Have you ever attended a concert and marveled as a piano virtuoso glided his hands skillfully and seemingly effortlessly across the keyboard? He makes it look so easy.
Inspired and motivated, you then go home to practice, but you struggle to even get your hands to work together on a simple scale.
You know the virtuoso, too, logged many hours of practice, but you’re not sure there are enough practice hours available to make that kind of progress with your own music.
Are there ways to get your hands on the same page — or the same keyboard — to improve hand coordination while playing the piano?
We’re here to tell you that hard work pays off, and when you practice using the following 11 tips, you’re sure to make steady progress.
So, warm up those fingers and start reading — and playing!
How Do You Train Hand Coordination for Piano?
Training your hands for improved coordination when playing the piano takes lots of patience and practice. Rather than just playing through your assigned pieces over and over, there are all kinds of techniques and exercises students can use in their regular practice time to get their hands moving more skillfully and comfortably.
In your regular practice time, techniques like …
- Practicing slowly
- Playing one hand at a time; or
- Experimenting with rhythms
… can help you train your hands to more seamlessly move together.
At Northwest School of Music, our team of piano instructors is ready to help you take your piano skills to the next level in a fun and encouraging environment. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced pianist, if you love making music, we’re here to help you reach your goals.
11 Tips for How To Improve Hand-Eye Coordination for Piano
Endless repetition when practicing the piano can get burdensome and downright boring. Thankfully, that’s not the only way to develop your skills.
With so many varied and fun ways to improve hand coordination for piano, you’ll find a myriad of ways to stay engaged and motivated. And then, when you start seeing progress, you’ll be even more encouraged to keep up the good work.
#1: One at a Time
When learning a new song, practicing each hand one at a time is an excellent way to get off to a good start.
Try starting with the weaker hand — often the left hand for many piano students — and play the music in that hand first. Then practice the music on the other hand. When you’ve practiced them both separately several times, try putting them together.
This technique is especially helpful for beginning piano students, but advanced students can also benefit from this type of practice.
#2: Parallel Motion
This technique is similar to playing one hand at a time but with a twist.
Playing in parallel motion is a great way to practice hand coordination by first playing a melody or scale in one hand, then playing that same melody or scale in the opposite hand, and then playing them together.
The hand shape is the same, but the student would be using opposite fingers on each hand.
For example, a student could play the first five notes of the C scale in the right hand by placing their thumb on middle C, index finger on D, middle finger on E, ring finger on F, and the pinkie finger on G. The parallel motion would involve playing the C scale an octave lower in the left hand, but the fingers would be reversed; the pinkie on C, ring finger on D, middle finger on E, index finger on F, and thumb on G.
Once the student can play them both comfortably in each hand, they can put both hands together.
#3: Coordinating Rhythms
In piano pieces, the right and left hands are doing more than playing different notes. They are also often playing different rhythms.
Practicing coordinating rhythm exercises is another effective way to get your right and left hands synched together.
These types of exercises can be adjusted for the student’s current skill level.
A beginner may want to start slow and simple by using only one note or the notes of a scale and play quarter notes in the left hand and eighth notes in the right hand. Then switch hands and play eighth notes in the left hand and quarter notes in the right hand.
To make it even easier, a beginner can even do these exercises by tapping their fingers on a tabletop.
A more advanced student may practice playing different melodies in each hand or work on exercises where syncopation in both hands is involved.
#4: Change It Up
Another creative way to improve hand coordination is to change things up by giving your left hand a chance to play the melody that’s usually played in the right hand.
When learning a new piece, try playing the right-hand melody in the left-hand. This gives your left hand a little extra exercise by playing something other than the usual left-hand patterns of chord vamping.
This technique may be more suited for advanced students who want to increase …
- Agility; and
… in their left hand.
#5: Slow and Steady
Just like in the familiar tale of the hare and the tortoise, slow and steady can also be a way for piano students to make it to the finish line with improved hand coordination.
When starting a new piece, many piano students want to be able to play it perfectly and at a quick tempo right off the bat. But then they get frustrated when their hands don’t do what they want them to do, and they make lots of mistakes.
If you can play it slow, you can play it fast.
Starting slow — sometimes painfully slow — can help students work the kinks out and get their hands properly coordinated. Gradually increase the tempo until you’re playing it at the correct speed.
Slow, methodical practice also helps you confirm with your eyes where your hands should be on the piano.
First, look at the keys while you’re playing, and then do it again without looking, feeling the space. Feeling around the keys can improve hand coordination without visual input.
#6: Legato/Staccato Alternation
Legato notes are those that are smooth and connected in a flowing motion. Staccato notes are short and separated.
Practicing piano pieces by alternating between legato and staccato will not only help students improve expressivity in their playing, but it can also help with hand coordination.
When playing staccato or legato notes, the student needs to anticipate what’s coming ahead and prepare their hands for that next note. Practicing with this technique can help give them more control over their hand movements, improving how their hands work together.
#7: Warm Up With Scales
Every time you practice, it’s a good idea to warm up, and scales are a perfect way to do that.
Playing scales is also a good way to help train hand coordination.
Start slow and gradually speed up. Play while looking at your fingers, then play without looking. Beginners may want to practice playing pentatonic scales (the first 5 notes of a scale), while intermediate and advanced students may progress to 8-note scales to work on hand coordination.
Regular practice with scales helps students learn to play with a controlled motion, which is key to being able to skillfully play all kinds and styles of music.
#8: Practice With Chords
Because piano music so often includes a beautiful blend of melodies and chords, practicing with chords is another effective way to train your hands to play better together.
You can practice with chords in a variety of ways, including:
- Playing block chords with each hand separately and then putting them together.
- Adding arpeggios to the mix and playing broken chords a note at a time.
- Playing broken and block chords together. Start with a three-note arpeggio and then play the block chord.
- Playing a series of chord progressions (i.e., I, IV, I, V, I) in each hand and then with both hands.
Playing chords forces you to play with more than one finger at a time and to play all the notes of the chord at the same time.
#9: Bulldoze Through Mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable, but if you stop and restart every time you make a mistake in practice, you may get discouraged, feeling like you’re making no progress at all.
Sometimes just bulldozing through mistakes is the only way to make progress.
Playing through mistakes and challenging passages can get you past the mental block that’s keeping you from progressing. Then, when you go back and try that part again, you may find you’re more easily able to get through that troublesome passage.
Playing through mistakes is fine and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. But be careful to make sure you’re not training that mistake into your practice. Those types of mistakes will be much harder to correct in the long run.
#10: No Piano Exercises
Students can work on hand coordination without even using the piano. They can practice moving their fingers in patterns anywhere:
- On a tabletop
- On a book; or
- On their lap
Students can use this technique with sheet music, scales, and other rhythmic drills.
It may seem counterintuitive to practice away from the piano, but Theodor Leschetizky, a 19th-century pianist and instructor, taught his students to memorize music by practicing on their lap in addition to the keyboard.
#11: Practice Proper Hand Position and Posture
Many students discount the importance of proper posture and hand position and focus more on playing the right notes. But students will find that mastering hand coordination is nearly impossible if they are playing with a flat wrist, keeping their wrist above the keys, or slouching.
Using the best posture and hand position can not only help hand coordination, but they also can help keep students physically healthy. Playing with bad posture and hand position can also make students work harder than they need to, which leads to getting easily fatigued and worn out.
What do proper piano posture and hand position look like? We’re glad you asked!
- Stand up and let your hands drop beside you in a relaxed fashion. Sit at the piano and try to keep this relaxed stature as you bend your arms so your hands can reach the keyboard.
- Keep your arms in a horizontal line with the keyboard so that your hands and arms are at the same height.
- When placing your hands on the keyboard, keep your fingers slightly curved and relaxed. Avoid striking the keys with flat fingers.
- Keep your wrists at the same level as the keyboard. Work on keeping your wrists relaxed.
Mastering good hand position and posture helps with hand coordination by giving you a much broader range of motion and improving dexterity and hand movement.
Northwest School of Music: Learning To Play the Piano in a Fun and Encouraging Environment
If you are a new piano student or are already playing the piano but want to improve your skills, Northwest School of Music in Salem, Oregon, offers piano lessons for students of all levels and ages — including adults.
Our qualified and trained music instructors are passionate about helping our students reach their goals.
And we want you to learn to play what you enjoy, so we offer a variety of styles of piano, including:
- And more
If you have questions or want to get started, contact us today.