Glenn Gould dazzled the classical world with his 1956-released recording of Bach’s at the time, dusty, out-of-fashion, piece called the Goldberg Variations. There’s much to write on both Gould, the music, and his history and much has been written (or documented by film). But one of the universally-agreed-upon reasons for the jaw-dropping playing that took the world by the collar and shook it was that Glenn Gould had an exceptional independence and control over the fingers of his left hand. (More on his technique referenced here.)

A common challenge pianists of all levels (whether righties or lefties) is that their left hands are less agile and fatigue quickly. In my studio, I’ve been employing some strategies to help counter the right hand supremacy from the first lesson.

Have students read and play LH pieces first.

Many method books start with RH reading and playing, which tends to focus the student on the right hand and teach them that the left hand is secondary,. Where you can, always start with introduction of left hand playing and reading bass clef.

Do technique exercises with LH first when playing hand separately.

This forces students to focus on reading the left hand/bass clef part first and in contrast to my observation that students prefer to read the treble clef in the beginning.

For technique, practice the LH exercise 3 times for every one time you play it with RH.

This will allow student to really focus on technique, and make sure the LH develops more swiftly to keep up with RH, which often in pieces carries the more technically complex passages.

Play Bach. A Lot.

Bach is a composer whose music treats RH and LH roughly the same. It’s great for developing independence of the hands and one of the areas Glenn Gould focused on in his student days.

Practice RH passages in pieces with LH.

Obviously, this one can be very irritating as you have to re-finger everything, but in pieces such as those composed by Chopin, you could really challenge the LH this way.

Practice etudes that are designed to develop the LH equally to RH OR that focus on LH.

There are tons of pieces written on for just the LH. Berens has an entire set; The Art of Finger Dexterity, Op.740 (Czerny, Carl) is my preference du jour; Persichetti has a set of “mirror etudes” where the hands play the same thing interesting ways. IMSLP has a whole host of recommended pieces (some quite advanced) and etudes if you need to look for additional resources.

Here’s another set of links from a slightly different search term on IMSLP.

This book below is a little advanced for the beginner but good for later elementary players. (And right now it’s only $4.79 on sheetmusicplus!)

look inside For Left Hand Alone – Book 1 National Federation of Music Clubs 2014-2016 Selection Later Elementary Level. Composed by John Thompson. Willis. Instruction, Recital, Left Hand. 16 pages. Willis Music #8369. Published by Willis Music (HL.414630).

And last, but not least, teachers, write exercises or pieces designed to target the LH that suit your student’s level!

Have any strategies that you use with your students? Or have any opinions on mine? I’d love to hear your feedback, comments, and any questions you might have.

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