Why You Should Play The Piano With Your Hands Crossed

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about why you should be playing the piano with your hands crossed. Now what do I mean by that? There are a lot of places in music where the hands cross in order to accomplish a certain sound or texture in the playing. But what I’m talking about today is entirely different. The physiology of our hands is just wrong for piano playing in one fundamental way. Your strongest fingers are in the middle and the weakest fingers are on the ends. Yet you want to bring out the treble, you want to bring out the bass. But you have these big, heavy, strong fingers, right in the middle obscuring everything!

If you were to play the piano without compensating for this weakness, you’d end up with a pretty awful sound.

Imagine just letting your thumbs be and letting the balance come out the way it naturally would with the hands. It wouldn’t sound right because the thumbs are just really strong and your pinkies and fourth fingers are weak. So you have to learn how to lessen the thumbs and bring out top notes and bottom notes. This is one of the most difficult aspects of playing the piano! It’s not easy to balance notes because your hands are designed exactly the wrong way to accomplish it! Crossing your hands corrects that imbalance, but obviously presents a whole other set of problems. So I’m not actually recommending you do that. But in a perfect world, there would be some way of achieving this.

So how do you learn to balance?

One terrific way to learn how to balance is to play with different articulations. Underplay the notes that are accompaniment and play legato for melody notes. Playing inner voices with a gentle finger staccato teaches your hand which notes to bring out and which ones are less important. You can do this with virtually any music you play. Interestingly, you don’t have to restrict it to just the top line and the bottom line. When you’re playing counterpoint, for example, you can bring out whatever line you choose. And not just in counterpoint. This is a phenomenal technique for developing the ability to bring out whatever you want within a polyphonic texture. Until we have some way of compensating for the fact that our hands are built backwards for the piano, this is a technique I recommend for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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3 thoughts on “Why You Should Play The Piano With Your Hands Crossed”

  1. I’m laughing. I was imagining playing the treble clef with my left hand crossed over my right, which was playing the bass clef. Good heavens! Playing piano is complicated enough without doing stuff like THAT! But I have a vivid imagination. Playing inner notes staccato is an interesting thing, but also more complicated. I learned to bring out the melody with my weak right hand fingers when I was a child. I just did it. Never a problem. I think I’ll keep doing that. 🙂

  2. Dear Robert,
    Nice lesson on crossing the hands, thanks!
    I have another query for you.
    Some teachers insist that it’s possible to achieve a staccato while using the sustaining pedal, but I simply don’t believe this.
    Am I missing something?

    1. You can get a staccato effect, somewhat with the pedal. If you play a melody you usually play legato and try playing it staccato with the pedal, you will hear a difference.

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