How To Play Piano One-Handed

April 11, 2012 — 48 Comments

I’ve always loved playing the piano.

My two favorite pianists.

I took lessons for a little while when I was young and I took music theory in high school, but mostly I’m self-taught.  As with most things I do one-handed, I just figured it out.

It’s always funny when people are listening to me play and then at some point realize I’m doing it with one hand.  They get a quizzical look on their face and say, “Wait…how are you doing that??”

In late 2008 I broke my short arm.  As I began to heal and the swelling started to go down, one of my greatest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to play the piano anymore.  I remember going to my in-laws’ one day and trying to play. My arm was still swollen and I couldn’t hit one key at a time.  I started to cry.  I was mourning the loss of my ability to play piano…albeit prematurely.  Eventually the swelling went down and I gained most of the mobility in my elbow back and my piano playing resumed.  Talk about a joyful feeling!

I’ve always had fun making-up stupid songs, too.  Ask my kids.  Or my wife.  Just don’t ask if they like it.  With that in mind, I present to you the video of how I play piano one-handed!

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48 responses to How To Play Piano One-Handed

  1. I had no idea you were so musically talented! I smell a Grammy!

    also, words that rhyme with Euphonium: Plutonium, Symposium, Harmonium, aluminum, equilibrium, geranium, iridium, gymnasium, moratorium,magnesium, crematorium…oh wow, this just got really weird. I don’t know how you’d work them into a song though. If you can find a way to work plutonium or crematorium into your song, I’ll be SUPER impressed.

    Great job Ryan! This one had me tearing up, especially about the holding hands part, and the ‘I got a Ladaaayyy’. LOL!

  2. This is awesome.

    Title it: Just the Way You Are (minus the hook arm)

    Seriously, incredible piano skills.

  3. Awesome song! Totally cracked up at the “No, no hook arm?” part. Oh and the ladaaaay 🙂

    Fabulous playing, very impressive. Looking forward to your posts, I just stumbled across your blog today because someone mentioned it on Twitter. 🙂

    Hm, titles? I’d go with “Not much rhymes with Euphonium”

  4. Can’t wait to show my daughter you playing piano! You play wonderfully. My daughter has only 2 typical fingers. Yet she’s been playing violin since she was 4. We just started piano & she adores it. People have looked at me like I was nuts when I say she plays piano. But it’s going really well. She actually played better than some of the typical kids. Really. Thanks for the inspiration. Maybe some limb difference parents will take the plunge into music.

  5. makes me want to play the piano!!

    Title: “Look ma, one hand!”

  6. Very nice, Ryan. This whole living one handed thing just may catch on.

    As I’ve told you before, my family is always inspired (and entertained) by your humor and amazing personality. Although your personality really shines through in the video clips, those of us who know you personally fully understand that it’s not a show – it’s just who you are.

    • Travis…thank you. You’re a great friend. Thanks for always supporting me and encouraging me to go for it. It means a lot. 🙂

  7. Love, love, love it!

  8. you amaze me.

  9. Title: “It’s Just Me”

  10. Thanks! I love it! My 3 year old son was born without a left hand. Thanks for showing what is possible! I try not to preconceive anything for him but I know I do all the time, and he insists that “I can do it, all by myself.” I have to remind myself that he will. You’re awesome!

  11. Mike Schneider April 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    That was solid Ryan! Tara and I loved it and both laughed and teared up a little. Good stuff as always. Thanks for all your posts.

    Oh, title suggestion: I like Sarah Mae’s idea or “Ode to the piano man with one hand”

  12. That was great! I’ve shown my daughter some videos of others playing piano one handed, but it’s always great to have one more person show her that she CAN do it and she’s not alone. And it’s funny, all I have to do is start one of your videos and when you say, “Doin’ things one-handed…bing!” my kids come running to see what you’re going to do next. Apparently you have some groupies.

  13. Ivor (England) April 14, 2012 at 9:12 am

    TITLE: “Just The Way You Are”

    Most impressive and enjoyed your church accompaniments too

    As ever, enjoyable as you are too 🙂

    God bless you, Ryan

  14. Love this! My wife is a piano teacher, and I sent her this post. Great inspiration for kids learning to play who ever say, “I can’t do it.”

  15. I personally loved then ending “you are valuable” my sweet boy was not seen as valuable and was abandoned at birth because of his little nub hand. He is such a gift to our family and because of his adoption I know of at least a few other families that are checking the box for “limb difference”.
    Anyway, I am so thankful to have found your site. My little Shepherd loves to watch your videos. Actually, his big sister loves it more and tells him how much he can do. He isn’t really aware that he has anything different going on. He thinks other people are nuts when they freak about his lack of a hand.
    I can’t wait to show him this piano video!

  16. Hi Ryan. Oh My God! I dont know what to say, but I thought that I had to give you some respons! Im 15, and I was born missing my right hand and forearm, and some times I just have that “why can I just be like all of my friends” feeling. but when I saw your video, I forgot about it. Im perfect just the way Im!!!! through your song i smiled, laughed and cried. YOU ARE AWESOME!!!! Thank you!!!

  17. Hi Ryan!THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!You just made my day 🙂
    I have an 8 month old baby missing his right hand and forearm…and you are so right…I have to relax!!!!
    You just remind me that everything is possible and that we are not alone!Thanks again!!!

  18. In the 50s and 60s, over here in England, there was a very well-thought of piano playing husband and wife, Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith. They used to do duets on two pianos. Cyril played one-handed. He’d lost the use of the other after having a stroke.

    • Wow, that’s cool! Thanks for sharing, Janet! 🙂

    • Ivor (England) May 10, 2012 at 8:17 am

      .. and they were brilliant playing light classical music superbly, specially arranged for three hands .. and very popular .. I saw them on TV several times, and my Mother went to one of their many live concerts in the 50s.

      Thanks for bringing back these forgotten memories for me, Janet.

  19. What’s funny is, I’m actually in the process of taking piano lessons. It’s extremely frustrating for me learning how to incorporate my left hand since I have no fingers, and it’s also pretty uncomfortable because I’m used to jumping around and sort of.. “pounding” the keys like when I’m typing, and that’s a little more difficult on the piano.

    ..But regardless, I will prevail. I’m the fastest typer in my class and I’m pretty sure I have the ability to be one kick-butt piano player.

  20. You sound great and you are definitely an inspiration…….
    I was born with abnormally small left hand. I have recently taken up the idea of learning music, via the keyboard……………… inspiration you are !!!!!!!!

  21. Thanks a lot ! I was born with cerebral palsy in my right hand, So I can’t really move my fingers or hand and wrist, I got a piano as a present once and I really wanted to learn to play it properly so this as inspired me that I can be like other people and I can be me ! Thanks , you rock !

  22. Ryan, this is just great!! Have you considered putting together a couple of these types of songs on a CD (ahem, ok iTunes), to sell to parents of kids in the LOH community? I’d love to mix a couple songs like this one in with our normal Wiggles, Sesame Street, Steve Songs, and Barenaked Ladies CDs for the kids. (What, not everyone has the BNL kids’ CD? Shame!) Maybe you and Tony Memmell can do a kids’ CD!! Debut it at next year’s Helping Hands outing!!

    • That is an AMAZING idea, Alisha! We shall see. 🙂 And the BNL album is incredible. Allergies and Here Come The Geese are two of my favorite songs, period!

      • Re: BNL, ha, I know- When I find myself listening to the kids CDs when they’re not even in the car… I know it’s a keeper! I think yours could be like that too! Witty lyrics, catchy tune… you’re on to something! (PS: If you don’t know Steve Songs, buy his Marvelous Day or Orangutan Van album… the kids AND YOU will thank me for it!)

  23. Loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Ryan, thanks for sharing your inspiring piano gigs. Your songs are just delightful. With the waves of arpeggios and chords, I felt that your jazzy rock songs reminded me of the beauty of rolling ocean waves. You also conveyed such endless energy and enthusiasm, like the power of ocean waves. So one title of your first song might be “Rolling with Ryan One Handed” ; another might be “Rolling Rock One Handed”. Whatever, keep playing, keep singing, and please keep composing because you are a great inspiration to all aspiring pianists.

  25. Carolina Luque May 28, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    My son who is 12 had his left hand caught in an amniotic band in uterus and is missing most fingers. Two years ago he started to play the guitar (left-handed). We are looking to see how we can modify drum sticks for him. I just saw your post and it inspired me to see if he wants to play the keyboard. Thank you.

  26. Sakshi Shioramwar February 23, 2019 at 11:11 am

    A big heartfelt thank you! I was about to quit on pursuing learning keyboard coz I too have the limitation, but seeing you play, ill continue to learn and play as much as possible. Thanks once again Ryan. Pls keep sharing such videos and what a melodious composition!

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