Playing with both hands: improving piano hand coordination.
When you first begin to learn the piano, you’ll probably start off with a few easy and popular tunes using only the right hand. However, as you progress, you’ll start to find that most songs require you to play with both hands at the same time. This can be really challenging and at times even frustrating as it will take a while to get used to. However with enough focus and practice, playing both hands together can become really comfortable and musically very rewarding. If you are just beginning to play with both hands, then here are some tips, tricks, and exercises that will put you well on your way to having perfect piano hand coordination.
Start with an Easy Song
This may seem like an obvious suggestion to make, but starting with an easy song is really important in giving you a good start to building coordination between the hands.
The first example to look at is Mozart’s Sonata No 11, taken from our Beginner Course 1. Looking at the music, we can see that the right hand and left hand parts are exactly the same, the only difference being that they are one apart. Both hands have the same rhythm, and move in the same direction… Easy right?
🎹 Play the first four bars using the right hand only. Once you are comfortable doing this, play with both hands together. But when you do, and this is really important, think of the right hand leading the left hand. Were you able to play it for the first time? If not, then give it a few more tries, and if you’re still struggling, then carry on reading, as the next tip will help you out a lot!
💡 Once you have played this example successfully, make sure you go through and complete the other hands together songs in the Beginner Course 1.
Practice hands separately & together slowly
This is probably the most important step to being able to play using both hands at the same time! To demonstrate this, we are going to use the song “Only If” by Enya which can be found in our Beginner Course 2.
Looking at the first 8 bars of this song, we can see that unlike the first example, the right and left hands are going to have to do completely different things. This is why it’s really important that you are able to play each hand really comfortably on its own. Once you are confident in playing the song hands separately putting them together will be much, much easier.
🎹 practice the first 4 bars, right hand only. Once you are feeling confident, turn your attention to the last bar, again just focusing on the right hand. You need to practice bars 5, 6, & 7, as they are the same as bars 1, 2, & 3.
Once you have mastered the right hand part, practice bars 2, 3, & 4 using just the left hand. Again, there is no need to practice the left hand in the last three bars… Why? Because they’re exactly the same.
If you have both hands mastered, all we need to do is put them together. Ready? Your success in being able to do this effectively and easily all relies on you doing the following thing: playing slowly!
Get both of your hands in their starting positions, and begin playing. Remember that the left hand notes always come on the first beat of the bar – keeping this in mind whilst playing through will help you to synchronize the two parts. You can also count out loud if it helps.
For those of you that found these exercises challenging, two additional exercises have been prepared below that will really help you to train and synchronize your hands. If these two examples were a breeze, then keep on moving through the rest of the songs in the Beginner Course 2! Please also feel free to try out the additional exercises as well.
The first exercise we are going to practice is a 1-octave C Major scale, played in contrary motion. In simple terms, we are going to start with both of our thumbs on middle C, play in opposite directions until both hands have reached another C, and then return. Looking at the numbers under and above the notes, we can see that the same fingers are used at the same time in each hand, which makes this exercise a good place to start.
💡 Make sure you use the finger numbers as shown above. When we reach our 3rd fingers, our thumbs tuck under our hand and play the next note. On the way back in, once we have played our thumbs, our 3rd fingers loop over the top and play the next notes. Be sure to get comfortable playing the exercise hands separately before putting both hands together.
The second exercise is again a 1-octave C Major scale, but this time we are going to play it with both hands going in the same direction; first going up, and then coming back down. This is slightly more difficult, as our hands are using different finger numbers at the same time. Our “Thumb under” and “3rd finger over” motions also come at different points within the scale.
Once you have mastered the first exercise, give the second one a try. It’s very important that you go very slowly at first, thinking about every move you make with each hand. As you become more confident, you can start to increase the tempo.
Author of this blog post:
Elliot Hogg – Music tutor from Leeds who specializes in teaching piano, music theory, and music composition.
Visit Elliot’s website.