• 5 Ways To Improve Your Left Hand

    by Jermaine Griggs · 42 comments

    in Exercises,Piano

    If you’re like most musicians, you probably struggle with your left hand.

    Unless left-handed, chances are you have a disproportionately stronger, more coordinated right hand. And if you learned to play piano with single bass notes on the left hand and full chords on the right (as many of us do), you kinda get stuck in your ways.

    So when it comes to playing two-hand chord voicings, utilizing the left hand just as much or MORE than the right hand — what can you do to improve it?

    Here are five things to get you started:

    1) Try to play a song you know very well with your right hand “tied” behind your back.

    Not literally, of course. But basically try to play on your left hand what you’d normally play on your right hand. It seems like an easy task but if you’re not used to utilizing the left hand like this, it will be a pretty big challenge.

    (Don’t worry about the bass note… this is just an exercise, not a performance. You’ll only be playing chords or essentially whatever you’d play on your right hand. For a good half-hour to an hour, the right hand should be completely unused — it probably needs the break).

    2) Slow everything down.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve stressed this concept. I talked about this in my article, “5 Breakthrough Ways To Transform Your Playing This Year.”

    When you first tie your right hand behind your back, it will be a totally different ball game. You’ll go in thinking you can just play the same chords on your left, at the same tempo. It won’t be that easy.

    You’ll need to slow things down to what I call “turtle speed” to make sure you’re being accurate and allowing the muscles to memorizing the movements and placements. As you repeat the same motions over and over, muscle memory will kick in and you’ll be able to eventually speed things back up. But don’t rush it. Not slowing things down has got to be Cardinal Sin #1 for musicians in their practicing.

    On a sidenote: We released a new software tool called Song Robot that allows you to learn songs at turtle speeds. You can slow songs down to 10% of actual speed. Now I’m not saying to take things that slow but you could certainly use the software to play along with the song at a desired speed… maybe start at 20% of actual tempo… 30%… 40%… 50%… eventually making your way up to the actual speed (100%).

    3) Do Hanon Exercises

    Even the pros don’t fully master all 60 Hanon exercises so this is something you can continually work on to build finger and hand speed, dexterity, coordination, agility, strength, and more.

    They were devised by a man named Charles-Louis Hanon over a century ago and are still just as useful today.

    In the same vein as my prior warnings: You’ll notice your right hand can do the exercises easier than your left. Don’t give up. Stick with them. If you have to break them up, start by doing each hand separately at a very slow, manageable speed. Then, gradually increase speed over time. Then add in both hands — wash, rinse, repeat until you’ve got it.

    We have a course on Hanon exercises. Check out a FREE video of exercise #1 at this link.

    4) “Play-Lift” Exercises

    I don’t know if there is a technical way to describe this or not so I made up my own term: “Play-Lift.”

    Bobby Griffin, in his Gospel Guitar 101 course, talks about how he learns a new chord. He plays the chord, then he completely removes his hands from the guitar, raises them up, says “Thank You Jesus,” and then puts them back in place to play the chord again. He repeats this.

    And you’ve got to understand — I read up on a lot of stuff and I go through a lot of information, most of it forgotten, but what Bobby said there has stuck with me. I love it.

    On your right hand, you may notice you’re able to immediately go to your favorite chords without much thought. It’s like your hands are programmed where to go because you do so much work on your right hand.

    Jeremy Jeffers, one of our instructors in Musician Breakthrough, is visually impaired, yet when you pay close attention to his video clips, you’ll notice he doesn’t have to slide his hands into place or “feel around” to see where he is — HE KNOWS EXACTLY where to place his hands without seeing it.

    This is a benefit of “Play-Lift” exercises, and particularly for the left hand which tends to fall way behind.

    So you take those same chords you’ve moved from your right to your left hand and you play one… then lift your hands… play it again… then lift your hands… play it again… then lift your hands. Now try without looking… play, lift, play, lift.

    And if you want to do extra credit, take that chord up a half-step and do the same thing. Keep going until you’ve mastered that chord in all 12 keys. (Note: Simply taking the chord up a half-step for 12 consecutive times will bring you back to your starting chord and you would have played the chord in all 12 keys).

    5) Let it rest

    Once you’ve given the left hand a good workout, let it rest.

    Do you know that growth doesn’t necessarily come when you’re AT the piano but when you’re not?

    It’s that period in between your practice sessions when the muscles grow and build.

    That’s why you may end a practice session fatigued and not necessarily mastering what you set out to master. But don’t fret because the next time you sit down to the piano, you’ll notice it’s a lot easier to do what you once struggled with. TRUST ME… that’s how it works.

    The problem is people give up right at THAT moment… they quit too early. They think just because they’ve spent an hour at the piano that the miracle is supposed to happen RIGHT THEN AND THERE. They get discouraged and they never make it back that next day to start where they left off.

    Piano or keyboard gets dusty – all that momentum gone – so when they do get pumped up again months down the road, they pretty much start all over.

    So my advice to you…

    When you’re working, WORK! “Go hard” as the youngins’ say. Don’t look for the end result then and there.

    Let the muscles rest… let the mind incubate… and return with steadfast determination that you’re going to eventually accomplish what you’ve set out to do.

    Nothing worthwhile is easy to attain. If it’s too easy, it’s probably not good for you. :-)

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Related posts:

    1. Get rid of slow, uncoordinated fingers once and for all
    2. Forget the right hand! Focus on the left…
    3. 11 Ways to Enhance Your Chords and Playing (Part 2… continued)
    4. Tips for the experienced player
    5. Are you using the 6 P’s to improve your practicing?
    6. Ask Jermaine: “The key to proper piano chord fingering”
    7. 5 Breakthrough Ways To Transform Your Playing This Year



    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Dimseven

    Thanks, especially for no.5. It’s really true!

    Reply

    2 Edwin

    Excellent piece of information. One of my big problems is my left hand. I going to put into practice and see how it goes. I let you know.

    Reply

    3 umoh

    thank you, JG.

    Reply

    4 Freddy Bello

    As usual an excellent article for Mr. J Griggs.

    Your Advices are so practical an useful. Thanks for share your time and knowledge with the rest of us who are tryin to make some music for our Lovely God.

    God Bless you and your Family!!!

    Freddy Bello

    Reply

    5 Stanley

    I love what you stated about “let it rest”. That was revealed to me the other as I was working with GK303. I kept running the progression with the walking bass on the left hand and kept messing up, and I put in about 2 hours, never really got it, like I wanted to, but the next morning, I was reviewing it, and I flowed liked it was nothing. Then I said to myself, I will practice and not expect perfection for that moment, then I should be almost perfect the next day, and even more perfect the next day. Now that you’re stating this is so amazing to me. God bless,

    Stan

    Reply

    6 Bonnie Moss

    Thank you so much for all these precious lessons- and for free. I’ve read some of these pointers before but not as clearly as you put it . There is a lot to learn , but I will start with the practise sessions. Slow it down – finally, this sinks in.

    Reply

    7 Willie

    I’m having trouble with my left hand, the tips seem to be helping alot…

    Thanks for the tips
    Willie

    Reply

    8 Jabari

    Thanx Jermaine! I have been looking for ways to improve my left-hand b/c I know that is the way for me to move from intermediate to an advanced mucisian. And let me be the one to tell you that it doesn’t matter if you are left-handed or not. I am left-handed and I still have a problem with my left-hand when it comes to the piano or organ. It is a whole new way of thinking when it comes to chording in your left-hand. So I want to thank you again for these practice ideas. I am going to use them tonight!

    Reply

    9 FERN JONES

    I HAVE NEVER BEEN TAUGHT HOW TO GO UP A HALF STEP. SO I WON’T BE ABLE TO DO THAT PART.

    Reply

    10 Jermaine Griggs

    Fern,

    A half step is from key to key. C to Db is a half step. E to F is a half step.

    Literally take every finger up ONE single note. C E G becomes Db F Ab if you’ve done it right. That’s all to it.

    Don’t say you don’t know how to do it because there’s nothing to it. You got it. I literally meant take every finger up. That’s how you get one chord in all 12 keys.

    Reply

    11 kelvin

    Thanks. This will indeed go a long way for me. May our good LORD and Saviour richly bless you.

    Reply

    12 Joel

    That’s absolutely true about one not getting it all in a moment, it takes painstaking
    endurance and practice, I think if one has to gain mastery of any art,this is the
    discipline. Thanks for your advice.

    Reply

    13 Sekenibo

    I love your lessons am from Nigeria is great learning from you. God bless you.

    Reply

    14 michael

    i had actually been struggling with my left, now i knw what to do. Thanks

    Reply

    15 Geneva

    thansks! for the good advice i always play my left hand 2 F or 2 C what ever key
    i play in then i walk to next chord

    Reply

    16 Josée

    Thanks for all these ideas to improve,I heard of the “lift-practice” but ,now ,I understand what it means and how to train,I’ll do it on my next sessions!
    I’ve just finished installing the song robot.I’m thrilled at all the songs we can work on!I started to do it,at a “turtle speed”with the pre-recorded songs of my keyboards,but they were limited so ,this robot will bring exactly what I need to expand the possibilities! Thanks again for sharing your experience and tips so generously!
    God bless you and around you!

    Reply

    17 Silvio Martina

    My biggest problem is my left hand. My right hand 95% and my left hand 5%.
    Now I know that I have a lot to do to reach at least a percentage of 40% left hand vs 60% right hand. I am used to a keyboard with automatic accompaniment. This will disturb the progress of the left hand tremendously.
    Very very good hints.
    Thank you very very much and God bless you.

    Reply

    18 Claude

    I am left handed. However, I seem to be okay with both hands. Just want to know how to make them work better. I’m from Ghana.

    Reply

    19 Jesse

    Tremendous, Jermaine! Thanks a ton for the tips. I have puzzled a lot on how to strengthen my left hand. Even though I am left-handed, I still have a lot of difficulty getting my left hand to “think outside of the box”. It right now seems pretty stuck on octaves. Even getting my left hand used to fifths is challenging for me. I think this article should really help.

    Thanks!

    Reply

    20 Anika

    Thank you very much Mr. Griggs, this post was an answer to prayer. Yesterday I was practicing and I said God I need help with my left hand cause it’s non existent when I play. Lo and behold I open my email this morning and there is your post.

    May God continue to bless your ministry.

    Reply

    21 Thomas Mitchell

    This is great information. I will do just what you have suggested and keep hope alive at the same time. I really really appreciate this.

    Reply

    22 Adesokan

    I really appreciate all your effort over me,love this presentation this is so intresting but is only i don’t have money to get all your software please help out at list one out of it thanks.

    Reply

    23 Joshua

    I am so going to hang this article o0n my fridge- and every door in my house- I only have one word to say regarding this article: Amen!

    I have problems with my left hand, controlling the speed and pretty much everything spoken of in this article. which makes me a “musical sinner’ but this article is alot of help, really a must to memorize:)

    Reply

    24 Ceola Henderson

    Thanks Jermaine! Awesome post! I greatly appreciate this lesson in patience.

    Reply

    25 Josh

    Thanks!
    Very useful & inspiring information.
    God bless u.

    Reply

    26 chriciant

    This is a valuable article and i will incorporate whatever has been written here into my practice. Thanks man!

    Reply

    27 Gloria Wheeler

    Prior to left-side paraylsis , my left hand was not too bad, but after requiring rehabilitation, my left hand is slower than a snail, so, I am still working, but the article gave me continuing encouragement.

    Reply

    28 bernard tetteh

    Thanks Jermain, God bless you.

    Reply

    29 Olympia (malta)

    I already left a comment on the facebook but once again thank you very much for the great help you deliver to us. although i am music teacher but I am an amateur for piano playing so these points help me alot.

    Reply

    30 Olympia (malta)

    hello jermaine, when i read the heading of your email about ’5 way to improve the left hand’ i was very eager to open the email because as my other friends which contact you I too find it very difficult to play fluently with my left hand. also i find it difficult to play piano fluently at my school during a prize day or celebration day. So thanks alot about the 5 ways to improve it and for sure I shall start practising in that way and I shall tell you my improvements in piano playing.

    May God bless you and once again thanks alot for your great help.

    Reply

    31 tolu

    thanks
    so much

    Reply

    32 Tony

    Seen most other suggestions, except “Play-Lift” … something I definitely have to try! Thanks always for your sharing!

    Reply

    33 Hayford

    Thank you sooo much for this wonder secret. This has been my greatest problem and thinking i can’t be the best pianist. I now know is all a gradual process. May God richly bless you.

    Reply

    34 jean louis

    no word to tahnk you for all your advice …..

    Reply

    35 Oriokot

    I dont know what to say but I seem but also not may be! Jermaine thanks for this powerful advice.

    Reply

    36 Beverly Hines

    You know Jermaine, you continue to make our hearts glad. You give so much!…and I know life is sometimes unfare, but I sincerely hope that you are receiving all and much more blessings that this life has to offer. You deserve that, and I believe I just spoke for myself and the entire music community. Above and beyond all of this is the hope that you will inherit everlasting life with your Creator when this life is ended. Beverley Hines(Powell)

    Reply

    37 Anjeelah

    I know that everything in this article is absolutely TRUE. I have both given up at different times (I’m highly impatient and hard on myself) with my practice discontinued for months or even for years and had to start over. But truthfully, that is also because I didn’t know the positive side and benefits of muscle memory, thinking my practices were supposed to yield immediate and increased dexterity and memorization of chords. Then I noticed that even with those long breaks, I was still was able to start over but my grasping everything was even better than where I left off. Then I began thinking “what if I had kept it up” because if I made that little of improvement – even with the gaps of time – I probably would have mastered the thing by now, but even then I’d get mad at myself all over again for not realizing this before.

    Now, I’ve seen that if I practice for two hours straight (sometimes I go longer) and I alternate hands and practice the same things on both hands with equal practice times, then break for 30 min, and hour but go back to the practice the same day for another hour or so, or more, I would have actually advanced or remembered the newer skills. So this is a great affirmation and with even great and newer tactics for me to employ in addition to what I’m already doing. Thanks Jermaine. As always, another great post by you.

    Reply

    38 SETH AMPONSAH

    Hi Boss,
    Thank you for the advice, I have same problem, that is playing the key note singly with the left hand and the chords with the right hand .how best can people as such change the style is that same clue you’ve mention earlier ?

    Reply

    39 emma

    thank you so much jermaine this has actuaqly been a problem to me and this worked out some trick for me in the last few days some of the bass lines i deem hard am now ding them not perfectly but at least better than i used to

    Reply

    40 Barbara

    I have been learning music theory for a couple of years. CD’s don’t help me alot
    because I am hard of hearing, but I love the DVD’s where I can watch your hands.

    Reply

    41 Eric Rankoro

    thanks man. no5 is very true. it is only now that i realized it.

    Reply

    42 Ernest

    How do I build up my soloing technique pls I need help

    Reply

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