Improving hand independance on the harpejji

publié le 2 April 2021

This is the fourth in a series of articles about harpejji technique. The first one was about major scales and the second and third ones were about right hand jazz voicings. This time, let's talk about hand independence!

Of course, if you've been playing the piano before, hand independence is probably not the greatest challenge when picking up the harpejji. However, if you've been playing a melodic instrument or if harpejji is your first musical instrument, you'll probably need to develop this skill (at least it was the case for me!).

After trying a handful of more or less standard piano exercises for hand independence, I found that the simple exercise that I describe here helped me unlocking the right doors in my brain and my hands to get me started. If you're reading this you are probably facing similar problems that I had - I hope this can help you too!

The basic exercise

First, chose a pattern that you're able to play with both hands in parallel. I started with a major scale using the fingering I described there, but just select something that you're comfortable with. The exercise is really just 3 simple steps:

  • Play the pattern forward and backward once, slowly, with both hands in parallel motion.
  • Now do exactly the same thing, except your right hand plays twice as fast. Your right hand will hence play the pattern up, down, up, down while your left hand only goes up and down once.
  • Swap rythm: your right hand is now playing at initial speed while your left hand plays twice as fast.

It should look something like that (with an F Major scale as the basic pattern):

A few tips:

  • If that's too difficult at first, shorten your pattern. If a complete scale is too much, just play, e.g., the first three notes. When you can do this, add one more note, etc.
  • Try keeping a steady tempo. Using a metronome can be a great idea (albeit sometimes slightly depressing).
  • Remember you're training your brain and ears as much as your fingers. Maybe you'll need to concentrate on fingers at first, but as soon as possible, listen to what you are playing! Make sure you can listen to each hand separately. Try playing the whole exercise while singing in unison with your left hand, then with your right hand.
  • Keeping the same pattern, try a different starting note (e.g. F# Major scale instead of F Major scale).
  • As soon as possible, try playing the whole exercise without looking at your fingers.


When you (more or less) master the basic exercise, try exploring a few variations. Of course an obvious solution is selecting another pattern, but there are countless other possibilities. For instance:


The basic exercise has a 2:1 speed ratio between hand. Try playing triplets (3:1) or 16th notes (4:1). If you're so inclined, experiment with 3:2 or even 4:3.


Keeping the very same pattern, add an offset between hands. For example, start the pattern on the second note in right hand, while starting on the first note in left hand (yes, that sounds horrible, but that's a good exercise!).

Now do the same, but with the left hand starting on the second note and the right hand on the first one. Now start on the third note in RH, then in LH, etc.


Play the whole exercise fortissimo in the left hand and pianissimo in the right hand, then once again the other way round.

I found this variations very challenging at first, but the impact on my playing freely and musically was huge, so it was well worth the trouble.

Tip: I found easier to combine this exercise with the previous one. It's more difficult to hear what you're doing if both hands are playing the same note (one octave apart) than if they're playing different notes.


Play the whole exercise staccato in LH (ie short, separated notes) while playing legato in RH (long, slurred notes), and the other way round.


Experiment with various mixes of the ideas above. And when you're able to play soft, slurred triplets in LH while playing loud, staccato 16th notes starting on the second note of the pattern in RH, that's official: you've improved your hand independence!