It comes up a lot but it is a massive weakness for me, and I wonder if I am just lacking aptitude, or if I'm practicing wrong.

My problem is when I have an alternating bass with the left hand, e.g. alternating chord/note for 8 quavers in the bar, and then the right hand melody is coming in on say "2-and" for some bars, and on "3" for other bars.

My brain wants to either start my right hand with the "chord" or the "note" on the left hand consistently, and I have a nightmare trying to play what the music says. I.e. I want to either always come in on "and" or always "on the beat", but I can't switch bar to bar.

Is this a common problem? What is the best way to tackle it when practicing?

  • I should add, once the melody has started my hands are ok doing their own thing. (At least a little practice and things are fine!) It is just coming in after a few beats rests that gets me.
    – Corvus
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is a common problem for anyone who's ever trying to do more than one thing at a time (which for musicians, is quite often).

You have to be nice to your brain.

Take it slow, painfully, agonizingly slow

In fact, don't even play in time. I suggest breaking down the physical motions into their most basic components, and explain what needs to happen to yourself out loud. As you explain, move your hands in slow motion to demonstrate. Verbalizing is a great way of externalizing how you understand concepts. Once you understand what needs to take place conceptually, then it just becomes a matter of kinesthetic training.

You need to take things slow to develop the neurological connections between associated synapses. Once the connections are there, things become "easier".

Hope that helps.

  • Thanks, I'll keep trying. My particular problem is when I have rests in the right hand - I'm coming in at the wrong point. Repeating the entry over and over is less effective because different phrases start on different beats - learning one "unlearns" another! I get there eventually. When my right hand has a continuous melody I don't seem to have this big a problem - only when it stops and has to start again. It's like when there are a few beats rest my hand has nothing to learn.
    – Corvus
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 10:16
  • I would practice each entrance only - isolate them and teach your hands when to come in together / separate. Once each isolated entrance is learned, add in one beat on either side of the entrance. Move outward from there. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 13:14

You might try "ghosting" the note by playing the extra note but muting it with your left hand. When you can do that comfortably, then try just thinking about ghosting the note. I've used this workaround a number of times when learning syncopation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.