I have mixed feelings about Hanon exercises. I’m curious what other teachers have found, and how various students feel. Here are my observations. Feel free to comment.
First, for some general background, here is the introduction by Wikipedia:The Virtuoso Pianist (Le Piano virtuose) by Charles-Louis Hanon, is a compilation of sixty exercises meant to train the pianist in speed, precision, agility, and strength of all of the fingers and flexibility in the wrists. First published in Boulogne, in 1873, The Virtuoso Pianist is Hanon’s most well-known work, and is still widely used by piano instructors and pupils.
Wikipedia also has some good information on the current controversy. Here are MY thoughts on the issue.
- These exercises are GREAT for helping build finger strength. Mainly because they are long and BORING, mentally and physically.
- There are other options out there for warm ups and to help build finger strength. In Hanon’s day, they were a lot more limited, and lucky to have his work.
- They are not useful for young or beginning students.
I think a lot of the benefit is determined by both the personality of the student, and the level of the student. I figured that out after I had every intermediate student start working on Hanon. Here is what has worked for me:
Beginners: Students with good practice skills will still get more out of a simpler technique book. My recommendations are “A Dozen A Day” or “Fingerpower.”
Intermediate: Students can still continue on with the technique books they used as a beginner, but should still be introduced to Hanon for it’s historical value. I recommend using only the first half, and have found that students prefer an edition with larger print and easier to read notes. With a little creativity, these exercises can be used very effectively to help establish dynamic control, articulation skills, arm to arm independence, and transposition skills. These skills should first be used in conjunction with specific pieces so that the student can directly apply these skills to their performances.
Advanced: These students will benefit the most. Advanced students who had a solid foundation through their intermediate studies, and have shown the discipline to complete the entire first part will find real value in working through the second and third parts under the guidance of a skilled instructor.