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Is it a normal practice for a piano part to have different dynamics for the left and for the right hand?

And if it's not common, what will happen if I specify different dynamics for the left and for the right hand? Will a professional pianist not be able to play, say, pp on the left and mf on the right hand?

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Yes, of course!! Each and every note on a piano - upright, grand, and most electronics these days, are separate entities, with their own dynamics.

There are some pieces which need the l.h. to play the melody, while the r.h. plays an accompaniment, so yes, not only is it possible, it's obligatory!

It's even necessary in some pieces for an individual hand to play notes (with different fingers) at different volumes, and certainly, concert pianists, and even those at grade V and above, will be able to achieve this. The same goes for staccato/legato notes. Go ahead and indicate what dynamics each hand must use, individually. We pianists are quite used to being directed thus!

In fact, years ago, when a lot of electronic pianos were not touch sensitive, I found it very difficult to play 'properly' - just because every note came out at the same volume, both hands. Thank goodness they've advanced!

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    ... but as a composer, just because you can doesn't mean you should. If the overall dynamic is marked the middle of the staff, a competent pianist can use her judgment to balance the melody and accompaniment without the "micromanagement" of marking the LH as mf and RH as f, etc.
    – Max
    Sep 11, 2023 at 22:55
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The whole point of a pianoforte keyboard is to produce dynamics per note rather than per instrument. Players are expected to be able to produce different dynamics and different articulations on both hands. Classical concert pianists are even expected to articulate voices distinctly that happen to use the same hand.

Note that "professional pianist" covers a wide range of skills and genres and audiences since it just means "playing piano for a living".

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  • "Classical concert pianists are even expected to articulate voices distinctly that happen to use the same hand" - WOW! Thank you. I didn't know that.
    – brilliant
    Sep 10, 2023 at 12:06
  • @brilliant It doesn't need to be as amazing or as difficult as it sounds. The Piano Collection version of Dearly Beloved has a slow background melody on the right hand alongside the main melody. It's just played much slower so it's only one quarter note for every half note on the main melody. youtu.be/37nowT5JTUA?si=VGDfMGQUlEeK_Lrg&t=35
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 10, 2023 at 20:18
  • @brilliant one nice example of this that comes to my mind the 2nd movement of Prokofiev's 6th piano sonata: youtu.be/jTk7lP9ScVI?si=R3YItH30kyZwoRea (in the first section, all staccato except some top notes in right hand are held for IMO very "fun" effect. Throughout, the RH and LH have such different textures, really a marvel!) Contrapuntal works (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint), having different lines be played with different dynamics and textures is necessary to bring out the multilayered sound.
    – D.R.
    Sep 11, 2023 at 2:42
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"Is it a normal practice for a piano part to have different dynamics for the left and for the right hand?"

Yes, perfectly normal, for players well short of 'professional' skills!

And asking different fingers of the SAME hand to simultaneously play different volumes is not a terribly advanced technique.

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