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When I'm playing piano, just mucking about over a chord sequence, I tend to have my left and right hand close together e.g my thumbs are only a tone or so apart. I think in a band that would be good because you don't want to clash with the bass, but is it good practice for playing piano on it's own, or should I aim to have an octave gap (or half-octave) to broaden the range?

Of course it will vary depending on what I'm trying to play, but as a rule of thumb should my hands form one extended chord, or be separated so I can add in more bass elements?

I should add, I'm only a novice player so I cannot run my hands quickly up/down the keyboard, each hand is (roughly) staying in place for each chord/phrase.

  • Normally I would say that your hands will be 1-1.5 octaves apart. You avoid clashing with the bass by not playing clashing notes, rather than by trying to avoid low notes (unless you have specific concerns about muddying things). – Matthew Read Mar 31 '15 at 14:12
  • @MatthewRead So basically keep an octave gap between the thumbs, rather than the right hand continue the left-hand chord? – Mr. Boy Mar 31 '15 at 14:20
  • Well, this obviously depends totally on what sound you want, there aren't any fixed rules. IMHO, many piano players would do well to keep their hands a bit closer together – certainly in band playing as you say, but also when e.g. only accompanying a singer. – leftaroundabout Mar 31 '15 at 15:33
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    I challenge myself to use the whole instrument. It might take a long time to get comfortable with it, but it's also a lot of fun bashing on the low lows and high highs at the same time while you're still learning. I might have a very different approach though, in that I'm usually trying to figure out what rules to break next rather than asking for more rules to follow. – Todd Wilcox Mar 31 '15 at 18:47
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Mix it up to make it interesting. Sometimes, play something melodic in the right hand, with chords in the left hand. Sometimes, play something rhythmically interesting in the left hand (fairly low down) while you play chords in the right hand. And so on. Experiment with different amounts of contrast between left and right hands, see what you feel goes with what. See what sorts of "colors" the different approaches suggest to you.

In terms of music history -- over time, composers became more adventurous and were open to using more and more contrast. Beethoven was a revolutionary in his time because he used more extreme highs and more extreme lows. Fast forward to Mahler -- the extremist among extremists!

You've got 88 keys to play with. Have fun with them!

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