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Hanon exercises, good or bad?
#1969673 10/07/12 04:12 AM
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What's the opinion of this group on Hanon exercise or Hanon technique of learning piano?

I read somewhere that this technique is a thing of the past and no longer recommended by the piano teaching industry. Is this the case or is it a worthwhile practice to consider for an adult beginner?

Thanks!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
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Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969675 10/07/12 04:17 AM
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"Yes, it's helped my technique a lot and I do them daily."

"Yes, it's helped my technique but I don't do them often."

"No, they are boring and there are better exercises."

"No, they are harmful and you shouldn't do them."

There you go. And no one will be right.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969680 10/07/12 04:48 AM
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My advice is to stay way from them. They are boring, useless and potentially harmful. They are artistically and musically absolutely void, reason in my humble opinion more than enough by itself to avoid them. They will not train you to overcome the difficulties of playing top virtuoso pieces such as Chopin Etudes, nor they will help you in any way to improve other pieces with a a more conventional technique like a Mozart sonata.

But that's just an opinion. If someone finds Hanon useful, I have no problem. The acquisition of technique is a very personal subject grin

Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
kayvee #1969708 10/07/12 07:49 AM
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laugh

Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969716 10/07/12 08:21 AM
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Five finger exercises have their use, along with Czerny, especially if the concert platform is in the career path.

If Hanon were not beneficial it wouldn't have become the backbone of the Russian school nor be as well known but there are few who benefit from Hanon without regular involvement from a teacher. Just like scale playing, without a clear objective in mind such exercises can do more harm than good, not just to technique but also physical damage.

If you aren't looking for a conservatory place I'd stick to Bach's Inventions ( Hanon = Bach Inventions - music ) and scales in double thirds.

Isolated exercises, especially those from the third volume have their value for the advancing technician but the first two volumes offer little on top of regular scales and arpeggios to the casual pianist and those without a teacher's involvement.

It takes years for the technique to develop well enough that the music 'flows like oil' and scales ripple like pearls but flying through them, and other 'finger exercises' with speed as a target instead of an end result, just doesn't cut it. Start using Hanon and scales as ear and finger control exercises with a huge input of concentration and they become a more worthwhile endeavour.




Richard
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969753 10/07/12 09:59 AM
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Hanon has quite a bit to offer. Valuable as warm-up pieces, stamina-building, helpful with tone production (if you use them that way) and the building blocks of a great touch and sound.

The dangers are, that one can injure the hands and wrists by overdoing them, especially if a poor posture and technique are employed. Also, that they can consume time (if you let them) which might be used better.

I would especially say, to disregard the instructions which direct the user to "lift the fingers high." There's nothing wrong with a crisp articulation, but the hands are not can-can dancers and any excessive or exaggerated movement, especially when repeated to an unreasonable degree, can injure the hands.

Because they are easily-learned and repetitive, they can offer the opportunity to work on sound production itself, independently of sightreading ability. Fast/slow, staccato/legato, forte/piano, evenness of tempo, etc. The scales might be extended to cover the whole range of the keyboard.

Not every single exercise need be done; there are some which offer less value. But, you are teaching the fingers to dance, and the movements the hands learn are 'put in the bank.' When playing other things, you will recognize the patterns and the hands will already know what to do, and will have the wherewithal to make it happen. That is worth something.


Clef

Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969790 10/07/12 11:23 AM
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Interesting. Many start with Hannon, and seldom return to it; however, as someone mentioned, they are five finger exercises. In observing economy of motion, especially when playing pentatonic material, the 4th and 5th don't see alot of use. Test for even playing by listening to yourself. Most who swear by these exercises, are believers. No question that for finger independence, they work.

They are not music.

No matter who says what, making the brain move finger muscles, is mechanical and hence an athletic endeavor.

Playing Hannon in other keys will train the transitions to black keys.

Best: Play them stacatto.
Hands separate.
Dotted rythm. Then reverse the downbeat.




Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969801 10/07/12 11:59 AM
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Singe we are discussing exercises here, what do you guys think about Czerny?

Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
krzyzowski #1969820 10/07/12 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by krzyzowski
Interesting. Many start with Hannon, and seldom return to it;


Actually, nobody starts with "Hannon", just as nobody plays "Choppin". There is no such thing. It is Hanon. (And Chopin). laugh

As for people seldom returning to it, in my teaching practice I have seen the opposite...beginner students like it because the repetitions of pattern are easy to remember, so they can focus on gaining control of the hand, and making the notes sound musical, rather than trying to read a piece of ever-changing notes.

Then, some may leave it for a while, but often return for warm-ups, and for practice to overcome specific technical problems. For example, #7 works 1-3, 2-4,3-5, as preparation for thirds.

Originally Posted by krzyzowski

They are not music.


First of all, it has proven pretty much impossible to describe was is "music".

There have been rather long threads on these PW forums asking exactly that, and no one has a definitive answer.

However, even if Hanon is not music, many of the patterns repeated in the Hanon exercises are found in music.

For example, #1 has four notes in a row...a very common phrase or section of a phrase. This is what Jeff explains:

Originally Posted by JeffClef
But, you are teaching the fingers to dance, and the movements the hands learn are 'put in the bank.' When playing other things, you will recognize the patterns and the hands will already know what to do, and will have the wherewithal to make it happen. That is worth something.


As for Hanon being "boring", anything will be boring if you approach it with that mindset. One beauty of Hanon is that you can use it to train yourself to play everything musically.

Franz Listz had his advanced students play just two notes, and nothing more. The idea was to play them with greatest musicality.

Some would call playing just two notes boring and unmusical...but a potential great player would use that exercise to reach higher levels of playing.


Piano teacher.
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969895 10/07/12 03:30 PM
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Thanks to all for such insightful responses to my questions about Hanon exercises. I'm now convinced that I didn't waste my money ordering the book of Hanon exercises from Amazon.com last evening, and I now anxiously await its arrival.

I love this forum...ya'll have taught me so much!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969897 10/07/12 03:38 PM
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Go real slow with the exercises, hands separate. Super super slow.

Start with a relaxed hand, and play just one note, then re-relax your hand, and play the second note.

The initial goal is to isolate your fingers so that when you want to play finger #2, that is the only thing you want moving

You don't want the other fingers jumping about (piano teachers call that "flying fingers",) caused by lack of independence and too much tension.

What you are doing is establishing a new way of moving your fingers, i.e. independently of others, and with a relaxed hand.

Once that has started to take hold, you can speed up the exercises a bit, but basically ignore the metronome marks. Go slow enough so that you have relaxed control.

All the best!


Piano teacher.
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
rocket88 #1969899 10/07/12 03:43 PM
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Thanks, Rocket88...I will follow try to follow your advice.:)


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969901 10/07/12 03:48 PM
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Cool.

At least in the beginning, playing Hanon, or any other exercise like that, is 99% mental to focus on the relaxing, etc. Can be exhausting, nourish yourself accordingly.


Piano teacher.
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1969949 10/07/12 05:54 PM
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If you want to learn to play Hanon exercises well, then Hanon exercises are great. Modern piano technique books reject things like Hanon for learning to play music unless it is a specific exercise that a teacher prescribes to "fix" a particular problem. The research that was done in the early 20th century debunked the whole Hanon "strengthen the finger muscle" fallacy (Arnold Schultz, Otto Ortmann). Plus a lot of newer piano technique writing (newer than Hanon) like Abby Whiteside specifically mentions Hanon as being misguided. One only learns what one practices - so practice the music you want to play . . .

Read "Painist's Problems" by William Newman for a more modern take on piano technique. Also "Famous Pianists and their technique" by Reginald Gerig which talks about the technique from Bach, through Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Rachmaninoff down to modern times. I am only quoting what I read above, and I have been reading a lot about piano technique. Best advice would be to talk to your teacher if you have one.

Last edited by atinm; 10/08/12 08:39 AM. Reason: Fixed book reference
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
atinm #1969968 10/07/12 06:40 PM
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Hi

Interesting discussion.

What about Bergmuller? Is it possible to compose technical exercise pieces that are truly musical?

Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1970000 10/07/12 07:55 PM
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I actually had this discussion with my teacher (who has a masters degree from Eastman) and her oppinion was that Hanon was of little to no value, she found some value in Cherny with exercises selected to work on specific short comings of the student. We have worked through many of the Bach inventions, and are working on selections from the "Well Tempered Clavier" for technique as well as we warm up with scales, and she has given me some exercises for finger independance. I have no intention of becoming a concert pianist, and I would rather focus my practice time on making music while addressing my playing specific shortcomings with my instructor. PS: I'm not a new pianist I've been playing for 44 years now, and I still find it helpful to study with an instructor to help me decide what I need and should be working on. Blindly playing through finger exercises without a specific goal in mind is not an espeically benificial practice (I know I've done it in the past). Cherny Hanon, et. all are tools that can be assigned as required by a good teacher to help you build areas of your technique that need improvement.

Last edited by RayE; 10/07/12 07:59 PM.

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Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
atinm #1970001 10/07/12 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by atinm


Read "Painist's Problems" by William Newman for a more modern take on piano technique. Also "Piano Technique of Famous Pianists" by Richard Gerig. I am only quoting what I read above, and I have been reading a lot about piano technique. Best advice would be to talk to your teacher if you have one.


I'm currently reading, With Your Own Two Hands, Self-Discovery Through Music by Seymour Bernstein. Actually, I'm skipping about in the book because much of it is far above my ability to comprehend. He describes finger exercises but thus far has made no mention of Hanon.

I do have a teacher and plan to ask her about Hanon on Tuesday.


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
atinm #1970010 10/07/12 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by atinm
Modern piano technique books reject things like Hanon for learning to play music unless it is a specific exercise that a teacher prescribes to "fix" a particular problem. The research that was done in the early 20th century debunked the whole Hanon "strengthen the finger muscle" fallacy (Arnold Schultz, Otto Ortmann).


The idea that the purpose of Hanon or other exercises is to "develop finger strength" is what is fallacious.

The primary purpose of all such exercises, including repertoire, is to gain control, that is independent control of the fingers with a relaxed flexibile hand.


Piano teacher.
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
rocket88 #1970229 10/08/12 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by rocket88


The primary purpose of all such exercises, including repertoire, is to gain control, that is independent control of the fingers with a relaxed flexibile hand.


Agreed. I would add that if the OP is doing independent work like it seems s/he is, practicing musically from the repertoire would be time better spent. After all, if one wants to improve at Beethoven, one should practice Beethoven. Practicing Hanon will make one better at playing Hanon, but I don't think that is anyone's goal when they set themselves the Hanon penance. Besides, Hanon without guidance can be dangerous and I would really encourage the OP to not do any Hanon exercises unless the teacher specifically assigns one.

"I do no technical work outside of the composition, for the
reason that I find plenty of technic to work on in the piece itself." - Josef Hofmann

Last edited by atinm; 10/08/12 09:30 AM. Reason: added hofmann quote.
Re: Hanon exercises, good or bad?
Tech 5 #1970233 10/08/12 09:35 AM
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I can't speak to Hanon, but I've noticed that all the scale practice I've been doing for the past year has paid off in that, now that I am reading through several pieces with lots of scalar passages, I can play them smoothly, which I didn't used to be able to do.

Others might recommend simply making exercises out of the scalar passages as I meet them in pieces. But I find that frustrating. I'd rather do exercises to learn a technique first, and then apply it in a piece. Maybe that's just me. But I find it much easier, psychologically, to practice scales for a year, and then use them in a Sonatina, than to practice the Sonatina (or parts of it) for a year until I have the scales down smooth.

This holds even though the scale fingering in the Sonatinas I meet is often different from the scale fingering I learned when practicing scales. It's the facility at running up and down the keyboard, crossing at regular intervals, that I have learned, and that seems to transfer (at least for me) to other fingerings.

This has me thinking about the 32nd notes in Fur Elise, which have me stumped currently. I could make an exercise out of them, perhaps playing that pattern in all keys. But I don't want to be able to just play that pattern; I want to be able to reel off quick tweedly-deedly figures in any piece. For example, they appear all over the sonatinas I'm playing. So I think I might like some dedicated exercises like Hanon, being sure of relaxation first and then building speed.

Actually, I'm not sure Hanon is quite right for what I want, because the tweedly-deedly passages I meet usually aren't repetitious like Hanon: each tweedle-deedle is a bit different. But it may be that being able to play Hanon with the repetition, translates to being able to play the tweedle-deedles without repetition, in the same way that being able to play all the official scale fingerings has translated to being able to play any scale fingering.


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