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What the hell do I do with my left hand?


LiveMusic

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Ok, so, I want to learn how to play piano better. I have a Yamaha psr-740 and it does this auto-accompaniment thing. And I taught myself how to play chords and now, I sound like a whole darn band. My right hand, I'm decent but not good but good enough, filling in with some fills. But basically, all I'm doing is playing the chords of the song and my right hand it doing the same thing. Basically, that is. With a few notes here and there, and the chord is arpeggiated. Is that a word?

 

But, I want to be able to literally play a real piano. So, the right hand is fine enough but I really do not have a feel for what to do with my left hand. I have to do something besides strike the root. What would be the best way to learn? I have a boatload of piano books, I've just never taken the time, since I was busy learning other stuff. But I need to be able to really play for real, without just playing chords with my left hand. The notes are too close together if I'm playing 'for real.'

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You will save a lot of time if you study with someone who plays for a living. Short answer ... gotta go. Good luck.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Any tips other than taking lessons? I don't know if I wanna mess with that. I mean, taking piano lessons from the stereotypical "piano teacher." I have taught myself how to do everything, guitar, what I know about keys, theory, whatever. I took piano when a little kid for one year but I forgot it all cuz I quit. What I'm saying is I don't necessarily want to learn to sight read. I am 50 years old and do not have the luxury of time. I gotta move fast. If I just knew kinda what to do with my left hand. Maybe some of these books and cd tutorials will help once I dig in. If I have to take lessons, I guess I will.

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Duke,

 

Here's something that will get your left hand moving: Learn to play arpeggiated chords with your left hand.

 

A typical pattern is the root, the 5th, the root (one octave up), then down to the 5th. For example, if you're playing a C in your right hand, play C, G, C, G in the left. One note per beat and the right hand lasts for all four beats.

 

When you're comfortable with this, learn to argeggiate other chords in the progression.

 

Good luck. And you might reconsider taking lessons.

Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
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I am not totally opposed to taking lessons but I have no idea how I could find a teacher I would have confidence in. I don't think I'm interested in learning the way most people have taught piano for the past hundred years. I think it leaves a lot to be desired. Plus, I would have to travel 40 minutes one way to the city for a lesson.

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Originally posted by MurMan:

Duke,

 

Here's something that will get your left hand moving: Learn to play arpeggiated chords with your left hand.

 

A typical pattern is the root, the 5th, the root (one octave up), then down to the 5th. For example, if you're playing a C in your right hand, play C, G, C, G in the left. One note per beat and the right hand lasts for all four beats.

 

When you're comfortable with this, learn to argeggiate other chords in the progression.

 

Good luck. And you might reconsider taking lessons.

Yeah, that's practical. I have some books with cds I need to dig into I guess.

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Duke,

 

Oops, I overlooked your comment about arpeggiating chords in your initial post, so please disregard my earlier reply.

 

As for lessons, remember that as an adult, we can shop around for a teacher. If you don't want to go the traditional, classical route, you can find a good teacher that can lead you down another path if you want.

 

Can't do anything about the big city commute, though.

Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
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Scales, both hands, in all keys..... then arpeggios both hands, 1 octave up & down, then 2 octaves up & down, 3, 4, etc. Hanon, Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises , you can work on those for a lifetime. But enough of that.

 

A couple of tips, and tricks. I assume your ear is good, if you taught yourself guitar..

Learn a couple of your favorite songs, on keyboard.

Learn all the parts, bass, chords, melody.

Play along with the radio, cop the bass, then try to figure out the chords.

Listen to keyboard players on CD's.

 

Just a couple of ideas.

 

Sly :cool:

Whasineva ehaiz, ehissgot ta be Funky!
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Originally posted by Groovepusher Sly:

Scales, both hands, in all keys..... then arpeggios both hands, 1 octave up & down, then 2 octaves up & down, 3, 4, etc. Hanon, URL=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0793525446/qid=/sr=/ref=cm_lm_asin/002-1262839-2990407?v=glance]Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises[/url], you can work on those for a lifetime. But enough of that.

 

A couple of tips, and tricks. I assume your ear is good, if you taught yourself guitar..

Learn a couple of your favorite songs, on keyboard.

Learn all the parts, bass, chords, melody.

Play along with the radio, cop the bass, then try to figure out the chords.

Listen to keyboard players on CD's.

 

Just a couple of ideas.

 

Sly :cool:

He's looking for what to do with his left hand and not excercises per se.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Ok, so, I want to learn how to play piano better.

Two suggestions for starters:

 

1/ Learn pattern bass. This is things like:

 

(quarter notes) C E G A (ascending)

 

(swung eights) C:G C:G C:A C:A (repeat)

 

(note by : I mean play these notes together)

 

(6/8 time)

 

C | C(octave) E | G | E G

 

(Those | mark beats). Can you reach tenths - make that second C the next E up.)

 

Learn to play alternating 5th finger /thumb bass lines in octaves.

 

C C(octave) | E (E octave) | G (etc) | A | Bb | A | G | E | C E G A C A G A. etc

 

2/ learn standard rootless voicings. Get hold of Mark Levine's Jazz Piano Book - its all in there. This book will get you to where you can pull variations on the standard voicings for musical effect, which is the goal.

 

3/ Learn to stride. This is alternating notes (octaves or tenths if you can (very difficult at speed!)) in the base and chords on alternate beats in the left hand. Think Joplin (Scott, not Janice)

 

4/ Learn to walk the bass. Just like you will hear a Jazz bass player do.

 

OK, that's 2 more than I promised. If nothing else, this should convince you that a teacher would be useful - there's a lot of stuff there and its much easier to show than to describe. At very least get out and listen to lots of players. You may find yourself a teacher in the process.

 

Should keep you busy for at least a couple of years! 1 and 2 are not hard, but require quite a bit of practice to develop hand independence in one and to be able to find the voicing immediately from the chord in 2. 3 is hard period if you do the full thing (tenths at speed with mixed in walking tenths). 4 is technically easy but musically hard to do well - if you learn to do it by rote it will sound bad.

 

CAUTION - at first you will suck. Don't worry, everybody did. Don't let anybody tell you you don't have the talent. The more you practice the more talented you get.

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

He's looking for what to do with his left hand and not excercises per se.

 

Won't hurt to exercise. Plus if he taught himself to play guitar, he had to do SOME TYPE of repetition drills.

 

He's looking for what to do with his left hand and not excercises per se.

 

I hope whatever he does with it, it's on the keyboard. :D

Sly :cool:
Whasineva ehaiz, ehissgot ta be Funky!
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A good way to start to get your left hand (or both hands for that matter) trained is to find a piece of piano music that you like and then sit down and learn it. If you can read music at all (even badly) and you have a good ear, you should be able to figure out what's going on and teach it to yourself. Something 'classical' is preferable since the sheet music will be note for note what you will hear on any decent recording of it.

If you hate classical music (hpe not!) you can always find music for pop song, but they're more likely to be a an adaptation of a song rather than a literal notation.

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If you just really don't want to take lessons. Get some books with some songs in it that you really know, sit down and learn to play them. You will know when they are about right. I learn the right hand until I think I got it perfect, then add the right hand part. And instead of using auto-accompaniment, just use the drumkits. Kcbass

 "Let It Be!"

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Originally posted by Steve in KS:

A good way to start to get your left hand (or both hands for that matter) trained is to find a piece of piano music that you like and then sit down and learn it. If you can read music at all (even badly) and you have a good ear, you should be able to figure out what's going on and teach it to yourself. Something 'classical' is preferable since the sheet music will be note for note what you will hear on any decent recording of it.

If you hate classical music (hpe not!) you can always find music for pop song, but they're more likely to be a an adaptation of a song rather than a literal notation.

I have one reservation about this. Learning songs is definitely valuable but its not enough. Most piano music contains stylistic "pianistic" elements that you have to understand. These are simply things that human hands can do comfortably, if with practice. If you learn to play a piece with all sorts of unneccesary manual gymnastics you really aren't making progress.

 

So if you don't want to take lessons, make sure you get some books of excercises as well. Hanon is a standard. A good sheet music shop should be able to provide others.

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Duke,

improving your left hand is always good, but remember that in piano playing, it's often the 'interaction' of the two hands which gives you a good texture.

 

If your main goal is to play pop/rock piano, try the following steps:

 

- Be sure to know all chords in all inversions with both hands.

- Choose a song with a fair number of chord changes.

- Practice the chords in the right hand, trying to mantain a good voice-leading by using inversions. Also, take the melody into account.

- Practice the left hand alone, at first keeping it on roots and fifths, then tryng passing notes and different rhythms, placing the bass on the third (seldom :) ), etc.

- Using the positions you've learned, try various alternating/repeating/arpeggiated rhythms using both hands. For example, play the top and bottom note first, then play rhythms with the inner notes; divide the right-hand chords in two parts (bottom and top) and alternate them in various ways; arpeggiate the right hand in various ways, both in continuous eight-note fashion and with pauses, while playing strategically placed notes with the left hand (typical pattern: play on 1, 2 1/2, 4).

- Add passing notes and embellishements to your chords.

- Repeat with another song :D

Etc etc.

 

Also check "The Pop Piano Book" my Mark Harrison on this kind of things.

 

That said, I *must* advise you that playing the piano with an incorrect hand and arm position can bring you serious problems with your tendons and muscles. I'm not saying you're going to encounter these problems, but once they're there, they're not easy to overcome. I would check with a teacher anyway - only a good teacher can check your playing posture and giving you the right advice. Try to find a teacher who have experience in various kinds of music - not only classical or jazz - and stick with his advice.

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I need 40 hours in a day. There's good, practical advice in here. As for a teacher, I did go that route. About a year ago, I called around and based on the phone interview, I decided on this certain lady. I took three lessons and decided it was not going to work. She turned out to be more like the stereotypical piano teacher.

 

When I went into it I basically told her...

 

I am too old to start like a third grader and I know enough and have enough natural musicianship that I don't need to start there. IMHO. (I play by ear but I can read the right hand decently.) And I sat down and played some rudimentary stuff for her. So, she was cool about that. I told her that I am looking for someone that can help me play pop/rock/country music as fast as possible and that I have no clue what to do with the left hand. Nothing fancy, just to where I can make music. That I have taught myself to play the chords on the piano and I can at least make music with my keyboard (auto-accompaniment).

 

But she wanted me to learn to read. Which I'm not opposed to, but it's not what I went there for. I was looking for real world, practical info like some stuff in this thread.

 

When I "hired" her, ideally, I was wanting to find a gigging keyboard player that I could hire.

 

It's like this. I have played acoustic guitar for 37 years. I am pretty good. Not great but plenty good to gig. But I want to play electric. And it's different. I simply want someone to show me how to do bends and vibrato and stuff like that. That requires a definite technique. You can describe it on paper but I'll be damn if I have figured out how to do it right. I'd bet any gigging guitarist could spend four lessons with me and I'd have it.

 

But I went to a gigging guitarist friend of mine who also teaches. Know what he said? "Nope, we start you out like anyone else. Gotta get the basics." I declined. He's a one hour drive from me, one way and I thought I had a reasonable request. I do not have the luxury of time! I am 50 years old and trying to do things fast. I've done pretty well, if I don't say so myself.

 

BTW, I have a Mark Harrison book called "The Pop Piano Book." Did someone mention that? It's a big thick book. Hanon, people mention that, never heard of it till this forum but it keeps popping up. I have NEVER leared scales. Even on guitar. I messed around with it some but never stuck with it. I have spent almost all of my time "picking out" songs, learning them by ear.

 

I bought a David Sudnow piano course. I thought it was wonderful and probably has merit but I did not stick with it. It could work. Maybe six months to a year, could do some good. I did do it for a couple of months and did learn "Misty" and was working on Danny Boy. Couldn't play it now, though. Writing got in the way and for 2 1/2 years, I've spent almost all of my time writing (full songs, words and music).

 

My whole problem is the left hand. Thanks for all suggestions.

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Wait a minute - a 61-note Yamaha PSR740 keyboard ain't no piano! 61-notes isn't going to give you the room you need to move around with - it's no wonder you don't know what to do with the left hand. And that arranger section isn't helping - it's made for organ players that really do hold chords with their left hands, not pianists who tend to arpeggiate through them.

 

Even if it means just spending 30 minutes at a music store - go play a real piano or at least an 88-note keyboard without an arranger section and just feel your way through some easy songs. If you want to learn piano you are going to eventually have to upgrade from that PSR740 to something with more keys.

 

Yeah, lessons from a pro are the way to go... but seriously consider getting yourself something you can really practice on! :D

 

Edit: learning to read music is important if you intend to pursue a professional career; but I think it's asking a lot to translate what your eyes see into something that your brain can process into something your hands can play into something your ears can hear-analyze-respond-interact with. The whole notion of reading music involves a lot of separate mental-processing steps that have to eventually be coordinated for music to occur. The reason music teachers insist on students learning this regime is because that's the way they were taught to teach, not because it's the easiest or even the best way to learn music. Playing by ear reduces the required processing by several factors, which is why so many musicians do it. But not everyone can play by ear whereas almost everyone can learn to play music by taking the required lessons and learning to read music from the ground up.

 

Instead of taking lessons maybe all you really need is an evening or two with a real pianist just learning licks and techniques. For that matter, there are plenty of DVD's out there by seasoned pros that will show you some of their moves without laying a lot of theory on you.

 

Finally, there are some programs by PG Music like Band In A Box and The Jazz Pianist that have small libraries of songs included, and they display a piano keyboard that shows you the notes as they are being played. If you just want to learn to play for fun, this might be helpful.

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Originally posted by The Pro:

Even if it means just spending 30 minutes at a music store - go play a real piano or at least an 88-note keyboard without an arranger section and just feel your way through some easy songs. If you want to learn piano you are going to eventually have to upgrade from that PSR740 to something with more keys. Yeah, lessons from a pro are the way to go... but seriously consider getting yourself something you can really practice on! :D

Now, that's an interesting response. REALLY? I mean, how often would I go below that C two octaves below mid-C? Come on, really? (If it's really important, I want to know.)

 

Let me put it this way. I have a friend who can play the absolute hell out of a piano. He plays boogie woogie better than Jerry Lee himself. And he just plays the heck out of this thing. He has an 88-key Korg but still loves this Yamaha for all the stuff it will do.

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

I mean, how often would I go below that C two octaves below mid-C? Come on, really? (If it's really important, I want to know.)[/QB]

Well I play piano professionally so I go to that lower area pretty often. One great example is the opening to "Memories from Cats": with the sustain pedal down I hit that low C two octaves below middle C, then G, then C one octave below middle C, then the remainder of the C major chord... this becomes an arpeggiated progression that becomes the basis for the song. There's an amazing amount of piano music that can be played like this. You have to stop thinking of chords in terms of what you can hold down with one hand at one time - the piano spreads those chords out into arpeggios.

 

Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Let me put it this way. I have a friend who can play the absolute hell out of a piano. He plays boogie woogie better than Jerry Lee himself. And he just plays the heck out of this thing. He has an 88-key Korg but still loves this Yamaha for all the stuff it will do.[/QB]

Let me put it this way: I own two 88-note keyboards, one 76-note and two 25-note controllers - all of them have their own specific application and use in my life, but when I want/need to play a piano then I use the big boys.
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I agree with the spirit of the above post: there's only so much LH that can fit on a 61-key keyboard. I'm not putting down the Yamaha PSR-series: they're great for learning theory and basics, and the unweighted keys don't strain the fingers like does your average piano-style board. I assume this model has a sustain pedal? It's needed for some of the LH arpeggio (ballad) styles referenced here.

 

I can't stress the quality of some of the instructional videos available enough; however, in order to use the best ones available (often taught by luminaries of the piano, for example, Chuck Leavell, Dr. John, Bill Heid, et al.), one needs to have an interest in mastering a specific style of music on the piano.

 

The only course of study that will teach "the basics" of piano is a classically-grounded course of study, beginning with scales and fingering and finishing with Messiaen or transcriptions of Tatum. This may be overkill for what you want to do.

 

However, there are really about two options for the advanced/adult learner who already knows what style of music in which he or she wishes to become adept:

 

(a) find a teacher who knows the genre backwards and forwards, and who is willing to allow you to tape record lessons, perform for you, and eventually let you sub for him or her, etc. The old route of mentorship. There is no such thing as "LH" technique, as such, apart from the discipline of performing scales and arpeggios; for the practical how-to, it's all relative to the style of music, the context of your performance (e.g., playing with a bassist? you'd better NOT have a chatty L.H. in his frequency range!)

 

(b) listen to the piano-centric records you enjoy and learn the parts by ear, or, less effectively perhaps, finding printed transcriptions of the keyboard parts and learning them cold. keep in mind that a good teacher is, in this context, one who has sort of done your homework for you by having mastered this step: you can go it alone without any problem.

 

(I'm not mentioning option ©, which is, of course, a combination of these two steps.)

 

Of course, since I know how to play the organ, sort of, the 61-keys work out all right for a digital rig, provided you set up some kind of split and walk in the LH in a restricted area. But for piano?

 

Anyway, LH, you've got Art Tatum, Bill Evans, and then you've got James C. Booker III. They're all great: listen and learn!

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Originally posted by jlee:

I agree with the spirit of the above post: there's only so much LH that can fit on a 61-key keyboard. I'm not putting down the Yamaha PSR-series: they're great for learning theory and basics, and the unweighted keys don't strain the fingers like does your average piano-style board. I assume this model has a sustain pedal? It's needed for some of the LH arpeggio (ballad) styles referenced here.

 

I can't stress the quality of some of the instructional videos available enough; however, in order to use the best ones available (often taught by luminaries of the piano, for example, Chuck Leavell, Dr. John, Bill Heid, et al.), one needs to have an interest in mastering a specific style of music on the piano.

 

The only course of study that will teach "the basics" of piano is a classically-grounded course of study, beginning with scales and fingering and finishing with Messiaen or transcriptions of Tatum. This may be overkill for what you want to do.

 

However, there are really about two options for the advanced/adult learner who already knows what style of music in which he or she wishes to become adept:

 

(a) find a teacher who knows the genre backwards and forwards, and who is willing to allow you to tape record lessons, perform for you, and eventually let you sub for him or her, etc. The old route of mentorship. There is no such thing as "LH" technique, as such, apart from the discipline of performing scales and arpeggios; for the practical how-to, it's all relative to the style of music, the context of your performance (e.g., playing with a bassist? you'd better NOT have a chatty L.H. in his frequency range!)

 

(b) listen to the piano-centric records you enjoy and learn the parts by ear, or, less effectively perhaps, finding printed transcriptions of the keyboard parts and learning them cold. keep in mind that a good teacher is, in this context, one who has sort of done your homework for you by having mastered this step: you can go it alone without any problem.

 

(I'm not mentioning option ©, which is, of course, a combination of these two steps.)

 

Of course, since I know how to play the organ, sort of, the 61-keys work out all right for a digital rig, provided you set up some kind of split and walk in the LH in a restricted area. But for piano?

 

Anyway, LH, you've got Art Tatum, Bill Evans, and then you've got James C. Booker III. They're all great: listen and learn!

Hey man, post an "I'm new here" topic so we can all introduce ourselves to you. Welcome. Kcbass

 "Let It Be!"

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Thanks for noticing my recent arrival to what appears to be a really great keys forum, KCBass -- I'm thinking about starting a spin-off thread on one of my real LH bugbears, namely, Ian Stewart's part on "Rip this Joint" (The Stones!), so maybe it would be more economical to let slip some bio info in *that* thread. Anyway, I'm pretty interested in what the cat who started this thread is after and if he can get some good info and, one hopes, stick around for a while. Cheers, jlee
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If I posted my first thought as a reply DB would probably ban me. :D

 

Ok. Seriously, what is the book with two hand classical exercises? It begins with an H and I have it at home. It is very good for building the left hand and two hand coordination. It is on the tip of my tongue. See. :P

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

[QBNow, that's an interesting response. REALLY? I mean, how often would I go below that C two octaves below mid-C? Come on, really? (If it's really important, I want to know.)

 

.[/QB]

Watch you friend's left hand. If he is playing solo his little finger on his left hand probably ends up below C two octaves down frequently. Its real hard not to go down another fifth at least and just the Bb and B are real useful to allow you to "roll" up to the C if you are playing in C.

 

You are going to run into trouble on a 61 note board. The other problem is you will never build strength in your hands on an unweighted board.

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Originally posted by Rabid:

Seriously, what is the book with two hand classical exercises? It begins with an H and I have it at home. It is very good for building the left hand and two hand coordination. It is on the tip of my tongue. See. :P

 

Robert

"Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises" by C.L. Hanon. Brutal on beginners, but recommended.
Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
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