Using The Blues To Build Hand Independence

Lisa Witt  /  Hand Independence  /  UPDATED Sep 11, 2023

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I sometimes think of hand independence as the ‘Holy Grail’ of piano playing. It’s something we all strive for, but the journey toward hand independence is a never-ending one!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been playing for a long time or are just a beginner, hand independence is something you have to work on and develop continuously.

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You need to push yourself

An important part of developing your hand independence is finding things that really challenge you. I mean, we all love to play things we’re really good at — because it feels so great to be great at something! However, if you want to grow your skills, you need to spend time on things that really challenge you (and even cause you frustration).

With pain comes growth!

You’ll never get better if you don’t push yourself. It can suck — but there are things we can do to make it suck a little bit less. This is where the blues comes in.

The blues is simple (in theory) and tons of fun to play regardless of your skill level or favorite genre. Once you get into the blues you will feel like a whole new world opens up.

The Blues and Hand Independence

When I started messing around with the blues I was shocked at how difficult it was for me to play a swing rhythm in my left hand while I chorded in my right.

It was downright embarrassing.

So I had to break things down into their simplest form and work my way up from there. It involved going slow, counting out loud and progressing gradually. The good news is that it didn’t take too long to figure it out, and once I did, it felt amazing.

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Important Points to Remember

There are four key points that you need to remember:

  1. Any time you play a different rhythm between the hands you are developing hand independence.
  2. Break things down. Start with one hand only. When you have that mastered, introduce our other hand (slowly).
  3. Get creative with counting! Counting out loud can really help you to place the beats. Don’t be afraid to do this – it is an amazing help!
  4. Hand independence work IS frustrating. You aren’t alone. Don’t give up!

The Payoff

Developing better hand independence is worth it. Once you improve, you will be able to master more complex rhythms and melodies, and it will open up a whole new way of expressing yourself musically.

The 12-bar blues is a great way to start doing this. I really hope you enjoy using the blues to build up your hand independence!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

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