Pros/Cons of Using Hanon

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Growing up, my piano teacher raised me on Hanon exercises. Now in my adult years and with my own students, I'm starting to wonder if Hanon is as productive as I once thought it to be. There seems to be some strong feelings, often negative, about the exercises among various piano teachers. I would greatly appreciate any thoughts/opinions that you can give me.

-- Wendy (ssteph@compaq.net), March 23, 2001

Answers

Wendy, One thing that really benefits students is to learn to take patterns from pieces and transpose them into different keys, use them as a basis for creating their own variations, play them in different rhythms, and basically use them as a foundation for creating their own improvisations. Hanon, I think, has value as a written-out version of this process (especially the transposing aspect).

I also think that, like any tool, its value depends to a great extent on who is using it. With inspired teachers and students, Hanon could be a starting point for the adventure of improvising. Unfortunately, it can also be mind numbing if used as an unmusical physical exercise.

I donít use Hanon because I think it is too easy, predictable and monotonous, and students need to learn to create their own musical exercises (with help from the teacher, at first). They usually do a more interesting job than Hanon did.

-- Alan (noname_poster@yahoo.com), March 24, 2001.


I agree with Alan. By showing students how to take a challenging part of their piece and create an exercise that moves up & down the keyboard by step (esp. if they "mirror" the pattern in the other hand), students create their own versions of Hanon. Their pieces benefit, their concept of how to practice productively improves, and the more musical patterns found in repertoire can lead to better improvisations than the constant 16th-notes of Hanon.

PS - I know all of us grew up pronouncing the "H" in Hanon, but I remember seeing the correct pronunciation is "a-NAAN" (like the bread). Anyone hear of this also?

-- John Bisceglia (Bisceglia2000@yahoo.com), March 24, 2001.


I would just like to say that in some circumstances Hanon is helpful. I hadn't played much for 30 years before going back to school, and I think the Hanon exercises are helping me get some dexterity back. And also for my students, who are my age. Yes, they are boring, but sometimes that is kind of nice, sort of like Zen, and they work to limber up stiff hands and get the mind ready to play. I have read you are supposed to do them a million times or so, I don't do that, maybe one exercise 5 times when I'm being really motivated, but I do think they have a place.

-- Mary Jo (noname-poster@yahoo.com), March 26, 2001.

I use Hanon in a very specific way, as part of a much larger cyclical process of getting students to learn to play with a relaxed technique; basically, I use the first Hanon pattern as a "weight- transfer" pattern, used before working on scales where thumb-under patterns are required. The last thing I would ever do is make a student use the pattern mindlessly. In the weight transfer, the student does not "lift the fingers high" to build "strength," but rather transfers weight from one fingertip to the next with a free wrist. (Cannot explain it fully here, obviously). I also use the Hanon for working with articulation (staccato, legato, and variations); voicing (one hand louder than the other); crescendo/diminuendo; and other combinations and variations. The student has to listen carefully to do these things.

-- Jon Ensminger (jlens@cybrzn.com), April 21, 2001.

I believe that Hanon exercises are very valuable - if practiced "right." It is wasted time to just play through them and try to be as fast as possible. But since they are very easy patterns, there's a lot to do with them: -practice them in different keys (helps playing in black key area and transposition) -practice them with different touches (legato, staccato, non-legato, finger action, wrist action, etc.) -practice them in octaves/ broken octaves -in different dynamic levels etc.

-- Christian (cpb7079@mwsc.edu), May 06, 2001.


I grew up with Hanon, until my Sr. yr of high school when I changed to another piano teacher. This guy introduced me to Czerny, The School of Velocity. These are fun! They also have melody and dynamics. I understand the monotony of playing the Hanon, but it does teach the fingers to "flow". But if your students are a little more advanced, try out the Czerny.

-- Deanne Petras (dpetras@eohio.net), February 22, 2002.

Vladimir Horowitz believed that technical exercises were bad. He said that all his technique was gained from within the music he played.

I went through the quite literal interpretation of the play everything four times thing in Hanon and threw myself into a bout of undiagnosed, but quite the actuality, tendonitis.

Since a rest period of months, and not touching Hanon, I am now able to resume a 3 to 4 hour a day practice schedule, and find, quite, that one can most certainly gain advancing technique from the music itself.

I have since all but eliminated Hanon in lessons. I had previously held the students to 5 minutes as a warmup, but have now ceased use of any studies other than their actual music.

-- Chuck Wagner (pianist72@hotmail.com), March 28, 2002.


There is a danger in practising such exercises incorrectly. Try reading Chopin Studies by Abby Whiteside

-- alison dite (alison.dite@ntlworld.com), July 15, 2002.

I believe any exercise can be helpful. I have tried a wide range of technical books on different students. After years of experimentations, I found out that as long as the technical work is assigned properly according to a student's ability, most important of all, try to find a music that the student can apply the techique on. Student is willing to learn the boring stuff when one can relate it to the music.

-- ellena yong (ellenayong@hotmail.com), August 14, 2002.

Hanon seems to help with teaching students to look up from their hands, the exercises appear to build the muscle memory of where the keys are. Still, a little goes a long way, my teacher suggests no more than 15 minutes a day with it. I have found that returns diminish past an hour/day. Czerny appears to be much more valuable, esp. Opus 599.

-- Matthew Lepold (straydrop@yahoo.com), December 16, 2002.


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