Piano Exercises for the Left Hand

Question: I would like to know what exercises I can do to strengthen and train my left hand. I have been searching the internet and have only found a few, but there are thousands out there. Any suggestions where I can get specific exercises/drills for the left hand would be appreciated.

– Shelia (Riverview, Florida, USA)

Albert’s reply: The first exercises I would do is piano scales, practiced first hands separately and subsequently together. It will take a long time before your scales are even in terms of rhythm, dynamics and articulation. Especially in the beginning, you should practice with a metronome to ensure perfect rhythmic evenness. The act of practicing your scales hands together (again, only after achieving perfect evenness hands separately) by itself will do much to even out the imbalances between your hands.

Done properly (musically!), many of Hanon’s exercises (particularly Part 1) are very useful for correcting imbalances and strengthening the left hand in conjunction with the right. These exercises are done in parallel motion, meaning that the hands play the same notes, spaced apart. The body has a principle whereby doing the same motion on both sides will strengthen the weaker side – the stronger side won’t get equally stronger. (It’s true that contrary motion – a true mirror image – will work the two hands identically, but Hanon’s exercises make up for this with their ascending and descending motion, which means that the hands end up doing the same work.) Please read the article Piano Exercises for a warning and instructions on doing Hanon exercises correctly, in a manner that supports your technique without compromosing your musicality.

Once you’ve progressed past these stages, Carl Czerny’s 24 Studies for the Left Hand, Op. 718, is recommendable. It makes use of left hand scale patterns, as well as broken chords (arpeggios), double thirds and octaves, in miniature musical pieces rather than pure exercises divorced from any musical content. These are at an intermediate to early advanced level.

I also recommend Brahms’s 51 Exercises, all of which help to train the left hand. There’s no need to practice all of them unless you really have the time and inclination – just select a few and practice hands separately at first, and slowly.

Finally, I find that double notes, in which one hand plays two voices moving in parallel, contrary or alternating motion, are among the very best exercises for strengthening the weaker fingers and balancing the hand.

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