“Hello, left hand. It’s nice to meet you!”

HandsOnKeysHello fellow pianist,

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever met your left hand?

Silly, right? Of course you have! Sure, your right hand can play a little faster than your left hand can, but you diligently practice your music one-hand-at-a-time and are basically happy with your left hand technique.

But let me ask you once again: Have you ever met your left hand?

It’s like an old TV commercial I remember from the 70s: A young, beautiful person is asked, “How’s your love life?” She replies that it’s great, with all the exciting things that happen to her every day. But when the questioner repeats, “That’s all great, but how’s your love life?”, she looks confused and says, “What’s a love life?” (BTW, the commercial must have failed because I have no recollection of what product they were selling!)

As pianists, our left hand is a lot like that. We may spend an hour a day practicing our LH technique, but because the great majority of piano music has the LH  providing accompaniment to the right hand’s melody, we don’t have as good of a relationship with the LH as we do with the right. This applies to piano students and also to a surprising number of professionals.

Our piano teachers extol us to “let the melody ring out,” and we mentally sing along with our RH lines. But when was the last time you ever sang along with your bass line? (I used to do this when I played hymns at church services. It’s not easy!)

Your left hand has long been waiting for your love and attention.

Try this: choose a simple melody; it can be anything from a popular song to “Ode to Joy.” Or a simple jazz tune, but no bebop yet!  Then, simply play it with your left hand. Feels a little strange, doesn’t it? It almost certainly won’t feel as natural as playing it with your RH. Play it again, and put all your attention on how your LH feels as it moves. Notice each fingertip as it touches the keys. Listen to the sound of the line as it unfolds. Physically sing along and give it the same respect you usually give to your right hand.

Spending time with our left hand in this way can have a dramatic effect on the way we play and experience music. And don’t just do it for one day. Come back to this time and again, with all different types of LH parts. Bach Inventions, jazz walking bass lines, funk rhythms, waltz patterns, they will all benefit from this approach.

“Hello, left hand. It’s nice to meet you!”

Here are some more ideas to help you develop your left hand technique: How To Develop GREAT Left Hand Technique on Piano

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