When I play piano or keyboards, I've noticed that I keep slipping into playing the same chords (and variations thereof, such as very simple bass lines) with my left hand while I use my right hand to play some melodies. It doesn't sound wrong, but certainly not very professional.

I know that this is partly because I'm right-handed and therefore my left hand lacks some of the strength and dexterity that my right hand has, but somehow I'm also not very imaginative when it comes to accompanying the melodies I play with my right hand. Also, I am more of a keyboarder than a pianist, so maybe that's why I just tend to bang out chords. I've also noted that I'm okay at writing piano/keyboard parts for my right hand, but most of the time I'm really just unsure how to write (and play) a good left hand part.

Are there any specific techniques I could use to break out of this repetitive behavior? I'm not really sure what to do here.

Edit: Thanks for the comments so far. I do have some sheet music that I like, so I'll see if I can make some use of the left hand parts there. I mostly play rock and metal-ish things but I occasionally dabble in classical music and film scores. This sometimes makes things difficult because the different parts are often only transcribed to piano but were originally written for strings/guitar/whatever other instruments, or at least that's how it seems to me. I've checked out some jazz sheet music but it seems pretty daunting so far, I'll see what I can do.

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    Find sheet music with written-out left hand parts and study and play those.
    – nonpop
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 15:59
  • 1
    What style(s) of music are you playing? I've seen some good books that talk about left hand ideas for various pop styles. e.g. rock, blues, funk etc. Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 16:26

7 Answers 7


There are two things that will really help you here:

1.) Listening to different music.

I don't mean passively, like most people listen to music, but listening for the chord qualities, the inversions, and the voicings.

2.) Learning different music.

The next step would be to learn the music you just heard, or even music you haven't heard. For example, Franz Schubert wrote hundreds of lieder and was a master accompanist. Looking at his music and stealing some ideas is on example of what you can do.

You can't improve without expanding your horizons.


I'm a professional pianist has been major jazz festivals, recordings and NY scene. I also have 4 published books about music.

  1. HANON for both hands. That's the method you will need to use probably life long. It's a very easy to read also very helpful method for piano technique. Yes you play keyboard. But if you want to be good enough to feel more professional, you will need piano books.
  2. Simple but important pieces from Bach such as minuets. After that inventions for being able to use both hands independent enough.
  3. Keep listening the great names such as Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Chick Corea, Bill Evans etc.
  4. Study harmony; functional and nonfunctional. After that try to get close to complexity with Arnold Schoenberg

If you are serious enough probably when you follow those 4 you will be a happy musician.

My music website to hear me.


Maybe these tips would be helpful:

  1. When you play accompaniment, avoid playing the melody. The singer sings the melody while we provide the harmony, or background music.

  2. Listen to different music or songs and pay attention to the harmonies. Try to imitate the background music.

  3. Learn different chord techniques so you can create different variations of harmony. You should learn to improvise too.

  4. There are books/courses that teach different left hand piano styles. There are also many YouTube videos that provide tips on piano accompaniment.

Whether you play accompaniment in a piano or in a keyboard, it is helpful to apply these tips so you can create a beautiful background music for the singer.

  • 2
    Please do not use answers to promote your products. Disclose your affiliation with Yoke Wong and Piano Mother if you must mention your products in answers.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 16:31

I'm a pianist of ten years, and I too have found that my left hand isn't as dexterous. My thought is that maybe you should flip things around once in a while. In other words, instead of always playing the melody with the right hand, try playing with the left hand; and have the right hand be the accompaniment. I'd also recommend looking into some classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Pieces by these composers are often for students, as they learn piano; and they are extremely helpful. I would particularly recommend Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

  • Are you guessing that such a method might help or has it helped you or someone you know? Or have you read somewhere that this is a good method? Regarding the "Moonlight" Sonata, are you possibly referring to the third movement in terms of building left-hand dexterity? Certainly the first movement is no big thing at all on the left hand. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 19:29
  • I recommended this method, as it helped me a great deal. I was indeed referring the to the third movement of Moonlight. Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 0:45

Force yourself to play something different and do it enough times to begin developing preferences.

For example, select an inversion, voicing, or alternate chord you rarely use and play a piece with several chord changes so that you have to invest some thought and feeling. You can also do this with note patterns and rhythms -- some instructors might advocate playing the 3rd and 7ths, but try, as an example, playing a piece in C starting with C-E-F#-A as your starting note, and play that voicing (root, third, tritone, sixth) on every single chord. Think about and be sensitive to where it works and where it clashes, and try to think and feel why you react to it in this way. You may find places where you like it, and in the best cases it will clear a new path which you hadn't considered previously.

Then, consciously try to use it here and there in your more natural playing.

It's a bit like a cook working in various foreign countries and then, upon returning home, incorporating elements he/she learned.


The best thing you can do for yourself at this point, since you already know how to play, is to learn how to reharmonize passages of the songs. Reharmonizing can mean inserting chords, changing the flavor of some of the chords, etc. It's a whole art in itself, but one of the simple effective things is when you're resting on a chord, to identify a second chord that you can alternate back and forth with. You'll often find this second chord will be the dominant (fifth above) or fourth above the first chord.


There are quite a few free archives of piano music. One is Todotango which has many tangos from about 1890 to current styles in sheet music form; tango composers really liked to use different accompaniment styles in the same piece. Another is IMSLP which is mainly classical. It's useful as the classical composers (for piano) used many accompaniment styles even in the same piece of music. There's lots of variety. The Library of Congress (and some others) have many old popular songs arranged for piano. There is also the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) which has lots of stuff.

You can get lots of ideas. I tend to think that there are only a few basic accompaniment styles but lots of variations of these. Block chords, Alberti bass, Boom-Chick (a combination of bass and chords; lots of possibilities), and a true counter melody. These can be combined as desired.

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