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#33430 - 12/07/06 08:50 AM Left Hand Leaps
Anton Offline
New Member

Registered: 12/07/06
Posts: 3
Loc: Evanston Illinois USA
Dear Ms. Freeman:

How can I get familiar with playing far away keys especially in the left hand without looking?

This is often found in Waltzes and Ragtime piano tunes. Do you know of any drills or methods where one can jump a few octaves to the left for one note and then immediately play three or four note chords on succeeding beats?

I'm about 60% accurate at doing such leaps, without looking, which is not such a good percentage.

Any help would be appreciated...


#33431 - 12/07/06 01:53 PM Re: Left Hand Leaps
lagin Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 10/27/05
Posts: 191
Loc: B.C., Canada
I'm not Ms. Freeman, but I have a couple suggestions. One exercise apart from repertoire, and a couple ideas to use with your actual repertoire.

A good "leaping" exercise is to start with both thumbs on middle C. Then play the B below and the D above with your thumbs, and jump back to C. Then have them jump apart again with the left hand jumping down to the A, while the right hand jumps up to the E. This keeps going on and moving outwards. This isn't so much for "blind" jumping, as you should look and prepare mentally before leaping each time, but you could use it "blind" as well. Just make sure that you completely relax your entire arm after each and every leap, and you will build more and more tension as you get further and further from C, if you don't consciously relax each time.

Now with your pieces, practice thumbs only in the left hand. If it's an octave, ignore the pinky's note, and just play the thumb. Then if it goes to a chord, again just play the thumb. If your thumbs can land it, your other fingers will follow. Once this is mastered you can add your other fingers back in one at a time, or all at once if you can manage that right away. Once again, this isn't really for blind leaping, but for accurate leaping. That said, I have done this "blind" as well when I had octaves jumping around, and it worked out fine, but they weren't huge leaps. (If I were playing a piece like that, I would probably be playing my right hand "blind" and watching my left - but it's good that you are trying to get a "feel" for it as well).

The last thing, is definately not for playing blind, but for playing 100% accurate. Position your hand above the chord or octave you are going to play, but don't press down. Then look ahead to the next one. Then, when you are ready, press down, and jump quick to the next chord as though you are totally ready to play it (fingers all in position), but don't press. Look ahead to the next chord/octave, and repeat the process - Press, jump/position, look, press, ect. Always, completely relax your hand, arm, and shoulder while looking. You are training your body to relax while you play that way, and are avoiding potention injuries caused by tension. You would be amazed how much tension we can have when we "think" we are relaxed, so really make sure you are completely tension free before proceding.

One last thought. If you are getting it right 60% of the time, that means you are training your arm, and fingers to play it wrong during the other 40% of the time. Watch your left hand, and not your right until you can play it 100% of the time. Then if you wish to play without looking at your left hand, do so a chord at a time, and make sure you can get it right 99% of the time before playing another chord blind. Perhaps do it three times while looking, then once without. This is just what I would do personally, but that could be due to the lectures I get about "practicing mistakes!"

Anyways, those are just my thoughts, and how I practice, but I'm sure the others have ideas, too.
The biggest victories are seldom posted on scoreboards.

#33432 - 12/07/06 04:27 PM Re: Left Hand Leaps
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
I'm not Vivace either, but here's what I'd say:

The first strategy is one called "play-prepare" or "SAP" (stop and Plan) in many technique circles. This will assure you that you get it right 100% of the time. NEVER allow yourself to play it incorrectly. When first becoming familiar with this, your goal is to throw away the counting and work on a swift move with total relaxation. Forget about doing it without looking until totally secure btw. Play the low note and then silently & quickly move your hands to the next position. Each correct finger has to be one the correct note, NO exceptions, before you actually play anything. Only AFTER your fingers are securely in the correct place do you continue on. When you are ready to move again (this time down) repeat. Work on this in little sections and you will soon be very fluent. Giving yourself permission to stop will keep things relaxed, because when a person tenses up they often lose all sense of the keyboard topography.

Another strategy for waltz patterns: Practice starting on beat 3 instead and do the play-prepare to the downbeat, keeping a "spring" in your moves. Then do this starting with the downbeat to beat 2.

Something else you could do is practice playing chord "shapes" in different rhythm patterns up and down the keyboard, going up for right and down for the left hand. Start with simple triads in root position, and at first you may only want to play quarter notes, adding snappy little patterns later. Then add the inversions. Later add the octave to the inversions. Do in many different keys. This will train you hands to be comfortable with standard shapes and give you a true command of keyboard topography. Good luck, and let us know how you do!

#33433 - 12/07/06 06:06 PM Re: Left Hand Leaps
Nick Elderkin Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 07/27/04
Posts: 58
Loc: Lubbock, TX
William Westney addresses this issue in his book The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust your Musical Self. Check out Chapter 5: Breakthroughs (look especially at pp. 107-111)



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