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Piano Technique: Boosting the Left Hand (Video)

I’m always in awe of pianists whose left hand is equal to the right hand in dexterity, expression, power and reliability. It’s the switch hitter thing that’s mind-boggling as it also applies to sports. Creaming a ball and sending it into the bleachers from either side of the plate is no small wonder. Mickey Mantle was a double threat powerhouse during the celebrated Mantle/Maris home run duel. (I watched from a box seat in Yankee Stadium)

When I came into the world, like most other babies, I had a genetic predilection to use my right hand more than my left. And before I was enrolled in piano lessons, I’d spent gads of time tossing up a pink rubber ball with my weaker left hand as I punched it assertively with my right. The same applied to stick ball.

In primary school, I enlisted my more agile right hand to scribble the letters of my name, while kids who were left handed were considered oddities, stigmatized for their genetic leaning. The same prejudice seemed to cross over into the political universe of Right and Left.

When I finally embarked upon piano lessons at the age of six, eventually progressing to reading the bass clef, it was no surprise that I would single out the melody and tack on the left hand. More often than not, my first Diller-Quaille pieces were supported by florid harmonic accompaniments played by my teacher, Mrs. Vinagradov so this co-dependency perpetuated neglect of my left hand. Decades later, as I played catch-up forcing my left hand out of its lackadaisical role and into the spotlight, I kept a journal to keep myself out of a left hand compromised rut.

Here are some suggestions that I had jotted down:

1) In all technical exercises such as scales and arpeggios, etc. make sure to flesh out the left hand, and give it a central role. Think deeper into the keys, but play into the “marshmallow” or “jello,” whatever works, to nourish well-shaped, singable lines. (you can start by isolating the left hand before pairing it with the right)

2)Play legato as well as staccato in your left hand leaning routines. Vary the dynamic levels.

3)Use Rhythms such as the long/short, long/short (dotted 8th/16th figure) and its opposite, short/long, short/long (16th/dotted 8th)

4) Select repertoire with a meaty left hand, such as Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude, Op. 10 no. 12, or the composer’s Prelude no. 2 in G Major Op. 28, No. 3, and apply the deep in the keys, slow and steady approach.

Use the rhythms already described and slow the time frame so you can breathe deep breaths and savor the time spent with your left hand.