Intermediate Keyboard/Piano Lessons Part 2

Intermediate Keyboard/Piano Lessons Part 2

Practicing Techniques When Playing with Both Hands

By now, you should have a good feel for playing bass lines using the left hand. Are you ready to put both the left and right hands together?

Before you start playing a piano piece written for both hands, keep the following practice techniques in mind:

  1. Start with only playing the right-hand part. Keep playing the right-hand part until you have perfected it and, if possible, have memorized it.

  2. Once you have accomplished that, move on to the left had. Now play only the left-hand part and keep playing it until you have perfected it.

  3. Try your best to play either the right-or left hand part automatically, without having to think about what you are playing; try to play the part instinctively. This will make it a lot easier when putting both hands together and playing both parts simultaneously.

  4. Do not try to play the whole piece at once. Instead, take it one measure at a time. Once you have perfected measure 1, add the second measure. Before going on to the third measure, repeat measures 1 and 2 until they flow together without any hesitation or pauses. Keep adding measures, one at a time, until you have played them all.

  5. Take your time; do not rush into the exercise.

  6. Start playing it slowly. Once you are comfortable with the parts, increase the tempo.

  7. If you choose to use pedals, keep in mind that when using the sustain pedal, a common practice is to press it down at the beginning of each measure and release it at the end of each measure. This pedaling technique will prevent the blurring of chords, harmonies and melodies from measure to measure. For practicing purposes, you might want to use the soft pedal. If you have one on your piano, experiment with the sostenuto pedal. The use of pedals is determined by your subjective ear and aesthetic taste.

Now play example 4a

example 4a

Let's take a closer look at example 4a. As you can see, this is the first exercise that uses two staffs - one for the right hand (treble clef) and one for the left hand (bass clef). A bracket ties the two staffs together.

In measure 1 and 2, the right hand plays whole notes while the left hand plays quarter equals four quarter notes. Likewise, the four quarter notes equal the whole note. In the third measure, the half note E, played by the right played by the left hand. The same note values occur with the second half note F, played by the right hand, and the two quarter notes A and B, played by the left hand.

As indicated by the time signature, example 4a is in 4/4 time. The first beat in measure 1 has two notes: the whole note in the right hand and the quarter note in the left hand. Both of these notes are to be played at exactly the same time. In the first beat of the second measure, the F note in the right hand and the F note in the left hand are to be played at exactly the same time. Incidentally, the distance between the F note in the left hand and the F note in the right hand is an octave. In the first beat of the third measure, the E note in the right hand and middle C in the left hand are to be played at the same time. In the third beat of this same measure, the F note in the right hand and the A note in the left hand are to be played at the time. Finally, in the first beat of the last measure, the exercise is concluded with the right hand playing the whole note E and the left hand playing the whole note middle C.

When playing the piano using both hands and reading the corresponding music, a vertical and horizontal sound experience occurs simultaneously. The vertical sound occurs when two notes are played at the same time. For instance in example 4a, measure 1, the right hand plays the E while the left hand plays the middle C below it. Looking at the written music, you see the vertical relationship of the E above the middle C. Once this vertical sound occurs, the horizontal sound takes place with the descending bas notes of the left hand. Your eyes are reading the music both vertically and horizontally at the same time.

The Thumb Goes Under the Fingers

There are eight white keys from middle C down to the C key an octave lower. When playing descending bass lines with your left hand that span an octave, you can run out of fingers. For instance, after playing the A with your third finger in example 5a, how do you play five more notes? By putting your thumb under your third finger. If F is your lowest note and middle C is your highest note, then you do not have to alter the fingering. However, if you have to play all eight notes from middle C down to the C located an octave lower, then your thumb is going to go under your middle finger.

example 5a

As the fingering indicates, after playing the third quarter note in the first measure with your third finger, the next note is to be played with the first finger of your left hand. The way to do this is to move your thumb under your third finger immediately after playing the A note. In doing so, you will be repositioning the fingers of your left hand to be able to play all of the notes down to the low C without running out of fingers. Play example 5a slowly and keep repeating it until you are comfortable with this new fingering technique. In playing the repeat, you will be leaping an octave from the last note C (played with your fifth finger) up to the first note middle C (played with your thumb).

Leaping over the Thumb

When playing ascending bass notes with the left hand, you have to leap your finger over the thumb to avoid running out of fingers. As indicated in the next exercise example 6a, in the third measure after playing the G note with your thumb, move your middle finger over your thumb to play the A note. The last two ascending notes are played with your second finger playing the B note and your thumb playing middle C.

Example 6a will help you to learn to play both descending and ascending bass notes, moving the thumb under your fingers on the way down and moving your middle finger over the thumb on the way up.

Play example 6a slowly and keep repeating it until you get comfortable with the descending and ascending fingering.

example 6a