Left Hand vs. Right Hand
OK, we've got some great questions. Let's see if we can start getting some of them answered and prompt others to jump in with their opinions.
There seemed to be some interest in getting the right hand and left hand to work together. It seems this problem is unique to the piano, as most other instruments concentrate EITHER on playing the melody (flute, trumpet, violin) or chords (guitar). Piano players must do both.
Actually, I believe the problem is NOT getting the hands to be coordinated with one another, but rather the opposite. How do we train the hands to work independently? How do we de-coordinate them?
A trumpet player uses two hands to produce just the melody. A guitar player uses two hands to produce just the chords. A piano player must do two things at once.
As a struggling novice boogie-woogie student back in the early 1970's it became apparent to me rather early that in order to succeed at boogie, I had to have a very strong left hand. Not only did my left hand have to play the harmony (chords), but it was also responsible for the rhythm.
If that were not enough, I had to save up all my mental creative concentration for the right hand in order to get creative with my improvising. So I concluded I needed to get my left hand down perfectly first. I had to train it to go on "auto pilot."
Luckily the left hand was pretty repetitive, so training it to be on auto pilot was not out of the question. I would work very hard on just the left hand for a few weeks, and it actually got pretty good with those boogie lines. I was pretty proud of it. But pride cometh before a fall, doesn't it?
Everything went fine until I added my right hand and started to play some improvised lines. Then the whole thing fell apart on me. And the sad truth was I wasn't ready to start improvising yet. My left hand wasn't completely automatic yet.
So how do I train myself to improvise without driving myself (and everyone in ear shot) totally crazy with the lone monotonous left hand?
Then it hit me. I would practice my left hand while distracting my brain with other things such as ............ watching television. After a week, that went pretty well. Then I graduated to reading while playing my left hand. If news magazines were a little hard to start with, I would read comic books. Then newspapers and magazines, even novels, all with those boogie-woogie lines droning in the background.
Then I went for my biggest challenge. I'd practice my boogie-woogie left hand while talking on the telephone. Yes of course I was driving everyone else crazy at that time. But it was worth it. For me. Plus I was living alone, so that helped too.
Within six months I could keep that boogie-woogie left hand going and start to add my right hand while improvising on the blues scale. What fun.
That's one way to approach it. Anybody else have some other suggestions? Of course it's not like the problem was solved forever. In fact, with every new song there is still the element of this tension between left and right. But after I solved the problem once, it made subsequent challenges a little easier.