This is part two in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. If you are not already a subscriber to HarpMastery, you can email me to receive the other posts in this series by email.
This post shows you practice solutions to try when a passage won’t work hands together.
Solution #1: Play all of one hand and some of the other
Why this works: Often the difficulty of hands together is in the amount of information that you’re trying to process at once. If you gradually work in some of the other hand, you increase the difficulty by small degrees only, working up to hands together in little steps.
What to do: Play each hand separately. Fix any technical issues in each hand alone. Start putting hands together by playing one hand alone and adding small chunks of the other hand. For instance, you may try adding one note on each beat of the other part. Or playing every other beat. Or half a measure. Try several combinations. Keep your tempo steady using your metronome. Then switch hands, and repeat the procedure. The example above shows you some possibilities.
Solution #2: Alternate measures hand by hand
Why this works: This method helps you divide your attention between the hands and learn both parts, and how they interact, without the technical difficulty of playing two hands at once.
What to do: Play each hand alone and fix any problems with the hands apart. Then pick a tempo, set your metronome and play through the passage, switching the hand you play each measure, e.g., right hand in first measure, left hand in the second measure, right hand in third measure and so on. Try to switch between hands with no hesitation. Slow your tempo, if necessary, to make the switch cleanly. Also practice the measures divided the other way: for instance, left hand first measure, right hand second measure, etc.
Solution #3: Hands Together From the End Backwards
Why this works: Sometimes the real difficulty is in the physical coordination of both hands. By working very slowly, in very small sections, you can achieve mastery of groupings within the passage. You will establish the correct coordination for the hands together. Working backward from the end of the passage gives you added security when you play through.
What to do: Using a light pencil, divide the passage into small groupings. Depending on the complexity of the passage, these may be as long as a measure or as short as two or three notes. Beginning with the LAST section, play this hands together as slowly as you need to be able to play hands together correctly. It is very important that your fingering and technique are exactly what you will use each time you play this passage. Play this several times. Then move back to the section before and repeat the same process. Then attempt to put the two sections together. Work in groups of two sections, mastering each section alone and then both together. For best results, do not play faster than you can play correctly, and keep your sections small.
Next post in this series: I Can’t Get Through This Difficult Passage! If you would like to receive the other posts in this series automatically in your email inbox, email me and ask! Here’s a link to the first post: I Can’t Get This Up to Tempo!