• Ask Dr Pokey: What Exactly Should My Left Hand Do On The Piano?

    in Piano

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    In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the role of the left hand in piano playing.

    Most beginners focus their attention on the right hand; learning scales, intervals, chords, progressions, and how to play songs, giving little or no attention to the left hand.

    Eventually, they get to the point where they begin to question the role of the left hand in piano playing.

    If you’re in the league of beginners who just got started with the piano not-too-long ago or you’ve been at the beginners’ level for years, then this lesson is written with you in mind. I’ll be showing you the basic things your left hand can do on the piano.

    Understanding The Challenges Associated With The Left Hand

    Every human has two hands with four fingers and a thumb (5 digits) in each hand; save for those who lost one or both to an accident or health condition.

    Although the left and right hand are made up of the same components, the left hand is a mirror image of the right hand: on the farthest left side on the left hand is the pinky finger and this is different from what is obtainable on the right hand where the thumb is on the farthest left side.

    Due to the differences between the left and right hands, understanding how the right hand is used does not guarantee the same thing for the left hand.

    Proper usage of the left hand requires the examination and understanding of the left hand, coupled with practice and a knowledge of what the left hand should do on the piano.

    But our focus in this lesson is on what the left hand should do on the piano. So, let’s go ahead and cover essential left hand ideas every beginner on the piano must not be without.

    Four Basic Things The Left Hand Should Do On The Piano

    After learning a couple of chords on the keyboard, there comes a point where you’ll probably be wondering what you should be doing on the left hand.

    Alright, I’ll be showing you four basic things your left hand should be doing on the piano as a beginner.

    Left Hand Idea #1 – Bass Notes

    The first thing you must learn to do on the left hand is to play bass notes. Most of the time, the bass note is usually the root note of the chord. For example, the bass note of the C major triad:

    …can be any of its chord tones, however the root note is used most of the time. In this case, the root note of the C major triad is C:

    …C would be played on the left hand:

    …over the C major triad:

    Check out the C major triad with the bass note on the left hand:

    Feel free to play the bass note of any right hand chord on the left hand.

    Left Hand Idea #2 – Octaves

    Another left hand idea is the use of octaves. This is basically the duplication of the bass note with the intent of reinforcing its sound.

    For example, the bass note of the C major triad:

    …which is C:

    …can be played as an octave (C and C):

    …and this produces a fuller left hand with the reinforced sound of the bass note:

    Left Hand Idea #3 – Fifths

    Fifth intervals can also be used on the left hand to accompany chords on the right hand and this is easy to do if you’re familiar with fifth intervals.

    The relationship between two scale tones that are five scale steps apart from each other produces a fifth interval. For example, in the key of C major:

    …the following fifth intervals can be formed between scale tones:

    For the first tone of the scale is C-G:

    For the second scale tone is D-A:

    The fifth interval for the third tone of the scale is E-B:

    For the fourth scale tone is F-C:

    For the fifth tone of the scale is G-D:

    For the sixth scale tone is A-E:

    The fifth interval for the seventh tone of the scale is B-F:

    Attention: All the fifth intervals in the major key are perfect fifth intervals save that of the seventh tone which is a diminished fifth interval.

    Here’s the C major triad played over its corresponding fifth interval on the left hand:

    Left Hand Idea #4 – Chords

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    Final Words

    Using the basic ideas covered in this lesson, you now know exactly what to do with the left hand. Trust me, these left hand ideas are applicable in a variety of music styles: gospel, jazz, blues, country, rock, reggae, disco, etc.

    In a subsequent lesson, I’ll be showing you other ideas for the left hand and I hope you shall have mastered these ones in all the keys by then.

    See you in the next lesson!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Reney

    My brain is about to pop.
    I started feeling like a professional already.
    One love Dr. Pokey!!!


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