Okay, so you can play the right hand part just fine, and you can play the left hand part too, but when you put them together it just isn’t working. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even advanced pianists have to work hard to put both hands together when passages are rhythmically tricky or technically challenging. The difficulty of playing two different parts with two different hands makes piano playing a fantastic brain exercise. If you can learn to do this, you can do just about anything.
The key to any complex skill, like playing the right hand part and the left hand part together, is to break it down into smaller skills and master each part individually. This won’t always make it easy to put everything together, but it will make it much more possible.
Start with Rhythm
In most piano pieces, the right hand and the left hand will have a different rhythm. For now, don’t worry about the notes. Let’s just work on the rhythm. Close the lid on your piano keyboard, find a table or other flat surface, or just use your lap. With your left hand, tap the rhythm of the left hand part of the song. Then, with your right hand, tap out the rhythm of the right hand part of the song. Once you can do each part individually and with confidence, try tapping the two parts together.
One thing that can help you as you do this is to look at the written music on the grand staff and notice when notes on the bass clef line up with notes on the treble clef. Notes that are in line vertically on the staff will sound at the same time. When that happens, both hands should tap at the same time. Another thing you can do is write out the rhythm for each hand just below the staff, using counts or ta’s and tiki’s. Count out loud as you tap the rhythm of each hand separately, and also when you tap together.
Go slowly. If you need to, work on only one measure at a time. Once you can tap the rhythm of the two parts together, you’re ready to move on to the notes.
Now for the Notes
Before you try putting right hand and left hand parts together, make sure you can play each part individually. If you can play the parts individually and can tap the rhythms together, go ahead and try playing both hands together. Remember to go slow and take it a little at a time.
If you’re still having trouble, here are some other things you can try:
Play the left hand part while tapping the rhythm of the right hand part, then switch and play the right hand part while tapping the rhythm of the left hand part.
Play the left hand part while singing the right hand part. If there are no lyrics, just sing on “la.” Now play the right hand part while singing the left hand part.
Be Patient, Keep Trying
Whatever you persist in doing, no matter how hard it is for you at first, will get easier and easier until it feels like it just comes naturally. Playing with both hands together can be pretty tricky, so give yourself time to learn to do it. If you think about it, the piano is one of very few instruments that lets you play up to ten notes all at the same time! Remember, break it up into smaller parts, work on one part at a time, and then put it all together. In time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it gets easier to play with both hands.