Hand independence is one of the most difficult aspects to come to terms with when you are training your brain to play the piano.
It might seem maddening to start, but getting familiar with complimentary rhythms and movements will take your playing to the next level.
I’ve put these 3 beginner-friendly exercises together in a very musical way so you can practice hand independence without the monotony and boredom of more traditional routines.
You’ll be thinking with 2 hands in no time! 🙌
Let’s start things off simple.
Rhythm skills are one of the most important aspects to practice hand independence, so we are going to pick a note (G) and start a basic count with our right hand playing on every beat (the numbers).
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
(Remember to count the &s, this will be important for timing your left hand.)
Now– just to begin– bring in your left hand with your 5th finger (also on G!) on the 1.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Pretty easy right?
Alright, here’s where it starts to get a little more complex.
We’re going to elaborate on this pattern and build different rhythms in each hand.
With your left hand I want you to play on the 1, the ‘&’ of the 2, the 3, as well as the ‘&’ after the 4.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
It’s essentially playing the same pattern twice: “1 & 2 &”.
This is a rhythm you can use a lot when you are playing chords or composing your own music. Watch the video to see how adding just one more layer makes it sound beautiful.
Let’s change things up a bit.
We’ll be leaving things in the key of C, just to keep things straight-forward. 🙏
With your left hand, get comfortable moving from C to G to C (1 octave up) and back down.
Take your time, and get to know the spacing in between the keys.
With your right hand (one full octave up from you left), run up and down the first 5 notes of the C scale (C, D, E, F, & G).
For every note you play in your left hand, play one in your right.
Left Hand: C, G, C, G, C, G, C, G, C
Right Hand: C, D, E, F, G, F, E, D, C
Is it melting your mind yet?
No? Once you’re comfortable there– you can double up the speed!
“If hand independence exercises aren’t making you lose your mind– then they are probably too easy!”
It’s a good sign if you are struggling- that only means you are developing a new skill! It’s going to feel like your brain and your hands aren’t a part of the same body at first– especially if you are a beginner and these exercises are new to you. Just start slow, and trust that the more you work at it, the more it will come to you naturally.
Don’t be afraid to sleep on it! The brain will rehearse, reorganize and nail the sequential motor tasks that help you play piano overnight. Rest is just as important to your practice.
Okay, last one!
We are going to bring up the complexity and take it into a different key signature. Despite upping the difficulty a little bit, I’m confident that you can get the hang of it with practice and patience.
We’re going to play the D Major chord (D, F#, A).
But, we’re going to play them in a different order (D, A, F#, A)!
To make things easier you can think of the pattern like this: “Bottom, top, middle, top”.
Spend some time getting to know that pattern as best you can, because I’m about to bend your brain up!
With your right hand you will be playing the same notes of the D Major triad, only in broken form, from bottom to top (D, F#, A, F#, repeat).
It seems so simple, but with your two hands operating different patterns you might have a tricky time wrapping your head around this! Pay attention to your playing- it’s easy to mess up and not even realize it.
The hand motions are completely different, and that’s why this might seem so difficult to start.
Once you’re comfortable with these patterns, switch your hands like we did in exercise 2. Your right is your left, and your left is your right!
Left Hand: Bottom, top, middle, top, repeat
Right Hand: Bottom, middle, top, middle, repeat
Watching the video you can see how even I struggle when we bring up the complexity and switch things back and forth. But don’t feel limited to the patterns I’ve set you up for today– take these ideas, master them, and make them your own!
All we’ve done is pick varying opposing patterns, motions, and rhythms between your hands and apply them to chord progressions. What you end up with is a musical exercise that you can apply to your songs and compositions that’s also challenging your hands independence and helping you to grow as a piano player.
Soon you’ll be playing with more autonomy and efficiency. Or at the very least, you’ll be able to walk and chew gum at the same time!
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