young woman at piano

Do you struggle with your left hand?

About 90% of the world is right-hand dominant. 

That also means about 90% of the world would struggle to play piano with their left hand, let alone coordinate their left hand with their right hand to play the correct notes at the correct times. 

So, if you’re struggling with your left hand, bass notes and chords, there are many tips and tricks you can use to “retrain your brain” to tell your hands to play different notes. I included a few of my favorites below:

Play your left hand first

If you’re familiar with the song, you will probably have the melody down within a few times of playing the song all the way through. If you are not familiar with the song… you’ll have the melody down within a few more times of playing the song all the way through. Ha! 

But, after we learn the melody line and can play it at the correct tempo, we tend to want to add the chords in our left hand at the same pace. That’s problematic …

You might be *just* getting comfortable playing the melody line by itself at some tempo. That does NOT mean your noggin will be happy with you trying to add the other hand and all that entails at the same speed. An obvious need is to slow things way down at first when trying to play hands together the first few times through. But here’s another big tip to share in addition to slowing down …

Practice with your left hand first. By learning the chord progression first, you teach your brain the “structure” (or harmony) of the song to be played with your left hand. I find it is then easier to mentally lay a melody line “on top” of those chords, than have your left hand try and keep up with your right hand while learning the chords to a new song. 

Roll the chords

Do you struggle to play more than one note at a time? Even I struggled with that for a while. Most students struggle to play chords at some point. The key to perfecting playing three or four notes at a time is to roll your chords. For example if you have a C major chord to play with your left hand, start by playing the C with your little finger individually, then play the E, and then the G. Then start to play them closer and closer together. Eventually, it will sound like they’re rolled together into one sound. You’ll be able to play all three notes of the chord together with ease before you know it.

So, there’s a couple of quick ideas you can add to your basket of tricks as you work on new tunes if you are having some issues getting your left hand to “behave” with your right. 🙂

Have fun!

  • Richard Robinson
    Posted at 00:03h, 23 June

    This information is definately useful as I have had a hard time with the chords. I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 18:03h, 10 August

      Glad you found this helpful, Richard!

  • Pamela
    Posted at 19:10h, 25 June

    Should I initially learn to play the chords using the correct fingers? It feels so awkward.

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 18:01h, 10 August

      If you make a point to use the “correct” fingers now, it’ll make less work for you later. We find it’s best to use fingers 1, 3, and 5 for basic chords, and if you make a point to use those fingers now, you won’t have to teach yourself the “right fingers” later.

  • Monica (Mindy) Wicks
    Posted at 20:44h, 06 July

    Hi Scott, just wanted you to know that being able to sit down and play–without the terrible time trying to learn classical piano is REALLY remarkable! Imagine being ADD, undiagnosed–at 11 years old! I’m lucky to have survived the experience of 2 long years! What a nightmare…Your course came along at the perfect time, since all the SANE people are all indoors or wearing masks, et al. And my choral society is kaput, I’ve been going through withdrawal after 5 years of improving my sight reading, while learning to sing in French, Latin, African dialect, Italian and more. Luckily, your smiling face came flying by, and my first thought was Holy Toledo! He’s funny and 8 Emmy Awards—what could go wrong? No rush, no tests, and since the 1st day your course arrived–NO PRESSURE: I love it.I don’t have to wear a mask, either! I think this will work, and it is fun.My hubby is so proud–as are our 2 sons we kicked out of the nest ( no, they wanted to FLY–esp. the pilot. Now, it’s time for my next lesson, so THANK YOU!!

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 17:54h, 10 August

      Oh Monica, your testimony made my day!

      Keep at it– there will be a few tough spots, there are for everyone, but with that kind of go-getter attitude, I know you can handle ANYTHING! Best of luck, sounds like you’re doing great already.

  • John K. Kamara
    Posted at 13:47h, 23 July

    Tricks are working, thanks

  • Elaine L Wallis
    Posted at 18:20h, 24 July

    I have found that my brain has to adjust to what the left hand plays above what the right hand plays. Has anyone else had a problem with that and I’m wondering why you didn’t put the chords below the melody instead of above.

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 17:52h, 10 August

      Hi Elaine!

      Traditional sheet music and lead sheets usually print the lyrics below the melody line. If we put the chord notation and the lyrics together below the melody line, they might overlap and get confusing!

  • Heather Colberg
    Posted at 18:56h, 04 October

    Just curious on the finger position. Scott said it didn’t matter which fingers we used because I have trouble with my pinkie fingers as I broke them when I was young. Can you confirm I will not have to go back and retrain myself?

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 14:40h, 12 October

      Hi Heather!

      You can use whichever fingers you find to be most comfortable! Fingers 1/3/5 are referenced often, as that’s what most people use for chords, but don’t feel like you have to follow that!

  • Hilde Schlosar
    Posted at 20:58h, 10 October

    Wow, my issue is opposite the one you describe. I have no problem playing full chords but struggle to play broken chords or in waltz, blues or country rhythm while playing the melody.