Introduction: How to Improve and Strengthen Your Left Hand Piano Playing
The title of this lesson itself offers insight into one of the common challenges that pianists encounter when they start playing with both hands together.
Specifically, this challenge is that the left hand (usually, not always) is weaker than the right hand and this is seen in how the left hand has less coordination, the fingers don't move as fast as the right-handed ones do, and most mistakes will happen in the left hand instead of the right hand...in the beginning.
Remember, this is common. For most people, one side of their body is usually a bit stronger, sometimes even a little bigger than the other. Recognizing this can help solve some of the issues that you are dealing with when it comes to playing your piece or exercise well.
Let's take a look at a great exercise that "work out" that left hand and the fingers and will really help you play better and with more strength and coordination between the two hands.
Step 1: What This Exercise Does
I've designed a specific exercise that you can play on your piano to work out and strengthen your left hand.
Let's talk a little about what you'll find in this exercise before you try it.
This exercise (video in Step 6) is designed to give your left hand fingers more of a work than your right hand.
- You'll find a moving line of consecutive notes and then notes that skip each other in the left hand while your right hand plays just chords. (image 1 - Measure 1 and 2)
- In the 3rd measure, your left hand is now playing faster notes as well as arpeggios, or broken chords. (image 3)
- Your hand will be in the C position the entire 1st line of the exercise.
- As the exercise continues, you'll find on the second line an extended hand position where I have marked the fingerings to show you the correct way to play this particular technique.
- Patterns and rhythms are reversed to offer another way of working your fingers as you continue throughout the exercise.
This lesson uses the 5 finger position and you will start in the C position.
Step 2: Take Special Notice of These...Before You Play
The main things that you want to pay special attention to when starting out this exercise (or any exercise or piece) are any changes in note and finger patterns.
- Look for notes that skip around or change direction, and how often those changes occur.
- Watch out for changes that require you to start on a different finger than the previous measure and also notice if you feel weaker in any of those fingers.
- See if there are any measures where you have to use an extended finger position, which there is one as mentioned in the last step.
Again, use these tips anytime you are tackling a new piece or exercise as this really helps prepare you mentally and physically to play better.
Now let's look at the best way to approach playing this exercise on the piano.
Step 3: Start Out This Way
The main things to remember when you first start to play this exercise are:
- Start with just your left hand. You can add in your right hand much easier later on once you've gotten secure with the notes and patterns in your left hand. It's fine if you want to take as long as a week or more to just play and work the left-hand lines. This type of steady slow work will teach your hand what to do correctly from the beginning, which is so important.
- Take one line at a time. You don't have to learn the whole exercise in one session at all. Don't overwhelm yourself. You'll achieve more faster by taking the right amount of time to establish a firm foundation.
- Once you've learned your left-hand lines correctly, take some time to play through the right-hand chords alone too. Do this until you feel really confident about playing each hand separately.
- Now try playing both hands together. Remember: slowly, slowly, slowly. One measure at a time if need be! You want to observe while you are playing if both hands are playing the notes together, in rhythm and in tempo with each other. They need to sound like one voice.
- Finally, start increasing your tempo bit by bit, as you can, until you are playing it well and at the suggested tempo.
These tips apply to any of your piano music, not just this one exercise.
Now let's practice this left hand work out together and you'll see how easy it actually is to improve from just one practice session!
Step 4: Come Practice With Me!
It's important that you do take the time to visually go through this exercise and take notice of the things mentioned in this lesson.
This systematic approach really does give you a map that shows you how to learn anything on your piano and certainly, will work your left hand to make it balanced with the right hand. Pianists use their left hands as much as their right hands when playing and need both of them to be equally strong and effective in order to play the piano well.
This video takes you through this lesson at the keyboard. We will play through the exercise together and discuss the different hand positions (which was not included in this lesson), where they are on the keyboard, and you'll be able to save the video and practice with it anytime you need to!
Ready to work out? Come practice with me!