Exercises for mentally separating hands
Posted by: deezl18
Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/28/06 02:05 PM
Hi, I'm new to the boards and relatively new to piano playing. I played for a few years when I was young (6-9) and then dropped it until 2 and 1/2 years ago when I started up again. I've played a ton since starting up again and I guess I would consider myself an intermediate player.
Anyway, I have been working for the last couple months on trying to mentally keep my hands separate. As in, when I learn a piece, I'd like to be able to learn one hand, learn the other, then put them together without thinking in terms of both hands at the same time. I typically fall into the habit of thinking about what both hands have to do at the same time, which makes learning a new piece more time-consuming. But also, it makes improvising more difficult, because it's difficult for me to keep anything but a very straightforward rhythm going in my left hand while I improvise with my right hand.
I'd like to know if anyone has any exercises that help to separate the hands (particularly rhythmically). Also, I've been working on some popular pieces (with a small makeshift band) that involve some singing, and the hardest part for me has been to keep the rhythm on the piano while I sing. So any exercises that might work on that problem as well?
Posted by: hgiles
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/28/06 02:25 PM
"Heart and Soul" -- improvising in RH til you puke.
"Pachelbel Canon" -- improvising in RH until you puke.
That would be a good start.
Posted by: 193866
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/28/06 02:45 PM
Try working out the improv melody alone,while humming the pulse of the piece... slowly... with the right hand only... then proceed very slowly, again humming along ... to added bass and harmony with the melody always in front.. Oh, to sing and play together...Try to feel the pulse again ... to yourself hum the pulse of the piece while playing...Singing comes next...Good luck... to you ...Sandy B
Posted by: ipgrunt
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/28/06 11:43 PM
Can you pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time?
Posted by: deezl18
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/29/06 12:36 AM
Thanks for the suggestions so far. I would like to clarify that I have no problem simply keeping a steady rhythm of quarters or halves or eighths in the left hand while improving. I've been playing long enough that the whole "rub your tummy and pat your head" thing isn't the problem. The problem comes when I try to go for a more complicated rhythm - it tends to be more difficult to improv in the right hand (without just duplicating the left hand rhythm). Same with singing - I could sing while playing a steady pulse of quarters or eighths.
Posted by: nezkeys79
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 08/29/06 07:42 AM
Sounds a lot like me. You can accompany yourself singing if the piano is like steady crotchet or quavers for example, but you struggle with more complex rhythms when having to play them together.
I am guessing if you had to play 2 over 3, or 3 over 2, or 4 over 3, etc etc it would be quite hard?
In fact I need help with this because right now it is becoming my achilles heel.
Posted by: rocket88
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/04/06 10:22 PM
Hi- I also am new to this board. And, I have worked with the very problems you describe. Here is what has helped me:
First, try switching hands; that is, play with your left hand the notes of the right (probably the melody), and the notes of the left (probably chords or other rhythm) with the right hand.
Practice hands alone first, with a metronome or drum machine, then, hands together, first w/o the metronome, then with.
I have only used this with basic left hand rhythms, but it has helped tremendously. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Also, you may discover that your singing mirrors the rhythm of one particular hand...mine was the right. I found that I could not sing a syllable without playing a corresponding right hand "beat" note.
This has diminished a lot since I began practicing singing while playing with hands reversed. (Get comfortable with playing reversed before singing)
I found I could actually sing better with hands reversed, because I had consciously worked on playing that way with the metronome to be as perfect as possible. I surmise that my earlier catch-all learning with hands in normal position was flawed, thus the problem.
Posted by: bukopaudan
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/05/06 10:06 AM
Hello deezl! I'm also new to these boards and I understand, somewhat, what you're talking about. I usually have the same problems.
Why not try mimicking? It's a technique in which you play your left hand while only mimicking your right hand. That means while you play your left hand, your right hand is ON the piano, playing the melody without the sound. Do that a few times and then switch, mimic your left hand and then play your right. And then you can improvise. I haven't done this before, but my younger siblings have and it seems to work quite well.
Posted by: pastafarian
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/11/06 05:11 PM
One thing that is starting to help me on this is being back with a pick-up pop/rock band that is heavily guitar oriented.
Few of the tunes we do have "keyboard" parts (i.e., piano, organ sounds), so I'm starting to find myself having to play two different (unrelated) parts with each hand. For example, in the Monkees' version of "I'm a Believer", I play the non-stop tambourine/clap with the LH and the organ/flute "DA-doo-doo-doo-doo-DOOP" hook with the RH. Ditto for the claps and the organ fills in "Centerfield" (J. Fogerty).
Posted by: swingal
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/15/06 02:18 AM
Well in jazz playing, I use the left hand to provide the beat that supports the melody in the right hand. And sometimes the left hand will give some lead up to the melody, sort of teasing the right hand.
These sort of questions are really impossible to describe by me. Sorry, but until I can get a recording devvice that will produce MPEG's of my playing, that will have to do.
Posted by: sirch59
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/15/06 05:53 AM
Originally posted by deezl18:
I typically fall into the habit of thinking about what both hands have to do at the same time, which makes learning a new piece more time-consuming.[/b]
Being a drummer let me just insert this line of thinking. Yes, you have understand what rhythm goes with each hand, so you break it down JUST to understand the flow, however I would NEVER pratice a piece "hands separate" because in order to obtain the correct coordination you HAVE to play hands together.
In my opinion practicing HS causes an uneccessary step to grasping the coordination of learning hands together. The real progress comes from slowing movements way down and really feeling the interaction between both hands.
Posted by: deezl18
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/15/06 02:04 PM
Thanks guys, I actually hadn't checked this board in a while and now I find a bunch of new advice. I'm definitely still working at improving in this area and I'll give some of these ideas a shot. Glad to see I'm not the only one who struggles with this.
Actually I played percussion for three years in middle school (admittedly not a drum set) and thought I was pretty good at it, made all-county a couple of years. So I thought rhythm would have been a strong suit for me on the piano, but clearly it is taking more work than I anticipated. Sometimes, though, that seems to make things more fulfilling when you finally get it.
Posted by: sirch59
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 09/20/06 06:55 AM
Originally posted by deezl18:
So I thought rhythm would have been a strong suit for me on the piano, but clearly it is taking more work than I anticipated.[/b]
I agree, I have been at it for a whole year
and find that I have not progressed
rhythmically as much as I thought I
would have by now...
When it comes to just banging out block chords
in the LH and melody in the right I find that
much easier until I get in to arps in the left.
Moving 10 fingers at the same time
is much more difficult than just moving
4 limbs at different rhythms.
Thank goodness I find this fascinating or
I'd be bored out my mind at this point!!
Posted by: Randalthor
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/25/13 04:28 AM
Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but as a complete beginner I feel this is relevant.
Sirch59 suggests 'never practising hands separate', but all my introductory books are saying learn the chord changes in the left hand first, practice this against a beat until you have it down, then practice just the melody against the same beat, until you have that down also, then go on to doing the both at the same time.
which is the best habit to start with. bear in mind I'm a blank canvas in terms of any techniques, so I'm really just trying to start with the best way, that will benefit me the most in the future.
Posted by: LoPresti
Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/26/13 01:48 AM
First of all, if you have a teacher, ask her/him, and follow the advice given. Assuming you are attempting to go this alone, and as you state, you are a complete beginner, that is going to be tough ---
(I am hoping that a couple of real players chime in here.) Meanwhile, I can relate how I developed a degree of independence between my right and left hands. I devised some very simple exercises using basic intervals and major scales, something like this:
 Using the interval of a perfect 5th in your LH (say C + G, for instance), play a string of quarter notes.
 While playing the quarter note perfect 5th pattern in your LH, play the related major scale (C major in our example), in quarter notes, in your RH, ascending and descending. (No applause yet!)
 Keeping the quarter note perfect 5th pattern going in your LH, now play the related major scale in your RH using eighth notes (2 articulations in the RH for every 1 in your LH.)
 Keeping the quarter note perfect 5th pattern going in your LH, now play the related major scale in your RH using sixteenth notes (4 articulations in the RH for every 1 in your LH.)
[NOTE] It is important to keep the quarter note beat perfectly steady, and your articulations against it clean.
 Next, reverse the roles of your hands, placing the perfect 5th in your RH (C + G), playing steady quarter notes; and the major scale playing in your LH. Do the scale first in quarter notes, then eights, and then sixteenths.
 As these patterns improve, and sound clean, then move to other major keys, with the goal of eventually covering them all.
 As the other major keys start to feel natural, and the sound is clean, then add some variety to the rhythms in each hand. For instance, play the scale in eighth note triplets while keeping the perfect 5th in quarter notes. Then try the perfect 5th in eighth notes while playing the scale in triplets. Next, try the perfect 5th in eighth notes while playing the scale in quarter note triplets. Endless variety!
It makes your hands independent, but your playing INTEGRATED.
Posted by: Randalthor
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/26/13 05:34 AM
Super advice, I'm certainly going to give this a try.
After 35+ years of living in this body, you think I would be able to tell my own hands what to do by now, lol.
Posted by: etcetra
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/26/13 02:37 PM
There is literally no end to what you can do with RH/LH independence on piano, especially when you start messing with polyrhthm like this
RH is playing in 7 while LH is keeping 4/4http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNOJ1HxsFZI
An easier exercise would be doing half note shell voicing or walking bass line in quarter note and play constant 3 note pattern or dotted quarter note on it, or do vice versa(RH solo LH is playing constant dotted quarter), then you can do 5 beat phrase, 7 beat phrase and so on. Or you can do different grouping of 8&16th notes (i.e 3+5) tripelts (groupings of 2, 4, 5, 4+5)..etc
It's really not as esoteric as you think.. I've heard people like Alan Pasqua, James Willians use these polyrhthimc stuff very tastefully over standards. Mastering these technique, and being able to keep time while doing so will really open up your soloing rhythmically and give you a lot of freedom... and if you are working with good drummer/bassist with similar kind of rhythmic vocabulary, you'll be able to do so much with them.. i think this is what makes trios like Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett..etc so interesting. They can play around with the rhythm so much and do it together.
Posted by: Farmerjones
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/26/13 05:27 PM
Ed's going to love me comparing a piano to bongos. But what works for me on jazz or pop tunes is to "bongo it out" rhythmwise on a desktop. It gets the rhythm in my wrists, palms and collective fingertips. So the only thing left is to annunciate with correct fingers. (Q)How do you play Blue Skies? (A)Play a bunch of notes in rhythm, and leave out the notes that aren't in Blue Skies.
As with string instruments the music is in both hands. The timely change is as important as the plectrum or bow.
Posted by: LoPresti
Re: Exercises for mentally separating hands - 04/26/13 11:51 PM
Ed's going to love me comparing a piano to bongos. But what works for me on jazz or pop tunes is to "bongo it out" rhythmwise on a desktop. It gets the rhythm in my wrists, palms and collective fingertips.
Actually, your advice is brilliant in its simplicity. This is the exact way I first learned to play two-against-three -- by "bongoing it out" on a tabletop.