Margi wrote: ” I have one further question. For me there is a big difference between what I can memorize for my left and right hands (I am right handed, mostly). Whereas I can easily memorize the melody I play with my right hand, I am totally hesitant and unsure about what I play with my left hand, even if it’s just chords. Any hints or clues on why this might be so and how I can compensate for it?”

(Margie, I don’t want to make assumptions, since my blog posts are for all traditional and folk instruments, but I’m assuming from what you’ve written that you play the harp. However, the answer I’m providing can also apply to piano. )

There can be a few reasons for it to be less obvious how to memorize left hand parts.

First, the right hand plays the melody, which is easily remembered because it’s “sing-able”; even if you don’t actually hum or sing it out loud, you can “hear it in your head” as melody. The left hand accompaniment is not as melodic and also usually contains more complexity of note combinations. So you simply have to work harder to remember left hand parts, since they don’t come as automatically.

Secondly, you might not be recognizing patterns. Left hand parts often contain patterns and should be memorized as such rather than thinking of them as a sequence of unrelated notes.

Thirdly, if you don’t know your music theory well, you won’t know why the left hand part is arranged the way it is. Ask your teacher for lessons in music theory; it will help you  understand and therefore more easily remember left hand parts. Music theory isn’t just “how to read music”  –  not at all.  It’s a complete overview of how music is structured. Music notation is based on music theory, not the other way around (and it’s best to learn your theory on the instrument you play rather than from a blackboard or just reading about it).

Fourth, any chord you play in an arrangement will almost always contain the melody note that falls on the same beat as the chord. That makes the chords easier to remember.

Lastly, if you learn the left hand part first, you’ll probably never forget it. The left hand on harp is the foundation on which the melody is placed. So it makes sense to learn it first.