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Left Hand Help Needed


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I think if a keyboardists earliest experience of playing keys is with a group, a weak left hand is very often the result (this was my experience). Solo performance demands much more of the left hand. It is in essence your rhythm section/orchestra. Many would agree that just a fair soloist in a group with a killin rhythm section is more enjoyable to hear than a fantastic soloist with a poor or mediocre rhythm section.

Now look at your left hand. How good is your rhythm section?

Im curious what techniques some of you have used, if any to improve your left hand?

My left hand stinks, but has improved from where it used to be. I would like to improve it some more.

Please help



"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."

"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden


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here's some advice in order to improve your left hand. Remember that the matter is not only left hand strength, but hand independence as well.


1) In the classical technical literature, there are quite a few exercises dedicated to strengthen the left hand. (Czerny, Cramer, etc.) Choose a couple among those that are closer to your level and needs and practice them hard.

2) Any counterpoint-based music, especially Bach, is good to develop hand independence. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Bach's music is wonderful.

3) Take any solo passage that you would normally play with you right hand, and practice it with your left. Then, play the passage with both hands together, one or two octaves apart.

4) Try to improvise melodic lines with left hand alone.

5) Practice scales and exercises with both hands simultaneously, both parallel and various kinds of contrary motion.

6) Try keeping simple riffs going with your left hand, and improvise over it with your right. Switch to more complicated riffs (i.e. longer, with pauses within them, in odd meters etc.) as you become stronger.

7) Practice "Jazz" left hand: Tenths, walking bass, stride (very difficult). Start by playing themes over it, then try to improvise solos.

8) Practice different rhythms in left and rigt hands. Start with 2 against 3, then 4 against 3 etc. Swap their roles often.


Hope this helps




This message has been edited by marino on 01-11-2001 at 03:23 AM

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Any of you have a recommendation for stride/boogie woogie/honkytonk/joplin styles?


Specific CD's and/or books to develop practice and performance elements from.





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Thanks Steven and Marino.

It is reinforcing to see advice for some things that I am already doing. I do love stride and it is difficult. I can't play a tenth without rolling it. My hands are big enough but my thumb goes out at the wrong angle. In John Mehegan's "Early Progressive Piano Styles" he says that rolling tenths in this style is not permissible. This is BS as all the great stride players I've heard on recordings rolled their tenths (for effect,not all the time of course). Single notes and octaves are also very usable.

Speaking of great stride players, did anyone see the second segment of Ken's Burns" "Jazz"? There was a short segment on the stride players-way too short for me, especially considering all the time given to Louis Armstrong. It really irked me that Burns was swayed to endulge Marsalis that much air time for his obvious idol. Now Louis Armstrong deserved a sizable segment no doubt, but how many hours of the first three programs were devoted to this one musician?!!! Give me a break! And where was the commentary on the stride players from someone like Dick Hyman or Oscar Peterson?!

Marsalis gave a ton of commentary on style with trumpet technique demonstrations. Does anyone know who that stride player was in the video with the cigar in his mouth? Willie the Lion Smith?

Anyway thanks again guys and here is one from me:

This is the best exercise I have ever found for my left hand. I think it works because of the degree of concentration required.


Read a fake chart of a familiar song(something you already play is good so you will hear any mistakes) with your left hand only. Play the melody in octaves and fill in as many of the chord tones as you can with your remaining three fingers, sometimes playing two notes at once with the thumb. If you are like me your hand will probably be cramping by the time you are through the first song. Just do one or two songs a day and don't worry that it is so slow that it is has no rhythmic momentum and doesn't sound musical. Just try it for about three days in a row and report back to me if you can suddenly tell a difference in the authority of your left hand in your normal playing.


Jerry, have you checked out PG Music's Pianist programs? I have the New Orleans styles some of which is very good. There is probably more boogie on the blues styles programs though. I believe they also have a ragtime program. Anyone have that? Also check out Dr John's audio and video cassettes from Homespun Tapes. The audio CDs/tapes are great. I haven't seen the videos. homespuntapes.com Can anyone recommend written materials? I just got "Boogie Woogie Hanon" but haven't worked in it yet. There are reviews of instructional material like this on Amazon.

"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."

"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden


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