How to Play Piano with Both Hands

Learning to play with both hands is one of the toughest hurdles you’ll face as a piano player—but with time, practice, and these 5 tips, you’ll be able to lift your two-handed playing to a whole new level.  

by Rhian Avery

Do you know how to play piano with both hands? Maybe you’ve tried before but just couldn’t crack the code. You might be able to play a piece perfectly with one hand at a time—but when you bring your hands together, it all falls apart. It’s like your brain freezes and, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t play with both hands at the same time. 

If two-handed playing has you struggling, you’re far from alone: Most people find it to be one of the hardest parts of learning piano. And there are good reasons for that. Trying to get each of your hands to do different things is new and confusing for your brain. It takes a lot of time and repetition to build up the coordination skills and confidence to get both hands moving independently.

On top of that, if you’re used to playing mostly with your right hand (and therefore in the treble clef), adding your left hand means that you have to learn a whole new clef and the note positions on it. This only adds to the challenge.

The fact is that learning to play songs with both hands demands much more from you. It’s especially true if you’re learning on your own. If you don’t have a teacher to guide you, you’ll need to commit to a more disciplined practice routine (more on that soon). A piano learning app like flowkey can help you with that.

The good news is that with the right approach to practicing and some persistence, you’ll be able to break through the barrier of playing with both hands and reach a new level as a piano player. 

Ready to rise to the challenge? Start by studying our top five tips on how to play piano with both hands.

1: Learn each hand separately before bringing them together

The most important thing you need to know about playing with both hands is that it’s a new, complex task for the brain. When you’re learning something new, your brain needs to dedicate its full attention to the task. It means that your brain won’t have the capacity to do anything else at the same time.

That’s why your first step when learning a new piece should be to learn the right and left hands separately. If you just rush into playing with both hands right away, your brain has to learn the right and left hand movements and think about coordinating both hands at the same time. It’s just too much for your brain to handle at once (which is why it can feel like your brain shuts down when you try playing with both hands). 

Top Tip: Aim to memorize the notes in the right and left hand by heart before starting to play with both hands. A good test for this is to close your eyes while playing: If you can play correctly with each hand separately, you’re ready to start practicing with them together.

Once you start practicing with both hands, think of it as a completely new movement that your brain has to learn. It’s normal to feel like you’re starting from scratch, and you might have to play much slower than you’re used to with each hand independently. Don’t get discouraged by this! If you can commit to practicing a little more—around 30 minutes a day with lots of repetition—you’ll be surprised at how quickly you make progress. 

Did you know that the flowkey app lets you pick which hand you want to practice with? You can play every piece in our library with either your right or left hand, or both together. It’s a great feature that will help speed your way to two-handed playing. Sign up now for free to try it for yourself!

2: Split up songs into small parts

It’s easier for your brain to memorize new and complex things when you break them down into smaller pieces—and learning to play piano with both hands is no exception! 

Try splitting up a song into small parts—around 4-8 seconds per section is ideal—and focus on one part at a time. Once you've perfected each section, you can put them all together, and the only thing left to learn will be the transitions between them. Master these and you'll be playing the whole piece with both hands in no time.

So, to combine the first two tips: Choose a short section of a song, learn the right and left hand separately, then practice both hands together. You should find this practice approach to be really effective at helping you play piano with both hands. 

In the flowkey app, you can easily split up songs into smaller parts and have them repeat automatically. It helps you stay focused on playing (instead of toggling controls) and makes learning to play with both hands much easier. Sign up now and try it for free!

3: Take it slow and steady

When learning to play piano with both hands, it can be tempting to rush through parts of a song or to be sloppy with the rhythm. Resist the urge to do this! While it might feel like you’re getting through a song faster, it will actually get in the way of making proper progress.

Instead, start by playing at a very slow speed that you can hold steadily throughout the entire song. Don’t worry if it feels like you’re going way too slow; the aim here is to get to know the hand movements and notes inside-out. 

Once you can play fluidly and confidently at a slow speed, it’s time to start picking up the pace. Increase your playing speed bit by bit (while paying attention to the rhythm) until you’re able to play at the intended tempo of the piece.

Want to know more about playing tempo on the piano? Check out Chapter 8 of the flowkey piano guide, which is all about piano notes, timing, and dynamics.   

4: Start with easy songs and exercises

When you first start to play piano with both hands, it’s important to pick songs that aren’t too difficult, so you can make progress without getting discouraged. As a rule, you want to look for pieces where the hand independence isn’t too complex and your hands don’t have to move around the keyboard too much.

Top Tip: Not sure how to determine if a song is the right difficulty for you? Ask a teacher or someone who is more experienced than you for help picking a piece. Or use an app like flowkey where you can find the most popular piano songs and pieces in different difficulty levels, including a version for beginners.

There are also lots of hand coordination exercises that you can follow to get familiar with two-handed playing. You can find some by searching for “hand coordination exercises” on Google or YouTube, or simply by signing up for a piano learning app like flowkey! 

The flowkey app has a huge selection of popular piano songs of all difficulty levels, including versions that are ideal for beginners. There are also step-by-step courses that use exercises and songs to teach you to play with both hands. Sign up for free and check them out now.

Tip 5: Let sleep do the rest

Sleep is your best friend when it comes to learning complex movements, like playing the piano with both hands. That’s because your brain processes what you’ve learned while you sleep, and commits it to muscle memory. Lack of sleep also makes it harder to focus and perform fine motor skills, which makes them harder to learn and retain.

If you’ve been practicing hard and feel like you’re not making much progress, let it be for the day and return to the piano after a good night’s sleep. It’s very likely that you will suddenly be able to play much better than the day before—like magic!

If you keep these tips in mind and keep practicing, we promise that playing with both hands will only get easier. Be patient with yourself and don’t give up! 

And remember, flowkey is also here to lend you a helping hand. With the app, you can decide which songs to learn at your own level, repeat small parts of a song, practice each hand separately, learn at different speeds, and follow tailor-made courses on two-handed playing. All of these tools will help speed up your practice, train your brain, and make playing with both hands feel natural in no time.

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