Traversing 88 keys with all ten fingers to create beautiful music may sound like something only with ambidexterity can do. In reality, only 1% of human beings are truly ambidextrous. By definition, Ambidexterity is the ability to use both hands equally well.
While playing the piano helps exercise the brain to play different parts of the keyboard independently, it does not make you ambidextrous. That isn’t to say it doesn’t help your coordination. In fact, it has shown to help your brain in more ways than one!
Many musical instruments are played with both hands, and all have their own benefits.
In piano, both hands are playing music independently of each other and it requires plenty of practice and concentration to master. The left hand typically plays the bass and harmony while the right hand does the melody.
An example of this is ragtime music. The left hand is mostly playing chords creating the bass for the music and the right hand does more advanced runs up and down the keyboard.
Here’s an example:
As you can see both hands are working independently, and have their own independent functions, but it does not help develop the skill in your non-dominant hand enough to be considered ambidextrous.
Remember, the definition of Ambidexterity is the ability to use both hands equally well.
Does being ambidextrous have any advantages for a pianist?
If you are ambidextrous, you likely don’t have any measurable advantages over others in regards to learning the piano.
Regardless of your hand dominance, learning and playing the piano well is difficult for just about everybody.
As stated above, both hands have their own independent functions at the piano. Generally, your left hand develops a technique intended for the bass, and the right hand does for the treble.
Imagine trying to play a song but crossing your hands so that the right hand is playing the bass notes and the left hand is playing the treble ones. I’ve been playing for 27 years and it seems darn near impossible!
Now you may be saying, “Hey, I’ve seen someone play upside down AND have their hands crossed!”. It does take a lot of talent to do that, but it’s actually easier to play with your hands crossed because you are upside down. If you didn’t cross your hands, the right would be playing the bass and the left would be playing the treble.
Here’s the upside down hands crossed technique in action:
Does being left-handed present any additional challenges to playing the piano?
As a left-hander myself, I can say without a doubt that my right hand is definitely better than my left hand at the piano. My right hand simply has more dexterity, speed, and accuracy when playing.
I cannot do anything with my right hand. I have a very dominant left hand, but when it comes to piano, I play as if I were right handed. This is usually true for most left handers who learn the piano.
The way music is written has some responsibility for this. The right hand usually traverses the keys and plays more notes than the left hand, so one can see why it is a little more agile when it comes to playing.
I personally have not seen any challenges to playing because I’ve been left-handed. If you are left handed, don’t expect learning the piano to any more difficult. You got this!
Best way to use both hands independently
When you go from playing the piano with one hand to using two hands, it’s a big leap as far as skill goes.
There are lots of techniques to help you get to this point, and all are very useful. Try to use different techniques as they all help connect the dots in your brain to become a better pianist.
- Practice hands separately – Doing this will help you get the rhythm and beat down for each hand. Practice the right hand, then the left, and repeat that over and over until each hand is perfect playing separately
- Practice hands together VERY slow – Once you get the parts down separately, you’ll want to put them together. Take it a measure at a time and go slow enough you don’t make any mistakes. I don’t care how slow you need to go, just go slow enough you don’t make any mistakes. If you do, start over and try again.
- Play hands together fast – Every 10 times you go slow, try playing the piece fast. Don’t worry as much about the mistakes. Doing this will help you speed up the song to the tempo it needs to be at. Don’t do this drill as often because you might trick your brain into playing the mistakes you make because you’re playing it fast. Do this when you’re feeling confident about the first two steps.
Another method to try is to play the same tune with each hand, but at different times. Here’s a simple example you can follow:
How playing the piano affects the brain
As far as science is concerned, there is little evidence that music makes you smarter. It does not mean that there are not any cognitive benefits of learning piano (or any musical instrument for that matter), only that in the narrow-focused study, it didn’t manifest itself as clear as most people assume.
One thing I can say as someone who has played for nearly 30 years is playing the piano is one of the best stress-relievers I have ever had. If things are going right for you or you’re just having a bad day, there is nothing better than pouring your soul into music. I feel truly blessed that I have this outlet that many people don’t have.
If you are a pianist, cherish it! It will bring you more joy in your life if you continue learn and play!
Being a pianist has many advantages, becoming ambidextrous is not one of them. Each hand has a purpose that is unique to itself. One hand will always be more dominant, and it’s important you continue developing both so they can both progress at the same rate. Utilize the tips I listed above and you will find your dexterity improve.
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