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  • by Mary Barton

Is the Thought of Playing With Two Hands Giving You ... Pause?

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

One thing that distinguishes the piano from virtually all other instruments is that you can play two different sets of notes at the same time. You can play the melody in one hand while playing harmony with the other. Only keyboard instruments have this capacity.

This is what makes the piano unique. It doesn't require other instruments to accompany it. Every other instrument plays only melody or harmony at one time. A flute, for example, can play a melody line or it can add some harmony to another instrument or another flute, but a single flute cannot provide its own accompaniment to the melody. The piano, however, can provide not only its own accompaniment and harmonize its own melodies, but it has seven octaves of rich, varied tones and colours at its disposal to accomplish this — a seemingly endless ocean of creativity to draw from. This is what makes the piano such a sought-after and loved instrument.

Of course… this is also the most challenging part of learning to play piano. But it is also the most exciting and rewarding! And not as daunting as it seems.

Like many adults, I never even considered learning to play piano because I assumed that since I hadn’t learned to play with "both hands" as a child, it was not possible now as an adult. I assumed such ambidexterity had to be developed as a child. If I had known I still could learn it, I wouldn't have waited so long!

My perspective instantly changed one day when visiting a friend who had a piano. I had been longingly playing around on the instrument as I typically would do whenever I was in a home that was so blessed to possess one, when my friend suggested I take lessons. I responded by bemoaning the fact that I could never learn to play with two hands. She pointed out that we do two different things with our hands all day long. This completely revolutionized my thinking! Why, you can be fishing in your purse for your keys with one hand and holding your cell phone to your ear with the other. Or brushing your teeth with one hand and reaching for the tap with the other. Or holding a baby with one arm/hand and holding a bottle with the other hand. On and on it goes. Suddenly, my lifelong dream was possible!

And once I started taking lessons and reached that “now try it with both hands" stage, my teacher pointed out that repeatedly making my fingers do the movements, no matter how slow, was going to create a nerve pathway in my brain and it would become easier, and eventually, second nature as "muscle memory" kicked in. Wow! How easy is that!??

While I don't want to oversimplify the concentration, diligence, and practice required to excel at playing the piano “with both hands”, I do want to encourage everyone who wants to learn that it is within your grasp … literally! Unless, of course, you’re a cat …

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