My latest article for Pianist Magazine’s newsletter focuses on coordination between the hands. A perennially tricky but important subject, there many ways to improve this facet. I hope my suggestions are useful.
Coordination between the hands can be a sticking point for many pianists. How do we play rapid passagework in both hands, ensuring each and every note is depressed at exactly the same moment for perfect synchronicity? Many players find their left-hand flagging, and this can result in unclear articulation and a dragging left hand line. Here are a few practice ideas to help the left hand (or right hand, if you feel that to be weaker) keep up and come to life!
1 Good coordination requires careful listening. Start with a simple C major scale. Aim to practice with just one octave at first. Play each hand separately, and decide on the best fingering, learn it thoroughly and stick to it. A heavy touch, when used for practice purposes, can help with finger agility and strength. Keep the wrist and arm flexible and relaxed, and try to play in to the key bed, past the double escapement action. I encourage students to play on the tips of the fingers when developing a strong finger technique.
2 Put the hands together and play the scale deeply and slowly, producing a full tone, listening to every note, ensuring fingers are depressing the keys at precisely the same moment. It’s sometimes easier to do this using wrist circles (or circular wrist rotations) between each note; this way, you can gauge the moment of key depression whilst keeping the hand and wrist relaxed.
3 For really exact coordination, allow the left hand to lead. I find this works best with most rapid passagework. To do this, lighten the touch in the right hand a little, and deepen it in the left. This will provide a more powerful bass line, and also proffers the chance to ‘hear’ your articulation in the left hand more clearly.
4 Now take the left hand down an octave, so that you are playing the scale two octaves apart. Watch and listen for crisp, clear articulation as notes are played altogether. Practising passagework in the lower parts of the keyboard necessitates a stronger, deeper touch as the keys are generally heavier. There are many beneficial variations when developing coordination; you may like to experiment with various dynamics or different touches in either hand.
5 Finally, lighten your touch and add speed. As you skim over the keys, you will hopefully find the notes easier to play, and both hands should ideally be uniformly coordinating. If you want to work at developing agility in the right hand, reverse these practice suggestions.
Practise this type of exercise little and often. There should never be any pain when playing the piano. Eventually, fingers will find greater agility and coordination will feel under control.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
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