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I am a musician and I play keyboard but I have a problem that worries me. Whenever I play I tend to strike the bass key(s) very hard and that note(s) is very clearly heard and obscures the right hand. I am trying to learn to strike it softer but whenever I play it is difficult to control the amount of force. The same thing often happens with my 5th finger in my right hand. Often when I hit a chord, the 5th finger strikes the note with more force than I need. I can't always control that either.

Are there any exercises to fix that?

The key dynamics on my synth are okay, because whenever I play a grand, a piano or a digital piano the same thing occurs.

Edit: I am a right-handed person. I sometimes play the guitar and I used to play it a lot before I started playing the piano. I mostly play art rock, prog rock, hard rock, blues/jazz rock but lately have started playing pieces like Jon Lord has (including his music, Before I forget and Burntwood).

  • May I ask how long you have been playing? – MPW Jul 6 '17 at 21:59
  • My piano teacher wouldn't allow me to work on classical pieces that required refined "voicing" (different strengths for different notes in a chord) saying I needed to develop more first. Some things require neuronal connections and associated senses that take time to grow. In any event, try to hear it in your head the way you want it, and imagine playing it the way you want it, prior to playing it. Go as slow as needed to actually accomplish this. It is probably a stretch but doing this for a while every day should help. – Phil Freihofner Jul 7 '17 at 3:01
  • "The key dynamics on my synth are okay, because whenever I play a grand, a piano or a digital piano the same thing occurs.": I'd (mildly) disagree: that doesn't have to be the case. Your keyboard may have worse dynamics (likely) than a pinao, but the symptom can still show. If you really want to get a good touch, get a good (digital) piano, and probably a teacher as well (expensive, yes, but as a musician, worth it). – user18490 Jul 7 '17 at 3:49
  • @MPW 9 years. I started to play in September 2008. That's when I bought my first synth - Yamaha DGX-520. I mostly play art rock and prog rock, sometimes hard rock and mostly use a compressor and a limiter. Lately, I started playing Jon Lord's pieces like Before I forget and Burntwood and try to compose like he does and that's where I noticed my problem. – SovereignSun Jul 7 '17 at 6:51
  • @Evert I attended a piano class one day and the teacher there told me that my playong is not natural and gave me a few tips none if which actually helped. I was studying guitar before and my keft gand got acustomed to pressing the string with force, I am not sure if that could be the reason since I play guitar rarely. – SovereignSun Jul 7 '17 at 6:55
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Over the internet, I imagine I'd make the following comment if you were to play in front of me: "Don't hammer the keys!"

A pianist once shared this advice in a master class: "treat your piano the same way you'd treat your boy/girlfriend."

You'd be amazed how little force it takes to produce a sound on a piano. It is almost like, very softly touching the hand of your partner, or a new born baby. Yup I am not exaggerating - it is exactly what you have to practice for.

You said you

learn to strike it softer

That's the problem. You don't strike the keys. You just relax and let the weight of the arm sink in.

It is more difficult to keep the tone soft while playing fast. Practice slowly first. Then gradually, try to build up speed without raising volume.

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This is a normal part of learning to play the piano. My piano teacher wrote "balance" in most of my dictation books as a child - which actually means imbalance because you want the hand with the melody (usually the right hand) to come out stronger.

Try to lighten up the touch of your left hand and develop the finger muscles in your right hand with muscle training exercises, particularly your 4th and 5th finger which often play the melody - especially when you are playing chords in the right hand as well. Take a look at this question for some examples.

Also related: Playing one hand loudly and the other quietly

  • The problem is with chords mostly, because when I play the melody in my right hand I focus on the keys and the force, in thus case my left hand can do whatever it wants which is really annoying. – SovereignSun Jul 6 '17 at 19:10
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    @SovereignSun "in thus case my left hand can do whatever it wants which is really annoying." It's much worse than "really annoying". If you keep practicing the wrong way to play, how do you expect to learn the right way? Either learn to live with the fact that you are never going to be a very good keyboard player, or get your head down and work at it. There isn't an "option 3"! – user19146 Jul 6 '17 at 19:27
  • @alephzero I am learning, I'm stating what my problem seems to be. When I am thinking about my left hand I can control it, but if I think of my right hand I cannot control my left hand. – SovereignSun Jul 6 '17 at 19:31
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    Good thing you aren't trying to learn to play a drum kit. They have to think about both hands and both feet, all at the same time. – Phil Freihofner Jul 7 '17 at 2:54
  • @PhilFreihofner Yeh, drums aren't for me. – SovereignSun Jul 7 '17 at 6:56
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This is one of the (many) skills that playing scales helps with. Try first playing them with separate hands, and recording it, so you can hear any differences - better to play each hand in the same octave sometimes, too.

Sounds like you have a couple of dynamics - f and ff ! Again with scales, try playing each hand pp, ff, and the same together, then split into ff r.h. and pp l.h. Practise these until there is a marked difference. On electronic keyboards, turn the volume up to play quietly, and down to play loudly. Think about that!!

When things have improved, try to get moving dynamics - start pp and crescendo to ff after two octaves of scales, separate and together. Stick with scales until the levels are controllable. Playing pieces with l.h. block chords won't help at the moment.

  • I tried to record midi while improvising and I have mist keys pkay 70-80 but often the bass hand plays 110-127 and the sometimes some notes in my right hand are below 50 in chords, that means some finger doesn't play at the same velocity. If I use a compressor the peaks are minimised. – SovereignSun Jul 6 '17 at 19:25
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    That's what compressors do. Don't use them. Just a thought. When you play a block chord, it should be your hand playing, not your fingers. As in it is a whole hand movement rather than three individual fingers. – Tim Jul 6 '17 at 20:36
  • Scales: definitely. But very controlled (slow at first), to obtain an even sound, and preferably with a teacher for feedback. But keep in mind that scales usually involve the fifth fingers (the OP's problem finger) very little! – user18490 Jul 7 '17 at 3:53
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This is definitely something that happens for most players. Not only is it fairly instinctive, since most everyone is right or left handed and has a stronger hand/arm because of it, but it's also something that can be hard to break out of if you've been playing for a bit, as it is a habit that has been formed. I would recommend trying to exaggerate what you're trying to change. Try playing something relatively simple for both hands and play the left hand as quiet as you can and the right hand fairly loud. This should help your brain break the habit a little and once you feel more comfortable doing that, reduce the exaggeration, bringing the two hands to a more similar volume. As this gets easier for you, try making the parts for either hand more complicated, starting off exaggerated and moving toward a balance.

For the one finger, I don't have quite as good advice but I'd recommend focusing on the one hand, as opposed to playing with both while trying to fix the issue. You might want to try playing with that finger and just one other at a time and focus on getting the same volume out of them. You're probably just having that finger closer to the keys in general, so when they all come down, that one hits first and hardest, so you will probably notice that as you work through using different fingers. You can try holding that finger further up than the others so that it hits at the same time, or you could try extending that finger further back on the key you are hitting. The further up the key you are, the harder it is to get the note to sound, due to basic leverage, so it should naturally be quieter. The only real issue with that approach is that you don't always have the option to do that since not all chord voicings allow for you to choose where on the key you hit.

On the whole, you're needing to get your brain to break a habit, so you have to actively seek the means of doing so through mindful practice. You're probably currently doing things without actively thinking about them, so by actively thinking about it and using the right approach for you, you can retrain your brain and then won't have to think about it once you've broken the habit.

  • I am trying different exercises, such as playing a chord stressing different notes of the chord every time you take it. Like in Cmaj first the C is stressed, then the E, then the G. And so on. With 4 and five note chords too. So far it's quite difficult. The left hand is my biggest problem since I can never control my dynamics, each time I try to play bass patterns unneccesary notes become stressed and I have to watch that. – SovereignSun Jul 6 '17 at 19:00
  • Yeah, you probably also want to practice just playing with your left hand to get it to respond a little better. Trying running scales more with your left hand than right so that you can really get control over it. – Basstickler Jul 6 '17 at 19:32
  • Is it a common problem or is it just me? – SovereignSun Jul 6 '17 at 19:38
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    Definitely a very common problem. Some call it the human condition, that we are unbalanced as a result of the way we use our bodies. A right handed person will be stronger and more precise with that hand and the left hand tends to require a lot more work. So I think you really just need to focus on that hand and developing more precision. You can try playing the right hand parts with your left hand as a way of developing dexterity and precision. – Basstickler Jul 6 '17 at 22:37

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