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#096: Overcoming Left Hand Lag: Reading Ahead With Both Hands

Playing hands together is a topic of constant concern and endless discussion for harpists. When should you start playing hands together? Should you learn a piece hands separately first? How do you begin putting the hands together? And the most frequently asked question: why isn’t hands together working for me? As much as we debate the other questions, this last one is the hardest of all to answer.

One of the more common problems in playing hands together is one I call the “left hand lag.” The left hand lag happens when your hands are playing together sort of, but your left hand seems to be taking too much time to find the strings it needs to play. It’s not a left hand issue; your left hand plays perfectly when it plays by itself. But when you play the hands together, your left hand seems to be behind the beat. It causes hesitations that interrupt the flow of the rhythm and slow everything down. 

Your teacher’s first response is likely that you need to read ahead for your left hand. Certainly most of my students have heard that from me, and probably more than once. But is it really a reading ahead issue? Or should we be looking elsewhere for a solution? At the very least, we need some more practical strategies to offer, ones that provide a way to actually practice gathering the information we need quickly so we can play the right notes at the right time.

Fortunately, we know the place to look for the answer. At the root of the problem, there is a coordination issue. Our hands aren’t working in sync, or our reading isn’t coordinated with the hands, or possibly both. So on this podcast episode, I’m going to share a checklist-type approach to finding where the specific issue may lie for you in any particular passage, whether it’s in the physical coordination or the reading coordination, or maybe both. 

Here’s a quote which I chose to inspire us as we work through this challenging topic today:

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. - Edward Everett Hale, American clergyman (1822-1909)

Today we can make at least a beginning with the idea that progress and success, and fluent hands together playing are not far off.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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