Introduction: How to Refine Your Left Hand Piano Playing With Czerny Etudes
We are always working on one of our hands in piano playing, aren't we?
My left hand was always my weakest and not just when it came to playing notes...it was also a struggle to play the correct notes with my right hand when I added in those notes.
I became well acquainted with the famous Czerny Etudes for Pianists as they really helped me overcome a lot of my left-hand challenges.
Today I'd like to share with you 3 of the most helpful etudes I found in the Czerny repertoire. They are incredibly useful for refining our ability to play scales, chords, arpeggios and even more random skipping patterns; all with our left hand.
If you aren't familiar with Czerny yet...this will be a great introduction to you, and if you are familiar with his etudes you will want to see how each of these help a specific challenge that we all have in left-handed playing. After a little bit of practicing each day on one of these when you are really focused, you will see all the difference in the world in your piano playing.
An etude is simply a technique piece...or a short piece that is meant to really work a specific technical aspect and help you play it better. Czerny's goal in life was to help all of us play the piano with stronger, articulate and fast-fingered left hands.
Let's look at the first etude that I recommend and how it can help you play the piano with a strong left hand.
Step 1: Etude #1 - Working With Scales and Arpeggios
Etude #1 really gives the right hand a rest with just a few chords, so the left hand can be busy playing all of these scale patterns.
Once you get the moving pattern down in the first couple of measures, you'll find that Czerny repeats that a lot throughout this etude.
As we are focusing more on the left hand in this lesson...start practicing this etude and each of them with just your left hand and leave the right hand out until you are secure with the notes and flow of the left hand.
Start slowly and play through as much as you can...then go back and play that much again.
Notice the finger crossing patterns as well. We're moving from the key of C to G and back to C in these different scales which gets you used to playing through lots of notes while moving through different keys at the same time.
I play through this etude on the piano in the last step so make sure to watch the video portion of this lesson to really get it down.
Next, let's look at what the 2nd Etude can help us with in terms of refining our left-hand piano playing.
Step 2: Etude #2 - Working With 3rds
Let's start with just the left hand again, in this 2nd Etude by Czerny.
This time, we are playing chords in our left hand, and more specifically - we're playing 3rds. You'll be playing with 2 fingers at one time in this etude instead of single note scale patterns as we did in the last etude.
Remember, that 3rds are chords where you have 2 notes in the chord, and the top note is 3 notes away from the bottom note if you include the bottom note when you start counting. For example, a 3rd above F would be A...F, G, & A...see? There are a lot of 3rds in the left hand in this etude.
The importance of this type of work is that it strengthens non-normal patterns for our fingers to move in. We normally move our fingers in a consecutive type of movement...one after the other. Moving these particular sets of fingers together will really shake things up and strengthen those fingers that aren't used to moving that much.
So far we've looked at Etude #1 which gives us some really good scale workouts and then we have Etude #2 which makes us start playing more than one note together and moving across the keyboard simultaneously in 3rds...what happens when we have to move our left hand quickly from one side of the keyboard way over to the other side?
That's what our last etude is going to help us with...let's take a look.
Step 3: Etude #4 - Working on Jumping Distances
Advanced pianists can literally seem to jump from the very bottom of the piano keyboard to the very top of the keyboard with no problems. They practiced a lot of Czerny etudes! :)
Etude #4 specifically works on this issue by making your left hand jump from a single note to a chord that is much higher up than the original first note.
You might think that you can't do this, but if you practice this etude and others like it slowly, you'll really be surprised as to how quickly your hand "learns" exactly what keys to land on when they jump up. (It's like they have a mind of their own!)
This etude also has you playing more advanced chords with your left hand, instead of the 2-note thirds that we had in the last etude. As you can see, each one of these is a bit more advanced than the one before it was.
Now we need to go to our pianos and try each one of these etudes...but not by yourself! Come and practice with me.
Step 4: Come Practice With Me!
I go over each of these etudes with you in this video. Once you get a good idea of how they sound you'll be set to continue on your own with these Czerny etudes and all of the others that he wrote...which are many!
What's important to remember is to take each one separately, practice using just your left hand at first, and go slowly. The hard work won't pay off unless you start slowly and then build up speed as you get more comfortable with each one.
The beginning goal isn't to play all of the notes perfectly...that will come later on. The main goal is to get your left hand and fingers used to moving in single note format as well as in chords with 2 or more notes in them, and to be able to move or jump around anywhere you need to go on the keyboard to be able to play the piece you are working on well.
Bookmark this video so you can come back and practice with it/me anytime you need to. It's always great to have an extra bit of reinforcement and support when we're working on something in our piano playing.
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