Home Forums Piano Related Discussions Questions to Jaak Memorizing hands together or hands separately?

3 replies, 3 voices Last updated by  Ongaku 2 years, 3 months ago
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    Since this might be helpful to others, here is an email exchange between myself and Jaak.

    I asked the following in an email:

    I am a bit confused about something….I went ahead and tried to memorize (Menuet by Bach) doing the hands separately. The right one is easy, but the left is harder. I almost feel like I am memorizing two different pieces because then later, I will need to combine those memorizations to make a third piece of music. Also, how much should an older adult memorize in regards to piano pieces? I mean, it would be BEST to do most of them, but in reality, it would take so much more time and bog me down.

    Jaak replied with the following:

    OK. I will try to answer you the best way as possible. It means that I try to describe the situation from different angles and then you can choose what is best for you.

    Each person is different. Even if something is considered as right, it works for some but could be not the best for someone else. What has to remain is your love for music. But as I already said in the very beginning of the course, the learning and development process is not a fast and very easy one. It takes effort for everyone.

    So first – why to memorize hands separately?

    Information works as connections between different things. The more angles you have the better a piece of information is linked with everything else in your brain. The larger is the scale something has influenced, touched you, the deeper it is rooted in you.

    When you learn with right hand you work with a very different aspects than while working with left hand. Putting them together is a completely new thing. When you once have done all of them, the piece is many times more memorized and present in your mind and memory. It has been proven that the more different subconscious uses of brain are supporting you, the more reliable the performance is.

    OK, creating such kind of neural network in your brain – it consumes a lot of energy. And it is literally so. It uses a lot of your body energy and can feel hard. So there will be a conflict – it is good and needed for playing piano but at the same time it can diminish your motivation. So what is my suggestion?

    As the first priority is love and passion for music, you have to find the best balance for yourself. I suggest practicing mentally and memorizing but only as far as you feel you can bear it. The moment you feel that it is too much, go on.

    But at the same time the ability to memorize like this gets much easier in the future. In a month your brain has already formed completely new and more efficient structures for memorizing music. The beginning, so called building the infrastructure is the hardest. If you go through it, it will be easier.

    So my suggestion as a summary:

    1) Love and passion for music is most important, do not harm it.
    2) Do difficult things but not so much that it drags you down.
    3) Remember that hard things become easier with your improvement.

    Hope I could answer your questions. If there is anything else I can do, just let me know.

    (Since this is long already, I will reply in the next post)



    Thanks for the reply! That helps me to understand why HS is important.

    To clarify about the age thing, I think you are saying that anyone can form new neural pathways and that by memorizing music, it actually gets easier in time even for older adults. I’m not afraid of work as I know learning piano the right way is not a simple task. I just want to make sure I go about it efficiently. If I ever catch myself getting too stressed about it, I will try to lighten up. 😉

    What about when you just want to get a grip on the entire piece and play it as it actually sounds as a whole? Let’s say, you have it mostly figured out and just want to play it already, is that a problem? Should you avoid that until you have hands memorized separately?


    Jaak Sikk


    I will post the general video answers and explanations about related subjects as new topics.
    More specific answers will be here under this topic.

    Of course, to try out sometimes is absolutely fine. Having fun and enjoying the results of your work gives a meaning to playing piano.
    At the same time I suggest making a clear difference between just “playing as it comes” and practicing in a disciplined and goal orientated way.

    So please check the new videos as wider answers to the subjects.

    Best wishes and take care!

    P.S. Thank you very much for bringing up these subjects for discussion.



    Yes, thanks for both the question and the answers. I completely agree with all 3 points Jaak has given here. For me the most valuable of the 3 is the first one. I have tried numerous times throughout my life to “get serious” about my music and I recently came to the conclusion that that concept is probably what has been stopping my progress.

    My mistake was spending ALL of my time working on exercises and scales, trying to grasp how to read the notes and play them at the same time and all the other technical details of “playing music”. I somehow got the idea that I couldn’t create music until I reached a certain undefined proficiency.

    The end result of this philosophy was No Music and an eventual end to even trying.

    It was actually a concept in the book Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner that started the change in the way I now approach my music. Though I do not agree with everything Mr. Werner has written, his suggestion to just play without any direct thought as to rules and accepted standards struck a chord with me (pardon the pun) and this past January I tried it. I finally set up a way to record my playing and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

    But to my original point, if I had not had the underlying passion for creating music I would not now be getting back into it. After 6 months of doing nothing but playing, I now can concentrate again on the actual theory and technique of music. Knowing that music creation can be accomplished right now in present time has made it much easier and enjoyable to do the actual “work” of learning music. I guess that’s why they say “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”.


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