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Author Topic: Speaking of Hanon-Are these following exercises actually useful? Check them out!  (Read 7087 times)
Spatula
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« on: November 14, 2004, 02:53:52 AM »

I must admit where there are certain exercises that SEEM TO BE pratical.  Let me get my book.

Exercise 39 (The 12 Major and Minor Scales, which really isn't Hanon's invention)
Exercise 40 (Chromatic Scales-again not Hanon's idea)
Exercise 41 (Arpeggios-dito)
Exercise 42 (Arpeggios in diminished 7th chord-dito dito)
Exercise 44 (Repeated notes)
Exercise 45 (Repeated notes in groups of 2)
Exercise 46 (The Thrill of the trill)
Exercise 50 (Legato Thirds)
Exercise 51/53 (Scales in Octaves)
Exercise 52 (Scales in Thirds)
Exercise 54 (Four notes trill in thirds)
Exercise 55 (Three note trill)
Exercise 56 (Scales in broken octaves)
Exercise 57 (Broken Arpeggios in octaves)
Exercise 58 (Sustained Octaves with Detached notes-similar to Dohnanyi Exercises)
Exercise 59 (Four note trill in sixths)
Exercise 60 (The tremlolololololololol – laughing out loud at its difficulty)

What does the great bernie think?
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Brian Healey
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2004, 03:00:45 AM »

Some of the exercises are very useful, but not the way Hanon suggests practicing them. The exercises are good, it's just the method that's bad. Like where Hanon says (on a number of occasions) you should move only your fingers to gain "strength", and not the wrist or forearm. If you do it Hanon's way, it's tendonitis time for you.
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Spatula
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2004, 06:57:30 AM »

That's what I'm thinking too, his stuff that he writes down are good, but the method is just wrong.  Perhaps he was trying to direct something else but couldn't master English (even if he was a Native English speaker) in the way to really communicate what he wants.

Perhaps if I applied Fink's or Sandor's techniques to Hanon, then there'd be some value.
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bernhard
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2004, 12:38:06 PM »

Here is what I think:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2429.msg21061.html#msg21061
(Technical studies x pieces – the genesis of Studies and how Czerny derived his exercises from Beethoven sonatas - why scales are useless as exercises and at the same time essential – Chopin x Kalkbrenner  – Unorthodox fingering for scales).

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2998.msg26268.html#msg26268
(Scales HT, why? – why and when to practise scales HS and HT – Pragmatical  x logical way of teaching – analogy with aikido – list of piano techniques – DVORAK – realistic x sports martial arts – technique and how to acquire it by solving technical problems – Hanon and why it should be avoided - Lemmings)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/board,4/topic,4880.3.html#msg46319
(how to acquire technique and what technique actually is)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2948.msg25927.html#msg25927
(Czerny x Scarlatti to acquire technique – Ted gives an excellent contribution)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4082.msg37362.html#msg37362
(it is not possible to learn technique in a vacuum. At the same time you cannot simply play pieces – comparison with tennis)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4182.msg38775.html#msg38775
(Hanon: pros and cons – Robert Henry’s opinion – Bernhard’s opinion)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4385.msg41226.html#msg41226
(Technique – definition of technique – technique is personal and relative to the piece – Fosberry flop – the best books on technique)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4734.msg44770.html#msg44770
(how to acquire virtuoso technique – aiming at 100 pieces in five years)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4880.msg46339.html#msg46339
(definition of technique: quote form Fink, Sandor and Pires – Example of the A-E-A arpeggio)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4887.msg47334.html#msg47334
(more on Hanon)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5034.msg47829.html#msg47829
(The finger strength controversy  – some excellent posts by xvimbi)

However, let us deal with some specifics.

Exercises 39 – 42 (scales and arpeggios) as you noticed are not really Hanon’s. But most importantly, the main reason to  play scales and arpeggios is not to be able to ripple through all of them. The main reason to work (which is a far more comprehensive concept than simple mechanical practice at the piano) on scales is to get acquainted and thoroughly conversant with the concept of key. Hanon will not give you that. And you do not need Hanon for that.

Moreover, Hanon’s fingering is not even the most efficient for playing scales and arpeggios (for instance if you are requested to play scales and arpeggios in an exam – the only conceivable situation when you will need to do so). Can my students ripple through scales and arpeggios? You bet. Do we ever use Hanon for that? Never! The fingering sucks!

What about scales in pieces? Well, just look at Mozart’s K545 first movement. The scales do not start on the tonic, they do not use conventional fingering. Oh no! does that mean that all that time I spend on Hanon scales will not do any good for my Mozart? Yes. You have been conned. Conman Hanon made you a promise he could not possibly deliver. And by the way, I am selling my book on “how to fly by vigorously flapping your arms”, in case you have not read the thread where I made this once in a lifetime offer.
Interested?

The other exercises can be dismissed pretty much with the same reasoning: the techniques are dissociated form the pieces where they originated, and therefore they have no musical purpose. The appropriateness of a technique is defined by its musical purpose. Are you going to play repeated notes with the same finger (one technique) or are you going to change fingers (several techniques depending on the fingers you are using). The repeated notes in Beethoven’s Fur Elise (at the end) have a very different musical meaning from the repeated notes on Scarlatti’s K 141. The technique to play them will be consequently different. Will Hanon exercise on repeated notes help you? Obviously not, since you do not know what musical purpose that exercise is possibly serving. And if you follow Hanon’s advice then you will make sure that whatever technique (and injury) you are developing will be useless for both Beethoven and Scarlatti.

So you see, the fantasy that you can disregard Hanon’s instructions (since they are obviously crap) and still salvage the exercises by modifying them according to new theories of technique falls falt the moment you realise that the criterion for such a modification is musical meaning, and Hanon has no musical meaning.

So we come full circle to the simple and attractive and correct idea of: “Why bother with Hanon? Do repertory instead”.

Funny enough, this does not mean simply playing your pieces from beginning to end. But if you extract the difficult passage of your piece and work on it for several minutes, you are basically doing a Hanon exercise. (Just look at the first motif in Bach invention in C, if you repeat the first 8 notes on the RH you have a Hanon exercise). Or look at the first 4 notes in Scarlatti K427. Fill 20 bars with those four notes and play them each time starting on a consecutive note and you will have a Hanon exercise. The difference now is that the piece from which these fragments were taken has a musical meaning that will give direction to your technique acquisition.

I said it once, and I will say it again: It is not possible to learn technique in a vacuum by itself. Any technique so acquired will eventually have to be discarded/modified when the time comes to use it in real repertory. In short, we are talking about massive waste of time.

And of course, it goes without saying that just like you need musical meaning to acquire technique, you cannot express musical meaning without the appropriate technique. Hence technique and musicality are two sides of the same coin. Separate them at your own risk.

Finally do you really want to play Hanon? Then get yourself the Hal Leonard edition (Student piano library) which comes with a CD of orchestral accompaniments so that you can play Hanon with an orchestra! ( I kid you not Shocked)

But understand that this will not be transferable to your pieces. You will just be able to play Hanon with a bit more of musical meaning.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



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The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
Spatula
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« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2004, 07:13:19 PM »

Okay I get your drift  Grin.

So lets say I wanted to do some crazy trill or tremolo or repeated note group like say in Liszt Hun Rhaps.  So the best way to actually practice the trills is to make the repertoire itself (cut it up into whatever manageble) sections and get your "hanon" from there?

Okay sounds like what you've been saying all along, I think.  Am I thinking what you're thinking?  Wink
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Floristan
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« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2004, 07:23:28 PM »

Lemmings.  Hanon.   Grin
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fnork
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« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2004, 09:37:44 PM »

Hanon isn't exactly my favourite guy, but I still think it's helpful to play some of his excercises in 20 minutes or so before I start playing my reportoire. Why? Well, just like Bernhard said, Hanons stuff don't have musical meaning, something that a Bach invention has. But the thing is that if I would start playing my reportoire immidiately when I sit by the piano, for instance a Bach invention, I wouldn't be playing my best since I haven't warmed up my fingers with any excercises. Which would make the Bach invention sound bad. However, if I warm up with some excercises before playing the invention, like Hanons, I'll be able to play the invention great. And the only thing I've done differently is to do some excercises in 10-20 minutes or so.

Who said Hanon isn't music by the way? Shostakovich even put his excercises in one of his piano concertos, to get his son practice Hanon! Grin Well, what do ya say bout that, bernie? Wink
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bernhard
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2004, 10:37:40 PM »

Okay I get your drift  Grin.

So lets say I wanted to do some crazy trill or tremolo or repeated note group like say in Liszt Hun Rhaps.  So the best way to actually practice the trills is to make the repertoire itself (cut it up into whatever manageble) sections and get your "hanon" from there?

Okay sounds like what you've been saying all along, I think.  Am I thinking what you're thinking?  Wink


Yes, that is what I have been saying all along. Smiley


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bernhard
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2005, 10:02:16 AM »


Who said Hanon isn't music by the way? Shostakovich even put his excercises in one of his piano concertos, to get his son practice Hanon! Grin Well, what do ya say bout that, bernie? Wink


I have two things to say. One I have already said above, but I will repeat it:

Finally do you really want to play Hanon? Then get yourself the Hal Leonard edition (Student piano library) which comes with a CD of orchestral accompaniments so that you can play Hanon with an orchestra! ( I kid you not  )

The second thing I have to say concerns the matter of warm-up.

The basics are here, so I will not repeat myself:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2457.msg21252.html#msg21252

But I will add a bit more to it.

Once upon a time I went to a karate club, and when sparring time came, to my mild surprise everyone started to stretch and jump on the spot. Since I looked somewhat puzzled, someone offered an explanation: “we must warm-up and stretch so that if we do a high kick or other extreme move, we will not get inured”. I said: “Er… first, have we not warmed up at the start of the session? And, supposing you are attacked in a Pub, are you going to tell your attacker: Wait a second, I need to warm up and stretch so that I can defend myself without getting injured?”

So, you see, there is something wrong with this whole idea of warmup. At the basis of it is ignorance of the physiological processes involved. At the top of it there is psychological comfort that comes from years of conditioning. “If all lemmings are jumping of a cliff, this cannot possible be wrong! There is a huge historical precedence for it!”

So, let us sort it out. My martial arts colleague, was correct: warmup and stretching are very important to avoid injury. But he got it all wrong in terms of how and when and what to do. And he never addressed the real problem which was: What are you going to do in a situation where no warmup is possible?

Of course there is a perfectly good answer. And here it is in a summarised way (if you want the full details, I suggest you read Thomas Kurz “Science of Sports training” or any other good reference in sports physiology).

The secret to be able to do high kicks without warmup and previous stretching is simple. When you wake up, first thing in the morning, do some leg swings. The way to do those is very specific: you must not do them too fast and using momentum to lift the legs (the so called ballistic movement). Rather, do them slowly and with control, that is, the muscles in the leg are lifting the legs. It is very important that you watch out for any signs of fatigue, since you cannot attain maximum flexibility if your muscles are tired (it is the opposite principle of achieving strength – if you want muscle strength, you must workout through fatigue). Isn’t this interesting? You can do the same movement/exercise (leg swings), and yet, depending of your final goal (flexibility or strength) you must do it in a completely different way. Do it the wrong way and you will be defeating your purpose. Could that have any application to piano practice? Hmmmm… I wonder if all those hours of mindless repetition of technical exercises were wasted…

But I digress.

Back to the leg swings. So you are swinging your legs, slowly and with control, and they will achieve a maximum range. Now you have two options here: you may stop to swing your legs when you achieved your maximum range and it is clear that you will not get anything more that day. Or you can keep pressing on until your muscles are burning, and you will notice that your legs are not swinging as high anymore.

This is what sports physiologists found out: Somehow, the brain stores the last figures for maximum flexibility, and during the remainder of the day, you will always be able to swing your legs (or kick) to that maximum – without any need for further warm-up stretching.

So. You swing your legs. You got to the maximum you are going to achieve that day. Then stop. That maximum figure will be with you throughout the day.

If you continue swinging so that your muscles tire, your range will decrease. When you finally stop, it is this less then best range that will be stored in your brain, and that will be the limit of your kicking range for that day – []even if you warmup/stretch later on [/i]. In fact, your ability to stretch later in the day will be limited by your leg swinging in the morning.

Moreover, if you do leg swings in a ballistic way (using momentum, throwing the legs violently in the air, aiming your thigh to hit your chest), you will notice that the muscles at the back of the leg will actually tense (the brain thinks “Oh no, he is going to throw that leg to the moon! I must stop it! I better tense the hamstrings!). So the way to do leg swings with a view to increase flexibility is not only slowly and with as little momentum as you can get away with, but stretch your arm in front, so that the arm presents a clear obstacle the leg can hit (start with the arm slow and raise it as your flexibility increases). The arm in front makes the brain relax: now he knows that the leg will not go all the way to the moon, since the arm is there to stop it. As a consequence you do not get a sudden tension of the muscles – which is the real cause of sprains and injuries.

So here are some situations.

1.You wake up. You do nothing. Your leg muscles will be shortened after a night’s sleep. They will remain shortened during the day. You go to training later in the evening, and you feel really stiff. No matter how much you stretch and warmup, you can never quite do what some people ion the class are doing. And you have been training for years! What are you doing wrong? These guys who can do it, keep giving you tips (“do this stretch”, “no pain no gain”, “just keep at it”, “you must practice harder and longer”). You wonder if you have any talent at all.

2. You wake up. You do leg swings with great energy, throwing your legs in the air and letting momentum carry them over. You can feel the muscles tensing, but you carry on nonetheless. Soon you are dead tired, and you can hardly lift your legs. So you stop. Later in the evening you go training, and you are even more stiff than the guy at no. 1. But you are developping some impressively bulging thighs. Until of course, the morning when something snaps and really hurts, and you must to physiotherapy and stop training for the next two years.

3. You wake up. You swing your legs slowly, carefully and under muscle control (not ballistically). You give your leg an obstacle to stop its ascension – may be your arm, maybe a punch bag, maybe a frame, so that the obstacle – rather than the leg muscles you want to stretch – stops your leg form going up forever. You keep swinging up to a point where you realise you will not be able to go higher, or to the point where you start to feel tired and to get diminishing returns. You go about your business during the rest of the day. In the evening, as you warmup and stretch in your training session, you can easily and without any effort reach the ranges you reached in the morning, and perhaps even go a bit further.

Guys 1 and 2 are impressed. They ask your advice. Now two things may happen:

a.   You actually know what you are doing. You have studied the subject, you have experimented scientifically (which means that you must have a control, that you note down and somehow quantify your results, and if necessary you even do a statistical analysis) with different approaches. If this is the case, you will be able to advise and help guys 1 and 2.

b.   You have no clue. You just do this morning routine the way you do it, either because someone who knew about it told you about it (may be your father was a sports physiologist), or because you just stumbled on it by chance. So when you advise guys 1 and 2 chances are that your advice will have nothing to do with what you actually do, but rather with what you think and believe you do. And because you are clearly successful at what you do, everyone will be convinced that what you say you do is actually the correct thing. The difference, of course is that such advice never results in improvement in any consistent way (sometimes it works, sometimes it does not), while the advice from someone who truly knows the ropes always has staggering effects.

Now I have been talking about leg swings, but of course the same applies to every part of the human body: It is what you do first thing in the morning that sets the range for the whole day.

Now, how does that apply to piano playing? Mostly it does not. There are several useful analogies you can draw here, but the fact of the matter is that piano playing rarely if ever has the equivalent of a high kick in its range of movements (if you can hardly span a seventh it is doubtful if stretching exercises are really going to change this too much – you may need to stick to a repertory that avoids huge hand spans).

Moreover, everything I said so far is not to be done on the piano, but away from it. I have a routine for flexibility of fingers and wrists that makes sure that my piano ranges are optimal, but I do not do those for piano – I do those for aikido. It just happens that they benefit the piano playing as well.

Now comes another interesting aspect of stretching. Few people seem to be aware that there are three distinct sorts of flexibility: dynamic, static and passive.

Dynamic flexibility is the one you need to swing your legs: movement is involved.

Passive flexibility, is yoga-like. If you just sit on the floor with open legs, you will slowly relax the muscles and you will be able to stretch further. No movement is really involved here: you simply hold a posture for a period of time (minimum: 2 minutes).

Static flexibility is of a different sort altogether. It is the sort of flexibility required in some dance forms, where you lift your leg and hold it up there. Not only the muscles in the back of your leg must be stretched to the limit, as the muscles in front are required to do a strength tour-de-force to keep your leg up there.

The differentiation is important, because training in one sort of flexibility does not guarantee improvements in the others. In particular, passive flexibility is counter to dynamic flexibility. If you spend some time doing passive stretches (yoga like), this actually interferes negatively with your motor co-ordination. Just watch a yoga class and observe the people at the end: they can barely walk.

Yet, 99% of martial art classes I attended, instructors were completely ignorant of these simple facts. They would always start by warming up with some silly movement like star jumps, and then do yoga-like passive stretching. As a consequence no one had motor co-ordination to do the next bit of the class (usually basic movements) correctly. Instead they should be doing dynamic stretching as a warm up. Dynamic stretching (moving a limb to the limits of its range with control and slowly) is ideal as a warm up and sets up all the motor co-ordination centres.

So if you are going to do finger stretches and wrist stretches before your piano practice, make sure the stretches are dynamic, not passive. And make sure that once you achieve the maximum range, or you start to feel tired, you immediately stop.

The astute readers amongst you will see many connections here with things like PPI and the like.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
BoliverAllmon
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2005, 04:31:14 PM »


Yes, that is what I have been saying all along. Smiley




and it ha sonly taken forever for some of us to catch on. (myself included)
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bernhard
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2005, 08:36:08 PM »

Better late than never… Wink
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The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
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