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How can I significantly improve my hand independence on piano?

I'm a intermediate piano student (I can play almost without a break if you give me notes but am still poor on chords). Recently, I picked up songs with chords in them which require a rhythm (like Piano Man) on the left hand and notes on the right (The lyrics). I am unable to manage my left and right coordination; for some reason my hands love symmetry and if i trying to play a rhythm chord on my left hand and lyrics on my right, I end up doing the lyrics on both or chords on both. I am unable to get my left and right hands do different things. How do I improve this?

I know the obvious answer is "practice". But my question is HOW? What specifically do I need to do in order to improve this aspect.


Here are two things you should practice. The first is more an exercise, the second repertoire.

  1. Play two-handed scales at different rates with each hand. For every two notes in the right hand, play one in the left hand. Similarly, to further teach hand independence, play each with a different articulation. Left hand legato, right hand staccato. This can be practiced by keeping the left hand's fingers always on a note, and lifting the right hand off after each note played, to encourage hand and arm independence. You can easily make up other variations. The key, as with all practice, is to start exactly as slowly as you need to play it perfectly. Do not speed up until you can play it perfectly at whatever tempo you are currently at.
  2. Some of the best music to learn this skill is counterpoint. Counterpoint has various voices acting independently. I would suggest starting with works of J.S. Bach, perhaps the six little preludes. Find one you like and can play well with a few months practice. There are many other compositions and composers in this section, too, though they vary in difficulty. Fugues are fantastic for learning hand and finger independence, but they are more difficult, as they generally have 4 or 5 voices at once.
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What I do is just sloooow it down. Take just ONE bar, and figure out which fingers go first and which fingers wait for what.

Play JUST the notes NOT in time. Dont' care about rhythm or staying in a tempo until you know - which notes you'll be playing - which fingering you'll be using (write the fingering DOWN if it's not obvious so you always play the same passage with the same fingering) - which notes of either hand play together and which notes don't play together.

Ya just have to slog through it until your fingers reflexively know the song.

Pick another song? - new set of reflexes. That's what makes learning a song slow.

That's why bands can pick up a song so much quicker. For a piano soloist, each hand is a "guy" needing it's own brain. But you've only one brain so it has to switch off.

In a band, you're just playing one part and the keyboard dude usually just fills in "in between chords" - much easier than a piano solo where you're playing bass, chord, melody, rhythm alllll by yourself.

Good luck to ya.

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