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Left Hand "City" Limits

Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

Thanks for the great question!

The first thing to do is realize that everyone’s left hand is 2 weeks behind their right.  And yes, that includes left-handed people.

To play a keyboard instrument, you’ll need dexterity in both hands and independence between them.

What you can do

Finger exercises played on the piano.  Most pianos have stiffer action than organs, so practicing piano will strengthen your left hand faster.

Do piano exercises every day.

Limit the amount of time you spend on them.  You don’t want to overdo it in any one practice session.  So start out with 10 min., say, for a few days.  Then 20.  But 2 hours would be way too much.

Practice left hand alone.  The better you know the left hand part, the easier it will be to put both hands and the organ pedals together.

Play the same thing with both hands together in octaves.  The right hand can help the left hand improve.

Use your left hand often throughout the day.  Pick up your coffee cup, open the door, brush your teeth (good luck!), etc.  When you begin looking for ways to use your left hand, you’ll find many situations where you can.  Have you ever eaten with your fork in the left hand?

Best book ever

The pianist Alfred Cortot wrote Rational Principles of Pianoforte Technique.  Although expensive, it is more than worth the price.  The finger exercises included in this book are the best.  I recommend this method more than Hanon or Czerny because it is comprehensive.

What to avoid

If you happen to miss a day of exercises, don’t double the time the next day.  It doesn’t work that way ~ instead, it leads to potential injury.

Exercise devices are to be avoided.  You don’t need to stretch your fingers or squeeze a ball or do a workout for your hands.  Playing will take care of it.  You can, however, work out with dumbbells.  5 lb. dumbbells are enough to keep in shape ~ I would limit dumbbell exercises involving bent wrists to 8 lbs., max.

So ~ go for it, but be patient, too.  And always be aware of how your hand and arm feel.  You should be relaxed.  After you complete the finger exercises, take a break before practicing more.  Finger exercises can be strenuous.

Good luck, and happy practicing!

Have you ever done hand-strengthening exercises?  Do you assign them to your students?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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