Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Play Hands Together on the Piano

Useful tips to put together your hands on a piano

In this video, Robert tells you the best approach and method to put together your hands on a piano in order to avoid pitfalls.

Released on August 28, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. This is Robert Estrin, and you're watching The question today is, how to play the hands together on the piano. That's a big subject. After all, playing hands together is what the piano is all about. You might wonder, particularly if you're a wind player or you play almost any other instrument and you're playing one note at a time, some exceptions like guitar, harp, string instruments can do a certain amount of double stops, but on piano, playing the hands together on different unique parts is what the instrument is all about. In fact, all keyboard instruments have this in common.

What is the secret? How do people do that? Because just doing something like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy, it gets confusing for most people, and the intricacies of the parts of each hand are so enormously challenging in a lot of piano music. You might wonder, how do you approach such a thing?

There is an answer. Of course, the more you practice when you spend months or years at the piano, it becomes more natural for you to be able to play independent parts at the same time, even sight reading music you've never seen before, but that takes a very long time to develop for most people. How can you do it right from the get-go?

By the way, I've been teaching piano for many, many, many years, and I always introduce playing hands together at lesson one, even with young children, because the way I look at it is it's kind of like learn how to ride a bike with one leg. Riding a bike, you have to use both legs. Well, you have to use both hands on the piano, otherwise what are you doing? You're not really playing the piano. Now of course, if it's very young children, three year olds or something like that, four year olds, and quite frankly, I'm not a teacher for most people of that age. I usually like kids who can work independently to some extent.

How do you teach how to play the hands together? Even though it seems counterintuitive, it's by practicing hands separately. Now I don't mean practicing incessantly hands separately. I mean that each phrase that you work on, you practice each hand separately.

For example, if you were playing Chopin's Pathetique Sonata (PLEASE NOTE: Robert meant Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata", the second movement, which is the famous sonata ... I'll play a little bit so you can hear which one I'm talking about.

If you wanted to learn that, rather than try to play the hands together, certainly you might read through, sight read through, the piece a couple of times, just to get acquainted, but then get to work and start learning it. The method I described before. Hands separately, learning all the details of each hand. The left hand, let's just take a very small section so you get the idea. If you took just the right hand, you got that much to learn.

First of all, as I've explained before and I'll mention it again because it's such an important part of your practice, any time you have music that could be broken down to chords, learn the chords first. This section could be learned initially like this.

By learning in chords, you're going to find the best fingering. Plus, it's easier. You only have a few chords to learn instead of all those separate notes because it's just broken chords.

Once you have it learned, then you learn the left hand. Now one little trick you could do here is put the hands together, playing the right handed chords first, like this. It just sounds like a little corral that way. Then finally, break it up. I don't know if you noticed, but I have not used the pedal at all, except the very first time I played the piece for you so you could hear what it sounds like. The last step is adding the pedal.

By working out hands separately, each little phrase, and then putting them together, you have the benefit not only of breaking things down to size so that you can master each section, but you can also really, really study the score and get all the details learned because you think about it. In one phrase of music like that that I just played, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of details. How can this be? You have each note. Each note has a duration, a rhythm. Each note has a fingering. Each note has a phrasing. Each note has expression. There's five aspects to each note in each hand. You start doing the math, and there are at least hundreds of details. There's only so much you can assimilate at a time.

That's the secret. You hear people doing these intricate pieces of music. You wonder, how is it possible that they can learn so much music and get their hands doing dramatically different things? That's the answer. I've shown you on something relatively simple, but it's the same principle. That's the secret to playing hands together on the piano. I hope you've enjoyed this here at, your online piano store. Again, Robert Estrin. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Charlie larson on August 29, 2019 @11:29 am PST
i think the piece used, Pathetique Sonata, was Beethoven’s not
By Chopin. But otherwise, as usual, wonderful video with much to appreciate and learn from. My wife and I watch and learn and find your presentations not only knowledgeable and useful, but consistently warm and good natured. Thanks much.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on August 29, 2019 @3:25 pm PST
Yes Charlie, that was a mistake as we have noted in the text transcription above.

I am very glad to know you and your wife enjoy Robert's videos, thanks for sharing this with us!

Keep up the great music
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