Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

A pianist's left hand on the piano. Black and White.

Right Hand or Left Hand?

When learning a new piece of piano music, start with the Left Hand. Why? Because it is harder. But we can all take inspiration from the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who used only his left arm and hand in concerts.

Why is the Left Hand harder?

  • The left hand tends to be weaker than the right (oddly, I find this to be true even for lefties);
  • Usually, in piano music, the right hand has the tune, which is easier to memorise. Left Hand parts tend to have less melodic outline;
  • Most people have more familiarity with the treble clef - we learnt it first, or we play a melody instrument;
  • The brain is hard-wired to hear the highest sound, so when we play hands together, we tend to be more conscious of the right hand music.

Paul Wittgenstein

The picture is the left hand of Paul Wittgenstein, a famous pianist, who lost his right arm in the first world war, and continued his career playing with the left hand alone. Here is a video.

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