How to Play Handoffs on the Piano or Keyboard

On a piano or keyboard, a handoff is achieved by passing a melodic line from one hand to the other. Typically your left hand will hand off an ascending line to your right hand, and vice versa.

A hand crossover is for when you find it handy (and impressive) to cross one hand over the other to grab a note or a chord or two. Even if showing off isn’t your thing, the exercises here help bring both hands to an equal level, because they’re collaborating on the main musical part instead of one supporting the other.

As you hand off the scale from hand to hand, you want a smooth transition. Try to fool your ears; the handoff should be so smooth that you can’t tell where one hand takes over from the other. And you should hear no noticeable change in dynamic or articulation.

Some of these techniques look complicated written on the grand staff! Unless marked with a “R.H.” or “L.H.” your right hand will play the notes on the top staff, and your left hand will play the notes on the bottom staff.

1

Scale handoff exercise #1

Prepare the hand position for both hands before you begin each phrase. Playing a smooth scale in one hand is easier if the other is waiting quietly in position to take over. Listen to this scale handoff exercise.

2

Scale handoff exercise #2

Here’s a little bit of extra practice.

3

Arpeggio handoff exercise #1

The same hand preparation applies for hand-to-hand handoffs: Aim for a smooth line throughout.

4

Arpeggio handoff exercise #2

And again, a little extra practice.

5

Crossing over with the right hand

6

Crossing over with the left hand

This can feel awkward at first, but keep at it.

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