In the last three weeks I started asking my students why they think I ask them constantly to play hands separately in class and of course, why should they practise at home with hands separately. I have to admit none gave me a satisfactory answer — well, at least none gave me the answers I wanted to hear… Not too surprisingly one might say, since they are, um, let me think… STUDENTS! Some souls incapable of knowing how to go about making a block of wood with strings make nice (and acceptable in today’s zeitgeist) sounds and they need an instructor? That’s why they are called STUDENTS, let me remind you, you gullible, nonchalant, and ever so incompetent teaching fellows. 

But, to be on the safe side, and become politically correct for the pianistic masses that are ready to butcher my pedagogical inefficiencies, and rightly so, I would also say that every so often you get to learn from your pupils through their innocent wordings. There. I said it, okay? I am officially politically correct now. But, on this occasion I learned zilch. Oh, well. 

So, here’s a few of the reasons we need to practise hands separately, we came to agree upon during those lessons:

 1. We should practise hands separately, in order to observe whether we play each hand satisfactorily; for, if we cannot convey the piece by playing decently our hands separately, how can we expect to combine them together in a decent way? Well, this deserves a lot of conversation — about whether we must play equally well hands separately and together — but that’s for another episode. 

2. A second reason for why we should practise with our hands separately, is to avoid straining our brain and rendering it ineffective to bear the rest of our practising session; the more we tire our brains the less they can keep practising effectively (obviously). 

3. And the third reason we concluded was, that we should practise separately to speed up the learning of a piece. It is a fallacy that we will learn a piece faster if we directly practise it with hands together. Guilty, your honour! Now and then I have to resort in practising together even the hardest of passages, especially when confronted by the date of an eminent concert or appearance. But, while I am disgracefully practising hands together — even if I know that I don’t know what I’m doing — I know that the most efficient way to learn that passage, or at least its hardest bits, is to tackle it with hands separately. But ok, I mean, should you practise everything separately? Even the easiest of passages? Of course not, but, at least you should refrain from jeopardising a piece (with wrong fingerings or technical inaccuracies) because you cannot get a hold of yourself or your anxiety. 

There you go. I’ll tell you what happened in my next practising session in the next one…

Copyright © 1st of January 2023, by Nikos Kokkinis


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