Learning to play the piano isn’t easy.

How long does it take to learn the piano?

It depends, one of the hardest things about playing well isn’t necessarily being able to follow the music and read notation and read music theory impeccably, but about what you do with your hands.

Coordination is key for pianists, which means they need to be ambidextrous.

It’s no good having a right hand that glides across the keys effortlessly while your left-hand feels stiff and rigid on the other side.

This is perhaps one of the more overlooked skills when learning the piano, so in this guide, we’re going to address how to master the left-hand technique so it isn’t left behind mid-performance.

Of course, this means that this guide is mostly for pianists with a dominant right hand, but the learning principles apply the same to lefties.

If you want to speed up your progress and iron out mistakes, then dedicating time to working on your weaker hand should be time well spent.

Left handed piano playing
Using your weaker hand is key to improving your piano skills. Unsplash
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Why Improve your Left-Hand Technique?

Let’s start off by outlining the reasons for improving your left-hand technique, as you still might not be convinced that it’s something you need to work on.

One of the best ways to see how this method of training can help is by taking a look at how you type on your keyboard.

If you’re lucky enough to be a touch typer, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

Even if you aren’t, imagine for a second that you’re using both of your hands and all of your fingers to type.

Now put your left hand behind your back and write a few sentences about how your day is going.

Ok, so how did that go?

We’re willing to bet that what came out was an indecipherable soup of letters.

Without the left-hand side of your keyboard, you don’t have access to essential letters like ‘a’, ‘e’, and ‘t’.

That’s a big problem.

Of course, this is an exaggerated analogy because when you’re playing the piano you are always using both hands. But what we’re getting at is how difficult it is to rely on only your dominant hand for an activity that requires you to be ambidextrous.

If your left hand is lagging behind, then it slows you down a lot and makes your job a lot more difficult. If every ‘e’ and ‘a’ you type come slower than every ‘u’ and ‘i’ then your sentences are going to be laboured and slow to appear on the screen.

The same goes with piano, you can’t make much progress if your left hand is lagging behind and not picking up the slack.

Ok so now you realise how big an issue your left hand can be when playing piano, what can you do about it?

Work with a Tutor

piano and tutor
Learning piano with someone who has experience can fasttrack your progress immensely. Unsplash

If you’re going to iron out your errors as you learn to play the piano, you’ll need a helping hand.

While you certainly can self-teach and learn the piano by yourself, one of the biggest things you’ll miss out on if you go down this route is an extra set of eyes.

Sure, you can course-correct on your own, but having an experienced piano tutor guide you along the process and identify your common mistakes can speed up the learning process immensely.

What’s more, working closely with an online piano teacher you’ll be able to explore beneath the surface of the instrument.

By that we mean you’ll be able to get to know somebody who already loves to play the instrument and knows it inside and out.

As a result, you might find that through conversations you have with them as you learn, that there are other aspects of the instrument you find appealing. For example, your tutor could introduce you to a particular classical musician that they enjoy or they could show you how they make playing the piano enjoyable for them.

As well as providing a roadmap to musical mastery, a piano tutor can tip you off about some of the best resources. They can save you countless hours and make the learning process a joy, alleviating some of the common frustrations associated with it.

You never know, you might even make a friend out of the process too. It’s always rewarding to find someone who has a similar interest in a specific skill, so sharing your enthusiasm for the piano with a tutor online can be an excellent way to keep your motivation levels up.

If you’re tired of scouring the internet for a piano tutor, why not check out Superprof?

With the Superprof website, you can find qualified and experienced piano tutors near you and can do so by searching with various filters. You can even find a tutor on the platform to work online with, as that way you can use your home piano for classes without having to meet the tutor in person.

For example, enter ‘piano teacher bristol’ followed by Superprof and you’ll find piano tutors in the area. You can also try typing in ‘piano lessons near me or piano teacher near me’ followed by ‘Superprof’ to find tutors nearby.

If you’re a reader, many say the best book to learn piano is Damon Ferrante’s ‘Piano Book for Adult Beginners’.

Ok so now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into some practise.

Here are a couple of exercises suggested by Pianote to get your left hand up to speed.

Exercise 1: Finger Fluidity

piano fingers
Practising with these exercises on your left hand can be hugely helpful in improving dexterity. Unsplash

The first exercise we want to introduce you to for improving your left hand technique is something we’re going to refer to as finger fluidity.

This exercise is as simple as they come, so stretch out your fingers, and let’s get started!

First things first, to complete this exercise you’re going to want either a keyboard or a piano, and of course, something to sit on.

The aim of this exercise is to loosen up the fingers of your left hand so that it’s less of an issue to play the keys smoothly.

Just like one of the best things you can to do nail to your pronunciation in a foreign language is loosen your tongue, this exercise follows a similar idea but for your fingers.

When you’re in position, here’s what you have to do:

  •  With your non-dominant hand, be it your right or left hand, place your four fingers and thumb on the keyboard across five different keys.
  •  Now, all you’re going to do is gently roll your fingers starting with your pinky all the way up to your thumb and then back again.

Make sure that when you do this you are playing each individual key, and going at a rhythm that’s not too fast. After doing this for a few rounds, you might notice that your pinky finger sticks out, or that you feel the tension in your left hand. Realize that this is perfectly normal, and it’s part of the process.

  • When you start to get more comfortable with the exercise, you can come up with a pattern to follow to make things more challenging. For example, you can play something like: 5,4,3,3,2,1,3,3 or any other combination that you can think of.

Exercise 2: Finger Flow

The next exercise is all about taking the next step and improving the movement capability of your left hand.

After all, a static left hand that can play five keys is only going to get you so far in your journey to piano-playing proficiency.

You want to be able to work up to the point at which your left hand can flow across the keys just as well as your right hand can.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to do for this exercise.

  •  Like you did in the first exercise, start by placing the fingers and thumb of your left hand across five keys on the piano or keyboard.
  •  First, play the key beneath your pinky finger and then, move your thumb one key to the right and play that key.

What you’re doing here is working on your hand movement so that your fingers flow more easily along with the keys. This might be tricky to do at first, and it might take a few attempts, but try to stick with it as learning to move your left hand well will have huge positive implications for your piano-playing skills.

  • The progression from this movement is to slide along the keys so that your pinky finger and thumb are hitting different keys each time.

There’s a good chance that by doing this exercise your fingers will start to ache after a while, so make sure to stretch and shake them out once you’re done.

You can also work up to learn piano chords, piano scales, and piano notes. There are many easy piano songs to learn when you pick up the various techniques, such as ‘Havana’ by Camila Cabello.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.