Piano Exercises: Make Your Hands Stronger

For the pianist, there’s no such thing as a dominant hand. Here are some piano exercises to strengthen hand coordination and independence.

Playing piano is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the Olympic level. When you hear a pro tear through some advanced Stravinsky or Bartók, it sounds less like a solo and more like a duet between two players. The left and right hands perform acrobatics so disparate and technical, you’d think the player had at least, by some strange mutation, sprouted a second brain. Well, in fact, that’s not far off. Along the edge of the brain’s primary motor cortex is a groove called the central sulcus. In most cases, one side of the groove is deeper, depending on whether the person is right or left handed. A study by Alan HD Watson of the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, showed that, in advanced piano players, the sides are more symmetrical. In other words, learning piano strengthens the weaker side of the central sulcus, thereby making your nondominant hand literally smarter and more independent.

(Our Crash Course on Chords Will Straighten Up Any Confusion You May Have)

OK, enough science. Let’s play. Below, you’ll find a series of exercises. (The left and right hand exercises are actually the same, but just transposed for bass and treble.) Go through the list, and mix and match each left hand exercise with each right hand exercise. Repeat ad infinitum—or, until you no longer have to think about it. Each exercise, taken alone, is pretty easy. The trouble comes with combining the conflicting rhythms without stumbling. Warning: it’s harder than it looks!

Piano Exercises

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droberts@makingmusicmag.com'

About Drew Roberts

Drew Roberts is digital editor of Making Music magazine. He writes articles, produces videos, dabbles in piano, and does stop motion animated text.

3 comments

I wonder if that is true of adult learners? There is a sort of bridge between brain hemispheres that separates around puberty, which is why it’s harder to learn languages later in life than as a child. Most (all?), of these classical pro players started learning piano at a young age, and had thousands of hours of practice during that critical time of brain development that occurs before puberty.

Adult learner here 🙂

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