Students are always asking me how to play better with the left hand. They say that their left-hand feels a little bit sluggish or has less dexterity than the right hand. Can you relate?
The reason for this is that the left hand often gets the “boring” part of the song- acting as the rhythm section or the bass player. The right-hand takes care of melody - and has a more complex role within the songs we play. What this can lead to is a left hand that simply doesn’t get as much attention or skill development as our right hand.
So to solve this problem I have a few tips for you!
1) Pick out simple melodies
The left hand almost never has to play a melody line. Try picking out the melody to twinkle twinkle with your left hand. Feels really weird right? If you don’t like to pick things out by ear you can sight read a right-hand melody but play it with your left hand. This will feel really strange, I guarantee it. Embrace that strangeness, my friends, it is a sure sign that you are developing new dexterity and fine motor skills in your left hand.
2) Play left-hand scales using octaves
This is really tricky! It forces us to hold a certain shape and make small and precise movements that require focus and skill. You can do this in any key. My advice is to play slowly and loudly, gradually increasing in speed.
3) Dexterity exercises with a left-hand focus
Work on dexterity exercises like Hannons that create obstacles for the 4 and 5 fingers. 4 and 5 are the ones that tend to give us the most trouble. An exercise that has you skip a note between the 4 and the 5 will really help to improve your left-hand skills. I’ve demonstrated my favorite way to do this in the video!
4) Arpeggios are the best friend of dexterity
When we play arpeggios we cover a broad span of the keyboard. They require us to have great posture and be very accurate as the notes are spread out- we have to really know where we are going to play arpeggios correctly. You can organize these into fun chord progressions (try the I–V–vi–IV progression) and play chords in the right hand over the top of them to make them extra fun and a little more challenging.
Varying volume using crescendo and decrescendo really helps to develop control. Try doing this with your left hand only. Play a scale or arpeggio and practice crescendo/decrescendo. You can also try playing something very very quietly or very very loudly. It's harder than you think!
Have fun using these tips to make your left hand more awesome!