The hardest part about playing piano is getting your hands to play completely different parts at the same time.
Both hands will often be playing a wildly different part – one part can be challenging enough on its own – and then you must play them at the same time.
It can be one of the most frustrating, slow and discouraging parts about learning the piano or digital piano.
Trying to get my hands to work together used to give me anxiety and tempt me to give up.
But don't give up. You can overcome.
You must go slow. Practice one hand at a time. Ingrain the parts in your brain. Slowly put the parts together. Relax. Breathe. And then keep practicing until it’s second nature.
Eventually, you’ll have independence in both hands. Freedom!
If playing with your hands together is a frustrating experience for you, follow these steps to work out your issues.
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The single biggest mistake beginner piano students make when they are trying to play more complex pieces and get their hands working independently, is they tend to rush.
Rushing through the process will lead to mistakes.
You’ll end up learning bad habits and mistakes in both hands, and then it will become much harder to eventually play the song perfectly.
It’s much easier to ingrain good habits into your muscle memory than it is to break bad habits.
Start slow and work on one hand at a time.
Play the whole song through with your right hand. Use a metronome, and go at a pace of at least 20 bpm slower than the recommended tempo.
Then repeat this process with your left hand.
Read the left-hand part through to the end at a slow tempo.
It’s going to be a little frustrating, but when you eventually put your hands together, don’t be tempted to play the song at full speed right away.
Just because you can play the parts separately does not mean you can do it hands together.
Take it slow and gradually increase the tempo by five bpm at a time.
Practice One Hand At A Time
Usually, there will be parts in both hands that you’ll naturally trip over – especially if you’re trying to play hands together right away.
Instead, learn the parts one hand at a time.
This gives you the opportunity to work out potentially challenging parts and have them under your fingers when you put your hands together.
Again, it’s important you go slow at first. It will seem boring, but it will save you time down the road, and you’ll end up playing the song with more accuracy and better technique.
When You’re Putting Both Hands Together, Break It Up Into Chunks
While you’re practicing the entire song with your hands separately, you can start piecing together little chunks with your hands together.
After working on the song with your hands separate for a while, you’ll probably have the intro or the first several bars of the song under your fingers.
Try putting just that chunk together.
Pick two to four bars of the song, and practice that chunk with your hands together until you have it nailed.
Do this while practicing the song with one hand at a time.
Then, at your next session, pick out the next two to four bars, and work on that chunk.
Try going from the first two to four bars, to the next two to four bars. Make the transition seamless.
Keep practicing with your hands separately.
At the next session, add another two to four bars.
Rinse and repeat.
Practicing like this is effective. You can achieve more doing this for 20 minutes a day than you would practicing for two hours every second day – I honestly believe that.
Your time should be spent mastering the parts. Not just working them out and fumbling your way through the practice session.
Start With Rhythm, Then Get The Notes
Put your hands on your knees.
Tap out the rhythm to each part, on each knee.
Do this one hand at a time at first, and then do it together.
Understanding how the rhythm of each hand’s part works will change your experience of learning a song.
Once you can competently tap out each hand’s rhythm, try putting the rhythms together.
Then, once you’ve mastered tapping the rhythm to each part with both hands at once, start learning the notes.
Again – learn the notes one hand at a time, then put them together.
Be Patient & Relaxed, Playing Piano With Both Hands Doesn't Happen Overnight
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this sensation, but when there is a seemingly small task that I cannot physically perform, I get anxious, tense, and get a knot (almost like the butterflies) in my stomach.
This is not a nice feeling and will not lend itself to a productive practice session.
Learning to play different things in both hands is not an easy skill, even if you choose an easy song to learn. It’s a learned skill.
To this day, hand independence is still one of the main things I work on.
It takes, time, patience and practice.
Practice. A lot.
Any time you feel tense or anxious while working on this skill, take a minute to breathe.
Remind yourself that there is no pressure and you are doing this for you.
Slow the tempo down. Start over. Practice one hand at a time. Try again.
If you’re getting frustrated, leave it. Come back to it tomorrow.
Sometimes, a good sleep will “magically” put the song under your fingers.
Keep Practicing With Both Hands – Piano Is Muscle Memory
You are teaching your hands to do something foreign.
Playing piano with finesse takes a lot practice.
Once you can play a song with both hands at once, you’ll need to work on finessing your piano playing.
- Should both hands be playing at the same volume? Where are the accents? Should your hands be accenting different notes at the same time?
- Are you using the best possible fingering in both hands? Learning the parts one hand at a time will help you learn the correct fingering.
- Are there parts that still trip you up? Do not gloss over these parts. This is your opportunity to grow. Break challenging parts down into each hand, go slow and then put them back together again.