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Topic: Are technical exercises helpful?  (Read 2828 times)

Offline MikeThePianist

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Are technical exercises helpful?
on: August 10, 2002, 10:26:21 AM
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about whether the technique exercises I practice everyday actually have merit.  I do some basic warmup things like Hanon, Czerny, and scales/arps, and I have always thought that they help to improve my playing.  However, my teacher often tells me that my time would be better spent simply working on repertoire that will challenge me in the same respects that exercises will.  He believes that pieces will be more exciting and thought-provoking than mindless repitition of patterns.

He doesn't discourage me from technical exercises.  He says that if a specific passage in a piece causes trouble, turn it into a miniature exercise by repeating it in different ways.  I have also been reading a book called On Piano Playing by Gyorgy Sandor.  It is an amazing book, and everything I have read so far I have agreed with.  In some portions, however, it discourages the use of technical exercises in practice sessions.  Instead, Sandor asserts that time is better spent examining exactly how each difficult passage should be played and being sure that it is executed in this way every time.  Sandor feels that eventually most of the motions used by a pianist will eventually become instinctive, and he will no longer be required to look so specifically at every passage.

Should technical exercises such as scales, arpeggios, and Hanon etc be practiced everyday?  I understand that younger pianists should and must do scales and arpeggios so that they have the background.  Once they are mastered, however, is it necessary to continue them each and everyday?  I would very much like to know what everyone's feelings are regarding this topic.

Mike
Michael Fauver is pursuing his bachelors degree in piano performance at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Offline MzrtMusic

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #1 on: August 11, 2002, 02:27:18 AM
There are two schools of thought on this. The first one, you have already mentioned. Technical excersises are a waste of time. The second school of thought is along the lines that if you make the technical stuff mindless repetition, you aren't doing any good. However, if you change it to sharpen your skills, if becomes good. You can change it by adding accents on different beats, or playing it with a swing, or you can play it very slowly, paying much attention to drop/body weight transfer/tone, or you can play it in triplets, or with different dynamics, or really anything you can come up with. In this way, you are getting the dexterity benifits from the technical excersises, but you are still learning and perfecting other areas of music. I probably switch between the two. There will be periods of time when I will play scales for hours a day, and then there are times that I just play to warm up, and there are times I don't play anything. But, that's another point of view, that I have found most helpful in my ongoing quest to become a better pianist!

Love,

Sarah
My heart is full of many things...there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all.
-- Ludwig Van Beethoven

Offline Diabolos

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #2 on: August 13, 2002, 10:08:53 PM
The idea of playing exercises has always been well-regarded by many pianists, but I found, after mastering all that Hanon and Dohnanyi,and though it helped me to improve my technique, that I at a certain level one doesn't have to play these little etudes every day (I prefer doing that once a week), since I rather play a few Bach fugues as a warm-up than these miniatures by hanon (with basically the same effect); however, if your repertoire doesn't include certain techniques, I'd still go for practising a lot, since one easily looses technique; and I don't think that any pianist ever stops practising scales  ;D it's too necessary.

And taking certain passages of a piece as an etude is something I do, too - piano schools give you a basis, but the appearance of certain problems is always different.

Offline ted

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #3 on: August 14, 2002, 03:18:16 AM

I used to play a lot of scales and exercises but these days I never play them straight up and down. I always incorporate whatever gymnastics I wish to improve into improvisation so my musical brain is used too. In other words, as I get older I separate technique and music less and less.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline amee

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #4 on: April 18, 2003, 07:32:28 AM
Technical exercises are, without a doubt, very helpful.  I try to do them when I practice but...I always lose interest after about 10 minutes.  What's more helpful: scales and arpeggios or Hanon and Czerny?  or maybe their both equally helpful?
"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." - Frederic Chopin

Offline Remon

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #5 on: April 19, 2003, 11:59:49 AM
I think the best way to improve your technique, is to make your own exercises; this will challenge your creativity too.
If you play dull scales and exercises that are actually very boring to you, you won't improve.
But if you make your own exercises, based on certain (difficult) passages from your pieces by chopin, liszt, rachmaninoff or whoever, you're kept alert and you get a greater satisfaction when you've mastered this techinique/passage!  :)
Just "play" with rythms, dynamics, inversions etc.!  :D
And don't waste your valuable time on stupid exercises!

Remon

Offline glamfolk

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #6 on: April 19, 2003, 11:42:15 PM
I agree with Sarah that each person is unique as far as their practice needs are.  I tend to think that exercises teach you to play exercises very well, and good music teaches you to play good music.  There's a good book by Abby Whiteside you migh want to check out--she hated exercises and has some insight into other practice areas, as well.

Offline amee

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #7 on: April 20, 2003, 06:34:30 AM
The downside to playing exercises is they can get boring very quickly.  If you just go about mindlessly playing them just to be playing them, you won't get any better.

Like glamfolk and Sarah said, everyone is different.  Experiment and work out something you feel challenges you but also interests you.  

There are endless ways of getting technique; you can get them from scales, arpeggios, actual books (like Hanon or Czerny), or from your repertoire pieces.  It depends on your personal preference.
"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." - Frederic Chopin

Offline PoSeiDoN

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #8 on: April 22, 2003, 02:27:09 AM
With all due respect, I disagree with amee.  Yes, technical exercises get boring eventually.  You can do different things to enhance this experience, like adding dynamics and accents.

And even if it does get boring, and you're "mindlessly" playing them, your fingers are still improving and gaining agility.  If you go to the gym, and you do bench press without wanting to, you're still going to gain muscle mass.  This is the same type of situation.

So, go out, buy your Hanon book, and play it for at least a half hour before you start practice!  Your fingers will thank you again and again.  ;D

Offline ciocia_fifi

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #9 on: April 22, 2003, 02:40:40 AM
any1 knows brahms exercises (fingered by clara schumann)? they r really popular here in europe, and they r great!! sth really dffrnt from czerny-like stuff.
i waouldnt agree that mechanical practising could improve ath! we are obliged to search fro the music even in those filthy scales&arpeggios ;) otherwise it will be a waste of time.
...even if I'm not right...;)

Offline SteveK

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #10 on: April 22, 2003, 07:11:53 AM
I usually don't play technical exercises although in the beginning they were good exercises. But now my teacher and I think Chopin's Etudes are more helpful to me.
"And you probably thought I'd play badly?" - Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Offline glamfolk

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Re: Are technical exercises helpful?
Reply #11 on: April 23, 2003, 07:09:00 AM
The etudes are great exercises, and great exercise.  That's what one of Whitesides' books is about--the Op. 10 etudes.
enjoy!
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