Classical players, and they, like myself, were shocked that those hand independence needs presented by those rhythms were like virtually impossible to play.

What I have learned about learning these rhythm challenges is that new neural pathways must be forged in the brain to simultaneously move the hands in new and different patterns, or even at different dynamics (volumes).

Back then, each time I learned a new pattern that was different for both hands, I had to go very very slowly, and on more than one occasion, have my wife push one of my hands down at the moment necessary, because I could not.

I have had several adult students who are Physical Therapists, and have spoken to them about this, and they concur that what is occuring is that a new pathway is being forged in the brain. (I might be wrong with the terminology but that is the idea).

As one Therapist student said, this is like a person who has suffered brain damage, such as from a stroke or accident, and is learning to do something, such as move a limb, using a different part of the brain to trigger the muscles to move.

I hope this sheds some light on this issue.

So maybe it is technique, if you assume that all technique is from the brain, which it ultimately is. But IMHO "technique" is more commonly though of as being at the physical level, and this is much more at the brain level.

BTW, the specific exercises that I use(d) to help here, I could write a book! Usually they were developed at that moment, for each specific problem, done slowly, and as soon as possible, with a metronome or drum machine to make them precise, which may not be necessary for all styles of music.
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#2117129 - 07/13/13 06:08 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: rocket88]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1766
Loc: Australia
[quote=rocket88]


The other example(s) are, in the last few years I have attempted to teach Blues, New Orleans music, and Boogie-Woogie to several fairly advanced Classical players, and they, like myself, were shocked that those hand independence needs presented by those rhythms were like virtually impossible to play.

Interesting points you make in your post rocket88. The question I have is do you think playing blues/boogie woogie would improve your hand independence for just that style or would it translate back into the classical pieces
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#2117136 - 07/13/13 06:20 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Hand independence dexterity is a continuum. In my repertoire, I do have some blues and boogie-woogie that I practice comfortably and regularly. Yet, I experience hand independence resistance most of the time. I am still very slow with my first and recent ragtime piece with all strides.

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#2117184 - 07/13/13 08:33 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: rocket88]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2107
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Originally Posted By: rocket88

So maybe it is technique, if you assume that all technique is from the brain, which it ultimately is. But IMHO "technique" is more commonly though of as being at the physical level, and this is much more at the brain level.


This discussion is interesting as can be.

The first time I encountered a problem like this was so basic. It was in mobility movements where I was to move both my arms, at the same time, in two different directions, in two different ways. I couldn't do it. To get that nervous system response. I used music. It worked.

May I suggest a different point of view, physiologically? That is, consider our nervous system and autonomic mind. That is our base brain. It's part of our past in evolution. That is what we are training. The nervous system and base brain are one in the same. That is completely corrupt, has no values, simply copies.
We should control all that from what is most of our brain. That is where we form values, consider, love, create.
Problems arise because the base brain tries to take control. Cause most of the brain to react when it is the one that should be reacting.
I might suggest that when one is trying to obtain this hand independence. Concentrate on that. Don't mix it with other physical training at the same time. You will get far greater results by training that for a period of time. We call it cycles. Devote a cycle to that training.
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#2117188 - 07/13/13 08:41 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 408
i had a piece that demanded this as well. my teacher had me do something like use 1 to hit g and 5 for c and just rock back and forth hitting those notes. (had to put a melody into that with right hand)

so he had me doing that WHILE trying to hold a conversation with him... keeping it all on beat. was very difficult, but it definitely helped with the independence for that one.
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#2117265 - 07/13/13 11:20 PM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: earlofmar]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
Originally Posted By: earlofmar

Interesting points you make in your post rocket88. The question I have is do you think playing blues/boogie woogie would improve your hand independence for just that style or would it translate back into the classical pieces


I think that everything you learn and improve upon should affect in a positive manner your playing, although it might not be immediately noticeable.

However, the experiences I have had with Classical pianists (including myself) who were stymied with these non-Classical rhythms shows, at least on the surface, that there might not be a direct transference that one can define.

Good question.
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#2117440 - 07/14/13 10:13 AM Re: Hand independence suggestions [Re: Sand Tiger]
choshi Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 11
Loc: U.K.
It's slow going I know.
I use two books that I find particularly good:
Easy Lessons in Bach, by Thomas keighley
and
Etudes for jazz piano, conversations of the Hands, by Emiko Hayashi

Good luck smile

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