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So I started learning Piano a month ago, and it was hard getting my left hand involved in the beginning. Eventually I figured out that its more manageable if I just map both my hands to the beat rather than handling them individually.

Past week I came across a video about Ragtime and noticed how both hands play a different melody in them(often with different time signatures). Came across another video about how to develop hand-independence and the suggested route is playing the same melody on both hands but shifting it 1 bar.

So I feel I might be developing a bad habit by forcing both hands to play a single piece and it would be harder down the road to change my muscle memory, if I don't correct this behaviour now.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

EDIT - In order to make my current approach more clear. I am not playing the same melody with both hands. I am not sure how to put my current approach it words.

As an example if I need to play 4 quarter notes A,B,C,D on my right hand, and C,E,A,C on Left. I divide the piece in the form of (A,C),(B,E),(C,A),(D,C) and map the notes that need to be played on different beats. I don't practice each hand separately after I memorize the initial notes/flow of what needs to be played

  • Do you make both hands play the same melody, just an octave or more apart? – Dekkadeci Dec 22 '18 at 18:45
  • I’m not entirely sure what you mean when you describe what you’re doing now, but synchronising both hands to the beat rather than to each other seems like an excellent approach. You can fix synchronisation between the hands later quite easily, in this stadium the beat would be much more important. – 11684 Dec 22 '18 at 22:09
  • Do you mean you play the same with both hands? If so, it's doing each hand no favours, as each will have twice as much to learn/play. – Tim Dec 23 '18 at 9:09
  • I am not playing the same melody with both hands. I am not sure how to put my current approach it words. As an example if I need to play 4 quarter notes A,B,C,D on my right hand, and C,E,A,C on Left. I divide the piece in the form of (A,C),(B,E),(C,A),(D,C) and map the notes that need to be played on different beats. I don't practice each hand separately after I memorize the initial notes/flow of what needs to be played. – Anony Mous Dec 23 '18 at 10:37
  • @AnonyMous That’s exactly the opposite of what I understood. Please disregard my previous comment. – 11684 Dec 23 '18 at 11:41
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Yes.

My piano teacher always insisted that I practise each hand separately before playing with both hands together. I would divide the piece into manageable practise sections, and focus on one of the sections, first practising the right hand, beginning at a very slow tempo (using a metronome) and gradually increasing. Then I would do the same thing for the left hand.

The right hand should always plays the part of the right hand, and the left hand should always play the part of the left hand. Do not play the part of the left hand with the right hand, and vice versa: that is pointless and makes you work more than twice as hard. The goal is to commit the part of each hand to muscle memory, so you don't have to think about individual hands when you combine them.

So, after I played the section about a hundred times with the right hand, and about a hundred times with the left hand, and have each part committed to muscle memory, I would combine them and play with the both hands at the same time, again, starting at a very slow tempo and gradually increasing.

When I started to play the organ, I would do the same with feet. So, it would be: right hand alone, left hand alone, feet alone, right hand with feet, left hand with feet, and only then both hands and feet together.

This approach is rather slow and demands a lot of patience, but the results are guaranteed. In my case, since I was only practising about 30-45 minutes every day, it would take several days, maybe a week, before I could play the piece with both hands, and several weeks before I could do it well.

When you can fluently play the part of each hand on its own, playing with both hands together is not a very difficult step. You don't need to think like this: "when the left hand plays G, the right hand plays B", it all comes to you naturally, because you have both hands committed to muscle memory in advance: the left hand is completely independent from the right hand, the only thing keeping them in sync is your sense of beat and the fact you're playing music and not just mechanically typing on the keyboard.

As you make progress over the next year or two, you will notice that you don't need to practise each hand separately nearly as much as you did when you were a total beginner, and at some point, you will be able to read music with both hands from the beginning. But that is for the future, for now, focus on each hand alone before combining them.

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I am a firm believer in playing the hands together as much as possible. It has been my observation that beginning students learn slower and are less musical when they first practice with the hands separate.

In addition, when playing together, the hands help the other learn coordination and independence faster. The hands teach one another.

Always strive to be musical rather than robotic.

  • For some, it's enough of a challenge to read what one hand needs to do at a time. From answers and comments here, there seems to be two camps - learn separately, or learn together. Quite opposing! – Tim Dec 25 '18 at 11:46
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Work through the pieces and exercises in your instruction book, and practice in the way your teacher tells you too, which will doubtless include getting a section perfect with separate hands before 'putting it together'.

You are not at a stage of piano-playing where you can usefully invent your own learning strategy. Stop over-thinking it and just do what you're told!

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  1. Both hands or one hand, both will help.
  2. Technical difficult passages one hand.
  3. Whenever possible both hands, slowly measure by measure.
  4. Don't always begin from the top of the page.
  5. Start from the ending and put it together.

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