Hanon exercises are useless
Is Hanon's “virtuoso pianist” good for self-taught musicians?
I have a 30 year old copy of Hanon that I only went through about 3 years ago. I try to play the piano every day, but only in the past week have I had the opportunity (and speed) to do all 60 exercises each day.
Most of the criticisms of Hanon seem to be directed towards part one, the first 20 exercises that are repetitive but are designed to prepare you for the other two parts, which include longer exercises, the major and minor scales (all one exercise). Arpeggios, scales in thirds and some brilliant trill and tremolo exercises.
I play publicly in a church for church services and in a jazz band. When I play Hanon, I get more compliments for my game, both from the public and from colleagues. As simple as that.
When I practice Hanon, I feel like my game is sharper and freer. When I feel inspired to play something, I am more able to play it and am not restricted by technical or physical limits.
I doubt you will rush to a teacher now, so I would recommend that you start slowly, following the written instructions and fingers, watching qualified pianists on Youtube, etc. to copy their technique.
Don't rush to finish all 60, get Hanon as a habit, play for whatever time you can give them each day, and naturally improve technique and speed.
I describe Hanon exercises as "piano boot camps". If you are attracted to them, try, but be sure to exercise the same level of care as if you were going through an attack course. In return, you will improve directly and collaterally in technique, reading, and setup in different keys. (By the way, if you play the exercises in different keys, you will move into a different league).
The following advice is exactly what I tell my students:
Play gently and carefully. I have two, one has been with me for 10 years, learns for fun, has relatively little time to practice, but uses it diligently. For them, the Hanon 60 is a useful collection of scales, etc. in one place, and I have specific exercises to use to solve specific problems arising from technique, etc. Once a year or so I ask her to practice the first 20 exercises just cover the floor.
The other student recently started and wanted to progress as quickly as possible. He is hardworking and practices at least 3 days a week for an hour or more depending on work and volunteer activities. According to the "boot camp" principle, after 9 months he can play through the first 20 exercises in an hour if he so wishes. He's used a beginner's piano book to get the hang of it and is studying a music theory book alongside all of that. He is about to learn his first Bach invention.
If I change my mind about using Hanon, I am not too proud to say, but so far it is a useful tool and like all tools, it must be used appropriately for the job.
I just finished all 60 exercises in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Last year while playing acoustic guitar for a 6 hour live performance on St. Patrick's Day with poor technique and insufficient amplification, I developed RSI in my left hand and pain in the base of my thumb. If I practice Hanon every day, the pain will go away. I'm not saying that it's Hanon specifically doing this, but that it doesn't seem more damaging than other approaches and preparing myself to play the improvisations I'd like to play out of my head.
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