Play Piano With Both Hands

Lisa Witt  /  Hand Independence  /  UPDATED Jan 13, 2023

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“My problem is my left-hand thinks he’s the right hand.”

Sound familiar?

You are NOT alone. Playing the piano with both hands is a HARD thing to do. In fact, it’s one of the most common struggles new learners face, especially adult learners.

So today I’m going to show you some basic ways to get started and get comfortable with both of your hands playing at the same time.

This is real beginner stuff, but it’s so valuable to practice and perfect. There are 3 exercises you should start.

The Five-Tone Scale

This is the first thing we’ll play with both our hands, and it’s a great exercise for getting comfortable.

One of the weird things about this one is that we’re using our thumb in the right hand and pinky in the left. Right away that can be confusing and awkward.

So I find it helps to just think about starting on the LOWEST finger and moving slowly up, one note at a time.

When we get to the top, we’ll just come back down again.

Keep it slow, and really focus on playing one note at a time with each hand.

If this is easy, try playing different volumes between the hands. For example, play your right-hand loudly and your left-hand soft. This is harder than it sounds!

Once you have the five-tone scale, it’s time to expand it out.

The Full Scale

This is where most people fall apart. And you might find that you can play a five-tone scale with ease, but still struggle with a full scale.

This is because of the thumb-tucks and crossovers. These are weak points for pretty much everyone, and what makes it harder is that our hands are doing different things at different times.

There is NOTHING wrong with you. This is super challenging!

The key to fixing these weak points is resetting your hand at each pivot point. So after you tuck your thumb, shift your hand so your fingers are set up to play the rest of the scale:

Do this in both hands. If you have to stop at the pivot points that’s OK!

Go slow, accuracy is more important than speed.

Triads and Chord Inversions

Up until now, we’ve only been playing one note at a time with each hand. This is different, and it’s also a major stumbling block for new piano players.

Playing chords together AND playing them in different inversions can seem daunting, and many new learners get frustrated and give up.

Don’t let this be you! I strongly suggest you start practicing this as soon as you can because it will make a huge difference down the road.

Just remember that you probably won’t be able to do this the first time, or the second time, or even the tenth time. It’s a lifelong pursuit. But it’s SO worth it.

If the concept of chord inversions is new to you, we have a great lesson that explains what they are and how to play them.

Start in root position, and then slowly change both of your hands to play the chord in 1st inversion:

Notice how the fingering in my right-hand changes. I’m playing the root position chord with 1-3-5 (thumb-middle-pinky), but I’m using 1-2-5 for the 1st inversion.

This is why playing root chords with 1-3-5 fingers is really useful. It allows you to change chords quickly!

Practice going back and forth between these two chord shapes. Go SLOW and get it right.

And if that’s all you can do, that’s fantastic! If you get comfortable you can try playing them as broken chords as well.

From there you can move on to the next chord change, which is to move from that 1st inversion to a 2nd inversion shape.

Notice again how my fingering changes. My right-hand goes back to a 1-3-5 fingering, but my left-hand changes to a 5-2-1 fingering.

Pay attention to these and make sure you practice them. Again just go back and forth between the chord shapes.

From there you can return to the root position chord, but one octave higher than when we started.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning, playing the piano with both hands at the same time is a huge achievement. And like all big achievements, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It takes time. But so do all good things.

Try practicing one or two of these exercises for 5 minutes each time you sit at the piano, and try to do it every day.

Your fingers will get used to the movements and your brain will start talking to them in a language they understand!

Good luck, and have fun playing the piano.

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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