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The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it) (Read 2598 times)

Offline kevink

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The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
« on: January 02, 2007, 11:57:41 PM »
Greetings everyone, and happy New Year.  Welcome to the Last Hanon Thread. 

Well, of course, this won't be THE last discussion on Hanon, though many of you are probably wondering why we need yet another Hanon thread, anyway.  Here's why I'm writing this:

After exhaustively researching what everyone under the sun has to say about Hanon and technique drills in general, I must say that I am STILL at a loss as to what my opinion on the matter is.  I've read the carefully chosen words of all of the knowledgeable posters on this site, and yet I'm still drawing a blank on what I think about Hanon.  And so I have come to realize that perhaps what is lacking is some practical, experiential knowledge on my part. 

I've made it my New Year's Resolution to play through the ENTIRE Hanon book, every single day of this year.  And I will keep you informed periodically of my progress through the exercises and my feelings on how they affect my technique. 

To give you a more detailed understanding of my attitude towards this project, I will now tell you a bit about where I am in the study of piano, and what special considerations I will make in this project.  I'm 23 years old, and I've been studying piano as my primary instrument (meaning, devoting more than an hour a day at it) since I was 18.  At the age of 15 I was playing out of the Notebook for Ana Magdalene Bach--you know, Minuet in G, that sort of thing.  I dabbled in the first Beethoven sonata around this time.  My senior year of highschool, at the age of 18, was the first year that I studied seriously, and I began to perform larger works like Chopin's first Ballade and more Beethoven sonatas.  I went to college and for a year thought I'd try to be a jazz pianist; I eventually decided it wasn't my favorite sort of music, and returned to Classical studies.  I recently graduated with a bachelors degree in piano performance from my state's school, and have now performed a wide variety of serious works across the spectrum of styles.  I've won a few piano competitions on the local, state and regional levels, I've been to the Aspen Music Festival twice, and recently was accepted into the studio of a well-respected teacher for graduate study in Europe. 

All this paints a picture of the kind of student I think would benefit most from a serious discussion about technique, and can be the best guinea pig for experimenting with technique: the dedicated late-starter.  I am highly motivated and I know what I want with the music, but am often stymied and slowed down in my progress by technique considerations.  I have a dirty secret that many of you share:

I still don't know my scales and arpeggios.  And I never seriously practiced Hanon, of course...

So here I go.  Every day, no matter how long it takes, I will begin my practice with Hanon and scales and arpeggios and a couple other exercises not in the Hanon book that I think will be beneficial to me.  I will take care to maintain suppleness in my wrist, elbow, and shoulders; I will experiment with different styles of execution (high finger, different articulations, from the key, different dynamics).  I won't injure myself; I've only had one bout of muscle pain and slight tendonitis from playing, and I know how to avoid it completely at this point.  I will play through one key in all its forms, each day--so, every 12 days will be one rotation; I'll make it through each of the keys 30 times this year.  If it turns out to be too time consuming-- if it takes me more than 4 hours each day at first-- I may just do one mode per day until I get up to speed (I must go slowly at first, although I will experiment with different tempos). 

So, off I go!  I will post my thoughts on the experience periodically, and more importantly:  I INVITE ALL OF YOU who have EXPERIENCE in regular and intensive technique drills (scales, arpeggios, Hanon, Dohnanyi, trills, blocked chord exercises---anything else, you get the idea) to post your own thoughts on the impact such things had for your playing.  Please give us an idea of what YOUR experience has been.  Thanks!

Your guinea pig,
Kevink

PS any moral support you can offer would be dearly appreciated.....

Offline steve_m

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #1 on: January 03, 2007, 12:46:20 AM »
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Offline kevink

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #2 on: January 03, 2007, 01:51:43 AM »
I think Hanon is beneficial.

Thanks for your input, Steve!  Can you tell us what your experience has been with Hanon?  I agree with your thoughts--but I am hoping that this thread will be more for experiential show-and-tell, than theoretical discussion. 

We've all got opinions on the relative merits of different approaches to technique--so instead of debating the philosophy about it, let's share what our actual experience has been with regular technique drills, and what we think they did specifically for our playing over time.  As the adage goes, 'actions speak louder than words'-- rather than debate the issue with hypotheticals, tell us what you've practiced and how it helped!

Best wishes,
kevink

Offline asyncopated

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #3 on: January 03, 2007, 01:58:55 AM »
I disagree with this approach,  but I wish you good luck.  Different approaches work for different people. 

I use to play hannon. Nowadays, I get a way with not being assigned scales and appeggios by my teacher (or any "technical" work not specific to the pieces I am learning).  Although,  I think some of her other students are asked to do these things.  They are especially useful if you are a beginner and get lost easily within the key. 

Anyway, I would like to say (again) why I disapprove of hannon.  Perhaps try to say it in a more positive way then just trying to beat it down (again). 

So, my story is this :-

I'm learning to sing as well as to play the piano.  I have two teachers, one for each and I started both slightly more than two years back.  Both are progressing really well.  At first I thought that the basic principles one should adopt in learning how to sing, and learning to play the piano are different, but now realise that they are the same, and should be the same for any instrument.  What I'm trying to say is that the technical difficultes are different but the approach to learning each instrument is the same.

I will tell you how it's done with singing, because it's easier to explain, and more obvious.  A method that many teachers use is called bel canto.  In bel canto, the teacher has to listen very carefully to how you sing, i.e. your tone production and decide where the problems might be -- breathing, approximation of your vocal chords, keeping the sound in the mask. 

She then has to try to convey to you how to make the correct sound, but demonstaring or describing something or gesturing.  My teacher used to make funny gesters during the lesson, and somehow this made sense, and was able to get me to make a better sound.   This happens (and is still happening) every week and in the process I slowly start acquiring good habits.  My sound tone production and support is getting more consistent.  I have also realised that I now have a better idea of what a good sound should be.

The reason why singing is more difficult to convey is because the muscles and movments are internal, you cannot see how to do this, but instead have to hear and imagine the right thing, adjusting accordingly.

After learning for sometime, I realised that my piano teacher was doing the same thing. 

1. Basically to study an instrument, no matter what instrument, the first thing you need to do is be able to identify the correct sound required for the piece.  The most important thing is to listen -- understand the type of sound required. 

2. The second thing to do is learn the technique to produce this sound consistently.  In piano this is "easier" in that you can see the movements.  Each piece is slightly different, each composer has different requirements and each period requires a completely different sound. 

3.  After doing this, and studying the musicality of the piece, the final step is to prepare yourself psycologically for a performance.  To do so you have know the technique so well that you can forget about it and concentrate in bringing out and controlling the music.

These are the three things I concentrate on when practicing.  I consider all of this technique, not just no. 2.

So how does hannon come in?  The thing with hannon, is that it only address one part, if at all.  The movement.  Even so, it does not tell you what movement you require.  In some sense, hannon has no specific sound -- they are just notes.  For example, if you play appeggios in a bach piece, this requires a completely different movement from appeggios in a debussy piece. 

Hannon basically teaches you where the notes are.  That is important to know.  It does not teach you how to produce the correct sound for each composer, period and piece.  For that you will have to learn and practice the work of the composer.  (A good teacher is essential.)

Apart from the danger with movement as you have mentioned, there are two other important things that you might want to worry about.  Hannon encourages bad listening habits.  That is because it is so boring, when I play hannon I stop listening to the kind of sound that I am making and just play the notes.  In the first place, I don't even have a kind of sound in mind.

The final thing is that it encourages you to "switch off".  I use to think that this is want you want to achieve -- "zen state" where your fingers just run about the keyboard, and you can think of some thing else... go on autopilot.  Unfortunately, I have learnt that this is the total opposite of what I should be doing .


My teacher performs regularly and she says that the most important thing when performing is that you concentrate on bringing out the music, and not let your mind wonder. I complained about getting nervouse and distracted and thus not being about to concentrate and she said something that I think is very interesting.  You have to use your will to convey the music, you have to want it so much that the music just flows out.  It's very difficult to do that with hannon simply because what you are playing is so uninteresting.

I would also like to hear the outcome of this experiment and if you do end up think hannon does actually does you good, exactly why it does.   I do believe that you know what you are doing, and are not just some kid who does this because their teacher asks them to. (with the teacher not know exactly why hannon works, except that they were taught using hannon and therefore must make their students do the same.)  For you, at worst it could be an incredible waste of time. :P

Anyway, I have said my peace.  At your level, you should know what you're doing. Good luck with it.

Offline richy321

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #4 on: January 04, 2007, 08:39:17 PM »
At first it struck me as wildly inappropriate for someone with a degree in piano performance and who plays Chopin's Ballade No. 1 and Beethoven sonatas to be starting to do Hanon.  Hanon is pretty elementary and is usually happily discarded early on.  But if you are intent on learning scales and arpeggios, there may be reason to selectively do some, but it seems silly to go through the whole thing.   

Asyncopated has explained very well why Hanon, for many people, is ineffective:  It does not encourage active mental concentration because there is no musical effect to be listening for.  This is not to say that some people can benefit from doing Hanon.  There are people who are able to concentrate on such purely physical parameters as evenness, dynamics, speed, etc. outside of a musical context and not be bored to distraction.  If you happen to be of this type, it could work for you.

You are right about one thing:  it is only by experience that you can determine whether Hanon can work for you.  It depends on the individual's mental characteristics.


Offline allthumbs

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #5 on: January 06, 2007, 06:49:29 PM »
Greetings steve_m

I think Hanon is beneficial. The main argument agaist it, I think, is that mindless 16th note runs in repetitive patterns will not help you with real music because you don't find mindless 16th note runs in repetitive patterns in music too often.

I agree with your first statement, but why contradict yourself? I think Hanon will help with 16th note runs in music to a certain point. I would just add to your statement that practicing Hanon too much becomes a situaltion of diminishing returns.


My argument is this. First of all, there ARE exercises especially for trills, arpeggios, tremolos, thirds, octaves, etc which you do find in music and. As far as the first section (the repetitive patterns) goes, they just help you generally with runs and other technical difficulties in music by giving you strenght and independence in your fingers. It's like exercise for your fingers. Arguing against Hanon is like arguing that lifting weights won't help you in lifting other things that use the same exact muscles.

This is true and I liked your analogy about lifting weights.

To put it in perspective, I'd say that practicing Hanon and other exercises would help you in Bach's Prelude No 5 in D from Book 1. True, there are no Hanon exercises that drill you in the exact patterns that you'll find in that particular piece, but with the extra finger strength and independence you've built up, it will be easier for you to play this piece evenly and speedily.

Agree here also.

Musicalicality, I know, is a totally different thing, which will not benefit from exercises. Exercises will help you play the piece technically. From there, you have to form an interpretation.

I agree 100% with you here, but there is a way around this point . In all the posts I've read about Hanon, no one has mentioned that you can, I think, put some musicality into Hanon.

For example, one can start off a Hanon excercise pppp and each successive cycle build it into a crescendo to ffff and vice versa.

How about accenting certain notes, playing staccato, holding different fingers down, playing one hand legato and the other staccato while playing the cycle, etc. Use your imagination and it won't just be a 'mindless repetitive exercise'.

I think Hanon is beneficial to a point as are all technical exercises in general including scales, arpeggios, 4note chords etc. But as others have pointed out, playing actual pieces that present these technical difficulties may be the best way to conquer them. How else can one learn to play 'cantabile' except to play pieces that use this technique?

My 2 cents anyway.


Cheers

allthumbs

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Offline nightingale11

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #6 on: January 06, 2007, 10:29:26 PM »
I just can't get it. It's so fun when people say hanon have helped me a lot etc. well if you practice hanon every day you will get improvement on technique(bad technique though) and then you will say ohh this helped me and never consider if there is any other approach that could have helped them better. consider this - the reason why people study hanon is because they want to improve technique - and the reason they want to improve technique is because they want to learn repetory. But if you study technique that you can not make any connection to reality(repetoire) well then the chance is that you have wasted your time.
And then it is with all these preperation excersises to be able to play a difficult passage in the piece, why not just practice that passage instead? you can waste a lot of time practising things you will never be able to use. If you practice a piece you will be so much more motivated to be able to play it so the practice will take care of itself.

However technique can be accquired ina short time (1-3 years) did big concern is to accquire all the repetoire out there, that's the thing that takes time. And after all isn't very boring to spend so much time practising excersises instead of using that time learning repetoire?

Offline kevink

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #7 on: January 08, 2007, 04:10:18 AM »
Thank you all for your replies thusfar. 

Unfortunately, this thread is getting off-base--if you read my original posting and my reply to the first person who joined the thread, you will see that the purpose of this thread is NOT to debate the theoretical basis for one technical approach over another; there have been MANY threads taking that approach. 

The purpose of this thread is to share your ACTUAL EXPERIENCE WITH TECHNICAL DRILLS, AND HOW YOU FEEL THAT EXPERIENCE HAS IMPACTED YOUR OVERALL PLAYING. 

If you have theories about the merits of Hanon or any other technical drill or approach to technique, I invite you to start another thread or join any of the numerous other threads that exist on this forum for that purpose.  THIS thread is for discussing your EXPERIENCE, and how you feel it affected you. 

You see, everyone has a theory... there are theories from "Learn all your scales and arpeggios and Hanon and do it every day forever" to "Richter never played scales OMG you never play a scale in music so it's pointless to play scales!!!@!"  ...and I'm not interested in hearing more of EITHER of those, or ANYTHING in between. 

Please post ONLY YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH TECHNIQUE DRILLS AND EXERCISES AND HOW YOU FEEL IT HAS HELPED OR HINDERED YOU. 

Thanks!!

-Kevin

Offline penguinlover

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #8 on: January 08, 2007, 06:58:40 AM »
I have used the Czerny excercises, and benefitted from them.  Unlike Hanon, which I have also done, these excercises use techniques used in "real" music.  I don't play them much anymore, but I refer to the book often for help or ideas on fingering on techniques I need as they arise.   They also are short, address one certain technique, and sound musical.  They are much more enjoyable to play, so I would tend to practice them more often. Hope this isn't too off base.

Offline ale_ius

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #9 on: August 05, 2016, 07:49:05 PM »
why are there so many threads about Hanon?  I honestly think it's the title, it's mindless and 'formulaic' people want to believe if they do this they will be virtuosos. k lel. 8)

Offline dogperson

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Re: The Last Hanon Thread, Ever, Really (I mean it)
«Reply #10 on: August 05, 2016, 09:54:20 PM »
why are there so many threads about Hanon?  I honestly think it's the title, it's mindless and 'formulaic' people want to believe if they do this they will be virtuosos. k lel. 8)

If you are wondering about why they are so many Hanon threads.......I am wondering why you hunted down one from 2007 and bothered to reply?    You really had to go out of your way to even find this one.  You have dug up another Hanon thread that was in the grave yard, quietly sleeping.