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The Case Against Hanon and Pischna (Read 23556 times)

Offline aerlinndan

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The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
« on: May 18, 2005, 07:47:51 PM »
Hello, everyone. I’m new to these forums but have been lurking for quite a while, absorbing the amazing wealth of information that is available here. For the past two years I have been studying with a piano teacher that is both incredibly intense and incredibly addicted to teaching piano in the way he was taught, that is, the method of the old German school. Therefore I have been doing Hanon and Pischna in all major keys for about 30 to 45 minutes every day for the past two years of my piano education.

And I’ve improved.

And I had never been really required to play Hanon and Pischna before two years ago. Naturally, therefore, I drew the conclusion that it was to Hanon and Pischna that I owed my progress.

In one week I am graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy and heading to University of Southern California as a music composition major. This means I have one more lesson with my current teacher. The closeness of freedom from the thankless rigidity of daily technical exercises is upon me, and it is only due to this fact that I have just recently realized the true worthlessness of Hanon and Pischna and all other exercises that are purely finger-movers.

I’ll start by taking a metaphor that is Bernhard’s. Learning Hanon in all keys, starting with #1 and going through the whole book, is like opening Merriam Webster’s Third New International Dictionary at page 1 and reading the words and expecting your writing ability to improve. However, as I will demonstrate later, this dictionary is full of wrong definitions and many crucial words are not even there.

The notion is that practicing Hanon increases your “overall” skill as a pianist. That is to say, when I practice 45 minutes of Hanon, the quality of my technique on all the repertoire that I’m playing at the moment, along with all the repertoire that I will ever play should raise ever so slightly, one tiny notch. Therefore, if I do Hanon 45 minutes every day, lots of little notches add up to a sizable improvement on all of my repertoire. So they say.

Well, first off, I know this not to be true from personal experience. I performed a solo recital this past Sunday in which one of the pieces was Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata. I had been working on that piece since last August, so by the time of the recital I really felt I had a more-than-fleeting grasp on the piece. Now, if I’m practicing Hanon faithfully every day and progressing at a more or less even rate, my rate of improvement of the Pathetique should be linear, right? Well, it was not. In fact (and this is crucial) the progress I made on the Pathetique was in leaps and bounds and those leaps and bounds only occurred when I sat down and practiced the actual technical difficulties present in the Beethoven. Needless to say, I feel like I’ve wasted an enormous quantity of time this year on Hanon.

When there is no musical background to a technical exercise, the hand memory that you might have gained is forgotten almost instantly, for memory is based on associations. Allow me for a moment to define music as a balance between stasis and change. Sometimes different elements are changing and sometimes they are not. (This is of course one of a million definitions for music, and it gets incredibly complicated when you start discussing moment form and other modern ideas, but this works for the moment.) If music is a balance between stasis and change, we must learn to train our minds (and fingers, if you like) to deal with that balance. However, Hanon is only teaching fingers and brains a static state of playing. You lock your brain into the shape and configuration of the exercise (and in my case, the key) and you start and you turn your brain off. You can, because it’s static. Why focus on something that’s unchanging? You can afford to turn your brain off. It will still be the same when you turn your brain back on, so there are no worries. And you do that when you get to the top of the octave: you focus just enough to negotiate the “turn” halfway through the exercise, and to get your fingers moving the right way heading back down. Then you turn your brain off again. This is incredibly detrimental to good playing of music. Music is anything but static: it engages you entirely, both physically and mentally. Playing Hanon leads you to the conclusion that music can be a brain-off activity if you want it to be.

I might also apply the principle of direct variation. Perhaps you remember from your studies of mathematics the principle of direct variation.

x=Cy

C is some constant, and x and y are variables. In order for this equation to stay balanced, if x is raised, then y must be raised, too. (Remember, we’re not changing C.) Now, with the principles behind doing finger exercises each day in mind, let us consider x to be how well we perform Hanon and y to be how well we perform repertoire. According to direct variation, if my x is greater than someone else’s, my y will be much greater as well. I can tell you from multiple personal experiences that this is simply not true. I can fly through the fifteen Hanons in all keys, QN = 138, yet I have an Asian friend that has only ever really practiced them marginally and in C major at a much slower tempo, and she can whip my butt with pieces like Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli and Barber’s Piano Sonata Op 26.  I’m sure you can provide some of your own examples as teachers and pianists of students who play Hanon incredibly well but can’t play repertoire worth listening to, and other students who have hardly touched the book and yet are fine pianists.

Additionally, Hanon is not only unhelpful for learning finger technique but by playing it hands-together as notated it is detrimental to the independence of the hands. Underneath exercise #1 Hanon states:

“This new style of exercise will cause the hands to acquire perfect equality.”

No, it won’t. Having both hands play together always allows one hand to be “lazy”, to be the “follower”, and in this case it is usually the left hand. The exercises are fundamentally flawed in this way, because where the LH becomes difficult the RH becomes too easy and therefore the LH can “mooch off” the right hand, never learning how to independently play the technical difficulties without the aural and kinesthetic help of the engagement of the right hand.

Shall I keep going?

Hanon is a liar. Not a liar in the abstract sense but a liar in a quantifiably provable way. Have a look again below the first exercise:

“…the difficulties executed by the left hand in ascending, are exactly copied by the same fingers of the right hand in descending;…”

Aside from containing an unnecessary comma, this statement is, simply put, false. Open your Hanon to exercise 4 and look at the technical problem presented in the first beat of the left hand. Now compare that to the first beat of the right hand descending. These two figures are not the same. Therefore the difficulties are not “exactly copied” in ascending vs. descending; take a look through the exercises for yourself and you will find that sometimes what each hand is doing in ascending vs. descending is profoundly different.

(Note: Theoretically I know why Hanon did this: an exact copying would have created a series of 6-4 chords – i.e., second inversion – which would have been a most unpleasing sound in his time. But these are finger exercises, not music.)

Finally, people seem to believe, as Hanon suggests in his preface, that these exercises will somehow help with this concept of “independence of the fingers.” My proposition is this: if you are having finger independence problems – for example, two fingers in a run hit at the same time when they were supposed to be separate notes, or you can’t keep certain fingers down while others play – they have nothing to do with not having enough muscles in your hands and fingers. (I want to put both “enough” and “muscles” in quotations in that sentence – “enough” because the amount of muscle in a person’s hand and arm is plenty to play all repertoire by about the age of 8, and “muscles” because our fingers have no muscles in them anyway.) Instead, the finger independence is a brain issue. It has to do with understanding the musical concept of separate voices in your piece and knowing when to engage which muscles at what time and relaxing the rest of them.

And thus Pischna comes in. My teacher “prescribed” me number 9, which has the left hand holding down fingers 1, 2, and 5 while 3 and 4 alternate back and forth, not just for a little while but for the entire duration of the exercise. This is ridiculous! Once I know how to perform a few repetitions of this finger independence idea, it is clear that I have sufficiently wrapped my brain around the idea. Practicing the same thing over and over again until my fingers BURN (which my teacher actually told me to do) will do nothing to further improve my finger independence in this area, and will actually probably lead me to injury. Thank God I only have to deal with this for one more week.

If studying Hanon is like reading the dictionary from start to finish, then studying Pischna is like taking all possible combinations of letters in the English language, throwing them together, not caring whether or not they make words, and supposing that the words must be in there somewhere and somehow you’ll absorb them. The complete thoughtlessness that went into these exercises is evident. Take number 10 for example. Looking at it, Pischna’s thought process probably went something like this.

1) I want to make an exercise that practices crossing the thumb under the fourth finger.
2) Let’s base it off of a do – re – mi – fa – so – fa – mi – re – do pattern and go up and back down similar to Hanon #1.
3) I’ll have the students hold down their thumb every time the other fingers cross over. Never mind that I can’t find an instance in all the repertoire that demands this movement.
4) So that I can also continue to work on the muscles in the fingers of all my students, how’s about I put it in triplets and have every third note accented? Yeah, that’s a good idea!
5) Oops, I forgot! This exercise only deals with the white keys. Crap. (Pischna then proceeds to scribble in “In all keys” at the end of the exercise.)

I’ll leave the picking apart of each of these points to you, as this post is already a monster. Suffice it to say that in trying to learn this exercise my fingers rebelled against me every step of the way. They knew that there was a better and MUCH easier way to hit these notes and that crossing over and holding the thumb was an incredible waste of energy. But I forced them to do it anyway, knowing that the iron fist of my teacher would be upon me in one week’s time.

I of course welcome any comments and criticisms in response to this gargantuan post. I hope that these thoughts can add to the body of knowledge that has already been amassed here at the Piano Forum.

Offline Nightscape

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #1 on: May 18, 2005, 08:34:15 PM »
*applause*

Wow.  I think you've officially scared me away from ever doing Hanon and Pischna ever again.

Offline Derek

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #2 on: May 18, 2005, 10:20:05 PM »
I have Isidor Phillip's Complete School of Piano Technic.  Only doing a few of these exercises in a handful of keys each day appears to have had remarkable results in my playing...it seems to me anything you practice at the piano must help you (unless done in a painful or ridiculously contorted way of course)

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #3 on: May 18, 2005, 10:34:20 PM »
I of course welcome any comments and criticisms in response to this gargantuan post. I hope that these thoughts can add to the body of knowledge that has already been amassed here at the Piano Forum.

I feel like I died and was reincarnated with a different login name :D

My words exactly!

Offline pianonut

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #4 on: May 19, 2005, 12:39:27 AM »
not being familiar with pischna, i will concur with many of the things you say about hanon exercises.  this would not deter me from giving a certain number of them to students ALONG with other exercises, tho.

with very young students (or even beginning adults), they have a chance to play from memory (instead of the harder exercises at first) and practice 'touch.'  instead of focusing on varied notes (lh and rh), fingerings, and graded dynamics, they play all the way through at one speed, one dynamic.  you would be surprised how many students vary the tempos when first learning to play.  it might sound mechanical, but i feel that these exercises DO help you learn tempi by playing a long enough exercise at one speed.

as you mentioned, this is only one little tiny aspect (maintaining a speed, and learning how to touch the keys for faster speeds as you work the exercise again) of exercising fingers AND mind.  exercises that incorporate musicality might be, as you suggested, simply three or four bars repeated (and a measure added each time) of a section of repertoire that is difficult.  working it at a slow pace, and making sure that you have it worked out (fingering, hand positions, tempo).  more challenging exercises will be those that vary rhythm, notes, incorporate stretches, make you more flexible mentally and physically.

i say, "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."  just take it with a grain of salt and don't make hanon the only group of exercises you work.  my preference is a combo of five finger exercises that follow a chromatic scale (Major chord, minor chord, V7/next chromatic chord).  you can do them in plain chords at first.  then work into 123454321.  then 12123434545432321.  then 13132424353542423131.  going through all of the chromatic keys for each.  you can keep making up exercises and end with thirds.  these are really hard and fun once you learn them.  got this from my french prof. of music.





 
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline pianonut

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #5 on: May 19, 2005, 01:00:21 AM »
'the art of finger dexterity' (also given to me by french prof) is a good book of czerny's that probably hits more of the ideas that you are looking for in working beethoven (though beethoven speaks for himself, too).  i would say the exercises that i have to choose from now would include czerny to more modern ones (rhythm varied from measure to measure).

last year i also bought 'mastering the scales and arpeggios' by james francis cooke.'  it follows leschetitsky's methods (thumb under might be argued) and is VERY detailed with scales in double thirds (all keys), double sixths, broken chords and arpeggios (stretches), and all with fingering that is quite precise.  the arpeggio variant on page 65 is hard, too.  also, has broken chords and arpeggios of the dominant sevenths (major and minor), diminished sevenths, and ends with a combo.
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline ted

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #6 on: May 19, 2005, 01:15:14 AM »
I wouldn't know Hanon, Pischna or any writer of exercises from a bar of soap and , from what people have said on this forum, I do not wish to. I do not play exercises of any sort on the piano. On the other hand, I have always done a regular few minutes on the practice clavier using exercises of my own invention (who else is going to know what physical equipment I need for my purposes except me ?) and, over the years, I am sure it has been of considerable benefit. Moderation is very much the keynote though. My end goal is to make music and I quickly eliminate any process which fails to obviously enhance that objective.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline pianonut

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #7 on: May 19, 2005, 01:18:42 AM »
you should write down some of your exercises and sell a book.  they are probably more interesting than the ones of hanon!
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline ted

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #8 on: May 19, 2005, 02:08:30 AM »
The trouble, pianonut, is that firstly they change from one day to the next, and secondly they are always geared specifically to my own peculiar improvisation rather than toward the effective performance of classical music which, to be honest, I'm not much good at. I have a shrewd notion, however, that this constantly changing variety of playing forms might have something to do with the fact that I have never experienced injuries from playing the piano. Perhaps it is not so much what exercises we do as how we do them, which brings about either improvement or damage.

Anything I say is conjecture, as I have never been trained technically at all.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline jlh

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #9 on: May 19, 2005, 08:25:48 AM »
it seems to me anything you practice at the piano must help you (unless done in a painful or ridiculously contorted way of course)

But only if you are ACTIVELY AND INTENSELY FOCUSSING on what you're doing.  Mindless repetitions won't do you any good, and in fact are actually detrimental.  We have a brain, so we need to use it.
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Offline aerlinndan

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #10 on: May 19, 2005, 01:44:32 PM »
But only if you are ACTIVELY AND INTENSELY FOCUSSING on what you're doing.  Mindless repetitions won't do you any good, and in fact are actually detrimental.  We have a brain, so we need to use it.

This is in fact what I. Phillip suggests in the opening to his ridiculous Finger Independence book. He says that it is left up to the student to do the transpositions so that the brain is  actively engaged all throughout the process. However, that's misapplied logic as well.

We know scientifically that our brains are not capable of multitasking very well. That is, if the quality of our work when we do one thing is 100%, the quality of our work when we do two things will be significantly less than 50% each. The problem, then, is that the brain has to work on two fronts in the Phillip exercise:

1) Simply hitting the notes in all the transpositions
2) Keeping the fingers relaxed and working for "independence" (whatever that is).

I guarantee you that your brain will dedicate itself to #1 first. There is both auditory and tactile negative reinforcement when you fail at number 1 and so your brain will not leave it until it's solved. And then, by the time your brain has absorbed all the different transpositions of the exercise, it has become as mundane as Hanon once again. You'll turn off your conscious brain and really get nothing from the exercise.

Putting down all the fingers and lifting one at a time is good for two things, as far as I know. The first is making sure that your brain has sufficient neural pathways to each finger to engage it. (I know I'm not being very technical.) The second is to make sure your wrist is relaxed. These two goals take thirty seconds maybe to accomplish. Any more than that and you risk injuring yourself.

Offline nomis

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #11 on: May 19, 2005, 04:07:37 PM »
Nice to see you here Aerlinndan (I'm Piano from GFF). I remember there was a discussion about Hanon on GFF and you advocated the exercises, whilst Face and others did not. You also recommeded them on Amazon. But alas, all has changed (probably for the better). Although Hanon has been discussed to death on this forum, your experience relates to the fact that people learn better pragmatically rather than logically e.g. it is easier for most people to learn Maths through answering many questions, rather than knowing the proofs and not knowing how to apply them. Bernhard discusses the pragmatic approach against the logical in this post: http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2998.msg26268.html#msg26268 . If memory serves me correctly, there's some Hanon in there too. I'm happy to see that you realised Hanon is quite useless (unless applied to a piece of course) sooner rather than later, and you can only become a better musician because of it.

Offline jlh

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #12 on: May 20, 2005, 07:54:13 AM »
This is in fact what I. Phillip suggests in the opening to his ridiculous Finger Independence book. He says that it is left up to the student to do the transpositions so that the brain is  actively engaged all throughout the process. However, that's misapplied logic as well.

We know scientifically that our brains are not capable of multitasking very well. That is, if the quality of our work when we do one thing is 100%, the quality of our work when we do two things will be significantly less than 50% each. The problem, then, is that the brain has to work on two fronts in the Phillip exercise:

1) Simply hitting the notes in all the transpositions
2) Keeping the fingers relaxed and working for "independence" (whatever that is).

I guarantee you that your brain will dedicate itself to #1 first. There is both auditory and tactile negative reinforcement when you fail at number 1 and so your brain will not leave it until it's solved. And then, by the time your brain has absorbed all the different transpositions of the exercise, it has become as mundane as Hanon once again. You'll turn off your conscious brain and really get nothing from the exercise.

Putting down all the fingers and lifting one at a time is good for two things, as far as I know. The first is making sure that your brain has sufficient neural pathways to each finger to engage it. (I know I'm not being very technical.) The second is to make sure your wrist is relaxed. These two goals take thirty seconds maybe to accomplish. Any more than that and you risk injuring yourself.

Good point.  I was not endorsing anything, just pointing out that you can't just sit at the piano, mindlessly do any exercise and expect it to do wonders for you without being actively involved mentally.

I'm not a fan of technical exercises for the simple fact that they require a lot of time and (as far as I can tell) aren't good for much except finger strength and agility, which can more effectively be accomplished by playing repertoire.  I do advocate playing scales and arpeggios, especially early in training, because those patterns are found all throughout the repertoire and we need to be able to recognize and execute them easily.  Do I practice scales and arpeggios every day? no, not always.  I probably should, though, and at one time I did have all of them flawless at 160...

Yes, the brain is indispensible when it comes to anything involving the piano, but the brain is but one link in the chain.  If our brain was responsible for everything we do, then we'd stumble all over the place because the synapse process is too slow to relay everything to the brain and back.  Example - When you're running, how does your brain know where your feet are during your stride?  Actually, your brain does not know, it is the spinal column that receives this information and sends responses to your muscles.  Consciousness of this occurs after the action.  Because of this, when practicing you use your brain to train other parts of the nervous system to act a certain way when they receive these messages.

So you see, there comes a point when you don't need to multitask, as you put it.  Once you've trained your nervous system to act a certain way, your brain is free to concentrate on other actions.  The brain should be actively engaged no matter where you are in the process, but not necessarily doing ALL the work.
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Offline jlh

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #13 on: May 20, 2005, 08:00:16 AM »
By the way, I've never seen the Phillip exercises, so you may be right about them.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #14 on: May 21, 2005, 01:59:49 AM »
These excersises are not meant to make you able to master and control pieces that you play, instead they aim to excersises particular finger movements, to strengthen what is not naturally easy to do with the hand. This of course aids in general playing of music, but it will not aid in tackling combinations of unique notes that you will find in a given peice. The excerises are very simplistic, to say that they will be a solution to a complex piece of music is treating it wrongly. They are simple so that they can lay a good basic foundation for the strength and agility of fingers.

Finger excersises for the beginner is essential to overcome common patterns that you find in music, but in the end they must learn from actual pieces to become any better as a musician. The more music you know, the better you get at playing, the more excersises you know, the more tools you have at your disposal to tackle technical difficulties in pieces you attempt. But many tools doesnt mean the work is easy, the work is still there and unchanging, that only gets easier as you practicing working more than gathering tools, if that makes any sense.

You can sharpen your tools all day long but then when you try to use any of it on pieces you will fumble and fall. Same with someone with the most top of the line surgery set in the world,  would you trust them to operate on you? Not without practicing with it!

Repetition is very important but it should be with a point. I find two real points for repetition.

1) To control the entire playing action of your body so that the physical difficulty is controlled with the most efficient movement.

This is so that when you play difficult sections you dont look like you are uncomfrotable and your hands don't undergo unnesessary stress with inefficient movement at the keyboard. With repetition if you are focusing on maintaining a very relaxed body throughout even if it is an insane passage, you are repeating with a good reason. You can progressively feel that you are becoming more and more relaxed with your repetition until you reach a maximum, then the repetition becomes obsolete.

2) To define the "best expression" for what you are playing

Some might argue that repeating a piece over and over again will make the playing in the end stale and lifeless, but if you are repeating with a reason to find the best expression then I dont think so. With multiple repetition the piece becomes more intimately known. Particular notes stand out, particular sounds, all sorts of strange things attach sentimental meaning to yourself. Of course there are those who don't feel this and just play, but I think this is my second reason for repetition. I would repeat one bar for an hour if i had to, if there was something about it which troubled me, and boy have I done that many times! I think that is more of a confidence issue then, with multiple repetitions I increase in confidence that I wont stuff it up on a peformance.
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Offline aerlinndan

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #15 on: May 21, 2005, 03:09:47 AM »
This of course aids in general playing of music, but it will not aid in tackling combinations of unique notes that you will find in a given peice. [...]

Repetition is very important but it should be with a point.

You say it will not aid in specific notes in given pieces, but it will aid in the "general playing of music." What do you mean by "general"? The way I see it, all pieces are "given pieces". When I go to perform on a recital, I'm not playing general music. I'm playing a specific piece that has specific technical difficulties. Therefore all time I use practicing Hanon and Pischna and all other general repetitive exercises are a waste of time and will do nothing to improve my repertoire, which is the only outward sign of my skill as a pianist.

The only repetition, therefore, that is going to do any good is repetition of figures taken directly from repertoire. Repetition must have a musical context or it either becomes mindless or meaningless or both.


Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #16 on: May 21, 2005, 11:10:57 PM »
I see little danger in Hanon, and others...,

I played very well long ago, doing limited concert a few times...and I used Hanon..AND many others...Lets not get too tied to any one school of playing,...other than the main one....the one YOU are personally...

John Cont

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #17 on: May 22, 2005, 12:49:34 AM »
When you create you own practice drills to target technical problems you may face in a piece you are learning and repeat those drills over and over again to move towards a more effortless touch, that is similar to like doing Hanon or any other excersise. The only difference is that the exersise you are playing has a reason since it is related to the technical passage of the piece you are having problems with.

Hanon on its own can only target general movements at the keyboard, it wasn't written so it can be used to target all piece you come across. So to you couldn't say, oh here i will use Hanon no 52 to target this piece, and then hanon no 22 to do this. Instead you learn when to use exersises to help technical problems you face in pieces, when to use it to guide your memory and how to alter them so that they have a reason and application.

Hanon or any other hand excersises unaltered, is absolutely useless in my honest opinion when you are more experienced with the piano. When you first encounter them they are very important to understand finger control and strength. But eventually you learn a great deal more about where finger control and strength comes from when playing more repertoire. As you become more advanced you must learn to develop your own excersise and with a point to target difficulties in pieces you play.

This of course doesn't mean that to tackle every single piece we have to create excercises. It just means that we have one more tool to use if we are troubled by a technical passage in music. In the end we must play what is written in the music over and over again until we master the passage, creating exercises sometimes increases the rate of memorisation and physical control.

Finger excersises in books are not written to target everything you come across, just to target general actions at the keyboard which are not easy to controlled without some initial repetitious effort with the aim to develop a relaxed touch. These general actions may be a movement between 4 and 5 for instance, which if played weakly in a piece (as it may naturally be at first for many people) then you will adversy affect the quality of sound of the piece you play. Of course there are a ton more example, but mastering just this movement will not make the passage sound perfect, although you know generally how to control the fingers in the end you must understand how to relate to it musically and in context to the piece. But it is very helpful to target physical ailments like 4/5 weakness by using Hanon for a period of time in a row, not scattered and only here and there. Careful not to dwell on them though, people once they master the excersises can't seem to move on, youc an only suck out of it so much, then it just becomes routine and you dont learn much from them anymore.

What do you mean by "general"? The way I see it, all pieces are "given pieces". When I go to perform on a recital, I'm not playing general music. I'm playing a specific piece that has specific technical difficulties.....

The only repetition, therefore, that is going to do any good is repetition of figures taken directly from repertoire. Repetition must have a musical context or it either becomes mindless or meaningless or both.

There is general form at the piano. Look at scale runs, chord progression or arpeggios for instance. These are building blocks for all music. When I play pieces I am not thinking, ok now an arpeggio so do it like this, instead you use it for the initial study of the peice then forget about them. If there is not observation of these general shapes then you will be a little more inefficient in your approach to absorb the peice imo. How to break down the music so that you can see its general form is the point. How this relates to Hanon for one example is that with improving our general movements at the keyboard (like 4/5 strength) we will be able to control pieces we play quicker and in the end become more efficient, not being troubled by the physical nature anymore, more the memory nature of things.






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Offline musicman

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #18 on: June 01, 2005, 05:54:01 AM »
I am not familiar with Pischna, and there are too many posts for me to address everything mentioned about Hanon, however I would comment on a couple of them.
1. Playing Hanon in every key. I'm not sure what this is meant to achieve except that it probably makes the music less boring and would certainly take a lot of concentration. If it's technical expertise, you can do that in the original key (C). Otherwise, you have too much time on your hands..maybe do a few keys a day.
2. Hanon being repetitious etc. The idea is to focus on the purpose of each exercise. It will be mind-numbing if you play too much of it. According to the authors, an hour is required to play The Virtuoso Pianist from cover to cover. I find that hard to believe as it takes me 30 minutes just to play Exercise 21 to 30 (with repeats, and at a tempo of about 90..MM is marked up to 108)...and there are 60 altogether (over the 3 volumes).

I play Exercises 21 to 30 as they are good for the 3rd 4th and 5th fingers.

I'm not mounting a case in favour of Hanon, but I don't think they should be dismissed.

Rachmaninov practised Hanon too, so there must be something going for them.

Offline shoshin

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #19 on: June 01, 2005, 10:15:56 PM »
I am so glad I found this forum and this post so I will never have to waste my time on Hanon.  If Hanon wrote that pianists should pick up their bench and do aerobic excercises with it, I bet you'd have a bunch of people doing it and saying how its helped their piano technique.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #20 on: June 12, 2005, 06:41:52 PM »
Well,

I simply do not believe a properly approached and executed Hanon study is a waste, and am even more amazed at the number of experts in this thread...I wonder that all of you wouldn't complete your own material, and make your just dues from sales!!!

In the meantime, may I suggest that Hanon serves well for some, in particular those that saw at the onset that "all keys" is a wasted effort...It would mean nothing for the purpose of Hanon, which is aimed at a few specifics, the most important being the more EQUAL ability of all dexter application...

John Cont

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #21 on: June 12, 2005, 07:15:26 PM »
Well,

I simply do not believe a properly approached and executed Hanon study is a waste,

The problem is that it is usually not explained how to approach Hanon "properly." many people (including teachers) simply follow the instructions in the preface, which definitely is not "proper."

In terms of waste, the argument against Hanon is that the issues addressed by Hanon can also be addressed by playing Bach, Scarlatti, etc., in short by playing "real" music. The claim is that, overall, playing real music gives you more "bang for the buck" than doing purely technical exercises.

Quote
In the meantime, may I suggest that Hanon serves well for some, in particular those that saw at the onset that "all keys" is a wasted effort...It would mean nothing for the purpose of Hanon, which is aimed at a few specifics, the most important being the more EQUAL ability of all dexter application...

John Cont

Nice try, but Hanon's idea of achieveing equal dexterity for all fingers is anatomically impossible. This is the single most crushing argument against Hanon; which brings us back to what "proper execution" means. If one plays the patterns in Hanon (or any other music) in the proper way, then it becomes a personal choice. Some people prefer technical exercises, others prefer real pieces.

Rachmaninov practised Hanon too, so there must be something going for them.

Yes, he also put his pants on starting with the left leg, and Gould sat hunched over the keyboard with his legs crossed, so we should all do this :P

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #22 on: June 12, 2005, 09:24:22 PM »
Another expert it would seem........,

We find it to be "anatomically impossible"....You have a reasonable source for the statement? I demand it...It is not as if such has not been stated before; and denied...May we assume you have a degree in orthopedics? I simply do not know except from my own experience, and to that I give much credence....it has worked for me..

As to the other statements, I need only your antecedents to help me accept them, but you either give none, or I missed them, in which case please refer me to the proper source again...I simply do not know which leg I should start my pants on...

I am not without an understanding of some of the devotees of different ideas ..and members here as well...It is so at all forums, and many change their source and server, even having a friend run material to prevent tracing...I assume such is not the case with Xvimbi..or any other respondant PERIOD..., but we all seem to want to keep our secrets, so we should include our documentation from other sources in our statements...if we want to make the best and most positive impression.

Abain, I am a sometimes observer and only recently a member, so I havn't a handle on previous material; it is too voluminous to cover it all...If I have missed something so be it....

John Cont

Offline bernhard

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #23 on: June 12, 2005, 09:41:32 PM »
Another expert it would seem........,

We find it to be "anatomically impossible"....You have a reasonable source for the statement? I demand it...It is not as if such has not been stated before; and denied...May we assume you have a degree in orthopedics? I simply do not know except from my own experience, and to that I give much credence....it has worked for me..

As to the other statements, I need only your antecedents to help me accept them, but you either give none, or I missed them, in which case please refer me to the proper source again...I simply do not know which leg I should start my pants on...


Credentials, statements and sources are quite frankly irrelevant. Ideas should be able to stand on their own merit, not because some "authority" voiced them. History is full of examples of "authorities" with many letters after their names making asses of themselves. And many times the truth came out from the most unexpected quarters. So, as I have said before, when a finger points to the moon, it is not in one's best interests to go out enquiring about the finger. ;)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

P.S. Read Hanon's preface where he gives detailed instructions on how to do the exercises, and you will see that his instructions do not make anatomical sense. This should be documentation enough.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #24 on: June 12, 2005, 10:09:55 PM »
Another expert it would seem........,

Oh, one does not have to be an expert to understand some simple issues.

Quote
We find it to be "anatomically impossible"....You have a reasonable source for the statement? I demand it...It is not as if such has not been stated before; and denied...May we assume you have a degree in orthopedics? I simply do not know except from my own experience, and to that I give much credence....it has worked for me..

Congratulations, you are an anatomical miracle! Look into any anatomy book, or ask any medical student/doctor about which tendons control the motions of the fingers and you will realize right away that finger independence is impossible. Do yourself a favor and look into that. For starters, check out http://www.bartleby.com/107/126.html. You will see right away that fingers 3, 4 and 5 share tendons. That's why they can't be independent. I have given you the reference, the rest is up to you.

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As to the other statements, I need only your antecedents to help me accept them, but you either give none, or I missed them, in which case please refer me to the proper source again...I simply do not know which leg I should start my pants on...

Sorry, your language is sometimes difficult to understand for me. What would my antecedents be able to tell you? Both my father and my mother don't know much about this topic. My further antecedents are no longer alive.

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I am not without an understanding of some of the devotees of different ideas ..and members here as well...It is so at all forums, and many change their source and server, even having a friend run material to prevent tracing...I assume such is not the case with Xvimbi..or any other respondant PERIOD..., but we all seem to want to keep our secrets, so we should include our documentation from other sources in our statements...if we want to make the best and most positive impression.

Abain, I am a sometimes observer and only recently a member, so I havn't a handle on previous material; it is too voluminous to cover it all...If I have missed something so be it....

Indeed. We have had countless threads about this topic. The fact that there are still people who are misinformed requires us to constantly state the same things over and over again.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #25 on: June 13, 2005, 08:22:18 AM »
We are in fact, all anatomical miracles,

For, in fact the cross tendons do make playing a keyboard a difficult task for a human. However, I am speaking in relative terms, as in fact a grip meter shows that the separate fingers can be trained for great strength by exercise, as used by the growing sport of rock climbing. It has been shown that the forth and fifth fingers are capable of a greater strength level than previously thought. (We will get to dexterity).

As to antecedent, we speak here of that which has gone before, the correct use of the term...and in fact I was seeking your other material dealing with personal experience only...a common use of the term. It is simply that I likely have missed much of your material on Hanon in the past...I was not here.

Now, as to the material in the Hanon preface, we need not read it in unison to see that only in his note on exercise two, does he make a difficult statement, one that is usually quoted...  "render them as strong and agile as the second and third"...(In speaking of the forth and fifth...surely not possible..).

Even when the base to tip length is considered, (As this distance is much less, equal strength for the span requires less tissue...), it is true EQUAL strength is not a possibility..The statement would seem to me to be relative only, and surely you agree...I don't think there was any intent by the author to mislead, but in relative terms, they may be near equal.

In the preface in particular, such a statement is not made...Those such as "absolutely equally well-trained", and .."perfect evenness.." (perhaps overstated but surely a possible goal...), and .."left hand equal to the right..." etc. etc. The statement for EQUAL strength is not made...and is not a part of the preface in any way.

We are left with equal facility, or execution, and that goal is within reach at least in a relative way, and a lot of users of Hanon suggest it to be an approachable goal for many..To require an absolute definition of "equal" in terms of human anatomy is of course not reasonable..It seems to me to be understood. Surely we are aware that the design of the hand, a marvelous combination of suspension and cantilever devices, leaves us in a bit of a problem for using a keyboard...in particular the base of the extensors for the second, third and forth fingers, which are dependant upon one another...hence a real problem for true "equality"... (It might also be pointed out that the word dexterity, from dextris,  is not used, and would refer to the right hand if it was, sinistris being the Latin base word for the left hand...Hanon intended the hands to be equal..)

Put another way, were an engineer to design a duplicate to be used to control a keyboard, it would be a much different design, but then the hand does many tasks for which it is well suited...It must learn difficult tasks to play the piano well...

My contention is that your straight statement of impossibility is overstated in line with the intent of the material prepared in the exercises...Human results in anatomy are not that easily captured; nor should they be...and we surely are all certain that Hanon never meant any true exactness as we might measure with scientific equipment.

As a result I still believe it becomes a matter of personal desire and pref. regarding the use of Hanon, or for that matter, any other special skill development tool...For this reason I drop the subject, as it is of course obvious you dislike Hanon...Probably very much...However it is still widely used, and with good results, so some realize success with it...

John Cont

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #26 on: June 13, 2005, 02:44:26 PM »
For, in fact the cross tendons do make playing a keyboard a difficult task for a human. However, I am speaking in relative terms, as in fact a grip meter shows that the separate fingers can be trained for great strength by exercise, as used by the growing sport of rock climbing. It has been shown that the forth and fifth fingers are capable of a greater strength level than previously thought. (We will get to dexterity).

I am a rock climber myself. Yes, it is possible to increase the strength of any finger. However, this is besides the point. Everyone has enough strength to play the piano without doing further strengthening exercises. The issue is how to make good use of that strength and whether it is possible to truly direct force to each individual finger without affecting any other finger. This is clearly not the case without involving arms, shoulders and even the torso. Hence, there cannot be true finger independence by definition and any attempts to achieve it through exercises that focus on the fingers only are ill-conceived.

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We are left with equal facility, or execution, and that goal is within reach at least in a relative way, and a lot of users of Hanon suggest it to be an approachable goal for many..To require an absolute definition of "equal" in terms of human anatomy is of course not reasonable..It seems to me to be understood.

Not so. This topic keeps coming up over and over again, because many people have an incomplete or entirely wrong picture of how the human playing apparatus works. If you stick around long enough or read previous posts on this topic you will see. Often, someone writes in saying “I put my hand down flat on a table and try to lift my fingers as high up in the air as possible, but despite doing so for months, I still have problems with my fourth finger”, and similar. Likewise, “I am doing these Schmitt exercises, lifting each finger in turn while all the others press down on the keys. I am in pain. What is going on?” It is clearly not “understood.”

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Surely we are aware that the design of the hand, a marvelous combination of suspension and cantilever devices, leaves us in a bit of a problem for using a keyboard...in particular the base of the extensors for the second, third and forth fingers, which are dependant upon one another...hence a real problem for true "equality"... (It might also be pointed out that the word dexterity, from dextris,  is not used, and would refer to the right hand if it was, sinistris being the Latin base word for the left hand...Hanon intended the hands to be equal..)

Now, you are overdoing it a bit. The term “dexterity” primarily refers to “Manual or manipulative skill, adroitness, neat-handedness; hence, address in the use of the limbs and in bodily movements generally.”, and is not used to distinguish left from right, unless used as a synonym for “right-handedness.”

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My contention is that your straight statement of impossibility is overstated in line with the intent of the material prepared in the exercises...Human results in anatomy are not that easily captured; nor should they be...and we surely are all certain that Hanon never meant any true exactness as we might measure with scientific equipment.

As I stated above, you will find many people believe that it is possible to achieve true finger independence by moving the fingers only. This is how they approach Hanon. Remember all those neat exercises with coins on the top of the hand? They are based on these misconceptions.

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As a result I still believe it becomes a matter of personal desire and pref. regarding the use of Hanon, or for that matter, any other special skill development tool...For this reason I drop the subject, as it is of course obvious you dislike Hanon...Probably very much...However it is still widely used, and with good results, so some realize success with it...

If you read my posts on this topic you will see that I exactly state that there is nothing inherently wrong with practicing the patterns in Hanon’s book, or any pattern for that matter, as long as the exercises are carried out properly (this includes leaving out a few.) I further say that there are other ways to acquire technique, and that it comes down to personal preference.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #27 on: June 13, 2005, 05:48:24 PM »
Hello xvimbi,

Thank you for your kind answers...

John Cont

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #28 on: June 13, 2005, 06:01:46 PM »
If I may be heard,

Don't discard your Hanon and Czerny too quickly; you may well be sorry later...

John Cont

Offline Torp

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #29 on: June 13, 2005, 07:30:48 PM »
If I may be heard,

Don't discard your Hanon and Czerny too quickly; you may well be sorry later...

John Cont

Of what would I be sorry?
Don't let your music die inside you.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #30 on: June 14, 2005, 01:52:56 AM »
Indeed Torp, well you may ask,

I would however, like to apologize for allowing myself to become angry over opinion; It is never wise, and I fear I forgot. It was not my intention to ever denigrate any other person, and I hope this will be accepted in the spirit in which it is presented.

For a certainty, I will not delve into the murkiness of Hanon on this forum again. It accomplishes little of use...

Again, My Apology.

John Cont

Offline Torp

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #31 on: June 14, 2005, 01:39:39 PM »
For a certainty, I will not delve into the murkiness of Hanon on this forum again. It accomplishes little of use...

I have often found that delving into the depths of many a murky subject accomplishes one very important thing, it solidifies how one feels about the subject.  Rarely do I see minds changed via reasoned discourse.  Though I must admit, I have seen very little reasoned discourse in my short time on earth.

As a latecomer to the discussion I see no reason for which an apology should be promulgated on your part, or anyone's part for that matter.  Additionally, I hate to see someone who feels they cannot voice their opinion.  While we may personally disagree on the value or uses of anything, our opinions are just that.  We should be able to share them freely and let others decide which information makes the most sense to them.

And...I truly was asking, of what would I be sorry.  I realize you have decided to not further this discussion, but my question was asked in all sincerity.

Jef
Don't let your music die inside you.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #32 on: June 14, 2005, 04:39:22 PM »
Hi Jef,

And I do understand you were being serious, but I was a bit tired of something...It was myself.

I realized to work with obviously intelligent people to manage working a semi-debate situation I was going to need to do a lot more research, and....I got lazy...That is not to say I won't look at this whole issue with a new set of thoughts and ideas....and perhaps I will solidify them as well. I just don't have the time to give it my best effort, as I have pending some important occurences in my life that demand my attention.

In truth, even though I had read much of the material in the period before I became active, I had no idea such riposte would be a part of discussion; I was not prepared for it. I need to feel secure in speaking to people on a reasonable basis...I have to work on that. I often have to give myself a quick backhand; I am used to students who really believed in me, and what I said...as I was a music director and also taught adv. mathemetics for a time...all areas of respect..I have to remind myself that forum inhabitants don't know me, or I, them...

In the end, I believe I will be a reader for a while, but I will not leave this behind; I found Hanon useful, and I know others have as well. I will be taking a closer look and that is for certain....I am interested in, for example, the exercises others found less useful, and even a possible detriment...And I want to know more about why some dislike it so extremely...

Perhaps I will be in touch again; in the meantime, I look with considerable interest at the contents of this forum...It is of a level in general, to inspire members to look more closely at their own attempts...and that is good...

Best,   John Cont


Offline Torp

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #33 on: June 14, 2005, 06:50:07 PM »
Thanks for the reply John.   Hope to see you back posting soon.

Jef
Don't let your music die inside you.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #34 on: June 16, 2005, 02:10:35 AM »
This is a thread I have a problem with...

John Cont

Offline aerlinndan

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #35 on: June 17, 2005, 05:03:16 PM »
::raises hand::

Guilty.

I look forward to when you choose to resume your discussions on this topic, Mr. Cont. I will most certainly be here waiting for you in the meantime.

Peace,
Mike

Offline Dazzer

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #36 on: June 22, 2005, 03:30:12 PM »
Well okay lets put it this way.

In the beginning, we learnt math. We start off with 1+1=2. but from there you don't straight away get the idea that 1+2=3, or 2+6=8. You only know 1+1=2. So? Next you have to understand the concept of + by practising 1+2=3, 2+2=4,2+3=5. Only then will you know how to understand 2+2, 3+5 etc. Next you move on to the -.  This is Hanon.

Then eventually, you move on to more complex stuff. 1+3-2. This is a combination of the two. Soon you understand how to utilise the basic knowledge you gained before, and put them together. This is Czerny.

As you go on further, soon you'll get (1+3) - 2 *20 -3. More complicated than before, utilising a lot more of your knowledge. This is your standard repetoire.

So? What i'm saying is , Hanon only teaches the basics. Focussing directly on a single lesson. No1 (c e f g a g f e) is separating 1/2, 5/4, for example.(i think) But there's no point in practising it over and over and over again, if you cannot APPLY it to more complex situations. So that's where czerny is needed. It still focuses on a specific lesson. But not JUST that lesson. You're still required to use other things learnt.

Then when you've finally learnt how to apply these things, can you be able to function on  an individual level. And if you're saying Hanon helps you with strength, i'm sure you could find some other way of training strength. Hanon isn't the only way.

that's my opinion :D

Offline aerlinndan

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #37 on: June 23, 2005, 02:16:26 AM »
Dazzer,

I think your mathematical parallel to how one learns the piano is applicable and important. I am a student of mathematics and I understand the importance of building a strong foundation off which to build the rest of your skills.

However, I still maintain that Hanon is not the 1+1=2 of piano playing. As basic as 1+1=2 is, it's still actual math. It is fundamental but the basic concepts of math are all included in there: summation, counting, an equality sign, and two balanced sides of an equation. Instead, I propose that the very simple pieces in the Bach notebooks, and the Burnam books, are the best idea for a first foray into music. Learning technique isolated from everything else still does not seem to me to be a good idea, especially for beginners, and I have yet to hear a decent esponse to this statement.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #38 on: June 23, 2005, 02:17:47 PM »
Hello again,

I must make one additional apology, as it has come up in personal mail.

This is the place where I need to express regret for a specific attitude and direction of comment that I took on this subject...It was to say, ignoring reason, that a person might be sorry in the future if they stopped technical exercises. ::) Such a statement seems to assume many things incorrectly, and it was a serious mistake.

I did it in anger and without regard for others, as I found such rigidity in some respondants, I just wanted to get something in that was positive...and that those members might ignore...

I am not interested in communication with ideologues on this subject any more; to be frank, the anger and general personal attacts have even brought me a few sleepless nights, (but of course that is my problem only..). I will make no other claims in any way.

I do intend to make simple comments when I think I have something to say, and a reason to say it...Including on this subject.

Thank You,   John

Offline ame

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #39 on: June 23, 2005, 07:46:04 PM »
Rachmaninov practised Hanon too, so there must be something going for them.

I don't know if you were aware of this, but Rachmaninov was also an injured pianist.  There is no inherent value in what a great pianist included in his routine, and that is said humbly, not arrogantly.  I am not advocating throwing out all experience from past pianists, but would point out that perhaps one of the lessons we need to learn from them are the dangers of the many misconceptions involving technical skill.

For most pianists (or any musician for that matter), it takes being injured to come to a real understanding of what your body is doing while you play.  I speak from personal experience :-\ 
The amount of repetition playing the piano requires is greater than just about any other activity.  Every pianist needs to understand what is happening every time they strike a note, and I don't believe anyone who does fully understand the anatomy involved can strongly support what are esentially meaningless repetitions.  Because of the amount of repetition involved, we ought to carefully consider every exercise we choose to practice.  My observation is that practicing the technique involved with each specific piece we'd like to master is the strongest use of a pianist's time.  And then what we must practice is not necessarily more and more repetition of it, but purposefully choosing the movements involved, and rehearsing those.

See "What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body"  by Thomas Mark.  This is an extremely valuable resource for any pianist, those who have been injured or those who have not (yet).

I never understood the concepts behind what my arms, fingers, wrists, shoulders, and every other part of my body were doing while I played until I was forced to consider them.
I write this in hopes to spur at least some pianists to learn about their body...I wish someone had told me about some of this before I injured myself.  It's vital!

Best wishes,
ame 

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #40 on: June 25, 2005, 09:00:25 PM »
Interesting subject, ("What every pianist needs to know...etc"),

But in my own hunting, the text doesn't make ANY points about any particular methodology accept as it regards the overall re-training for natural technique, from the reviews I have found. The implications of T. Mark, the author, seem to be that it is IMPROPER use of the hand and wrist for ANY playing, that causes most injury...(as well as seat height, forearm position, and wrist alignment...)

I am looking for more info. and approval before I lay down the requisite purchase price...Does anyone have more info?

Best,  John

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #41 on: June 25, 2005, 09:20:52 PM »
Interesting subject, ("What every pianist needs to know...etc"),

But in my own hunting, the text doesn't make ANY points about any particular methodology accept as it regards the overall re-training for natural technique, from the reviews I have found. The implications of T. Mark, the author, seem to be that it is IMPROPER use of the hand and wrist for ANY playing, that causes most injury...(as well as seat height, forearm position, and wrist alignment...)

I am looking for more info. and approval before I lay down the requisite purchase price...Does anyone have more info?

Best,  John

Thomas Mark's book, for me, was a big eye opener. Having had all sorts of injuries (including carpal tunnel syndrome) from rock climbing, piano playing, computer work and just every-day life, I wanted to know more about the human body in general and the bio-mechanics of piano playing. Thomas Mark's book contains a reasonably thorough introduction into anatomy and physiology and how all this pertains to piano playing. Although the text doesn't contain anything that would surprise a medical doctor, it sure will surprise many a pianist. It does clarify a lot of myths that are very common among pianists. He then goes on to explain very nicely the main reasons why pianists get injured and what one can do to avoid injury as well as recover from it. One will find many concepts that are at the heart of the Alexander Technique and the Taubman school.

When people in this forum ask about books, I always recommend this one as one of the first books to get (in addition to the classics, such as Fink, Bernstein and Sandor). This is particularly important, considering that the majority of pianists have injuries. In my opinion, one should get acquainted with the human playing apparatus before playing the first note, or at least at the same time.

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #42 on: June 26, 2005, 01:28:53 AM »
Thanks for kind replys,

I must take time with this, and I know it...One can hardly play at all and not be aware, and I have read the literature. I have some texts in my posession...

Perhaps it suggests a better day may be dawning for the piano, and by reflection all instruments, as the subject is a part of many piano boards now, and a number of new texts are available. I regret not directing my comments toward this subject and it's ramifications instead of becoming "bogged down" as it were, with Hanon and Czerny...

John

Offline Nightscape

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #43 on: June 26, 2005, 04:56:33 AM »
In my experience, there is nothing better to illustrate the deception of Hanon than a parable.  So here goes.

"YOUNG GOOLAHWILLEEEL used to go out hunting every day. His mother and sisters always expected that he would bring home kangaroo and emu for them. But each day he came home without any meat at all. They asked him what he did in the bush, as he evidently did not hunt. He said that he did hunt.

"Then why," said they, "do you bring us nothing home?"

"I cannot catch and kill what I follow," he said. "You hear me cry out when I find kangaroo or emu; is it not so?"

"Yes; each day we hear you call when you find something, and each day we get ready the fire, expecting you to bring home the spoils of the chase, but you bring nothing."

"To-morrow," he said, "you shall not be disappointed. I will bring you a kangaroo."

Every day, instead of hunting, Goolahwilleel had been gathering wattle-gum, and with this he had been modelling a kangaroo-a perfect model of one, tail, ears, and all complete. So the next day he came towards the camp carrying this kangaroo made of gum. Seeing him coming, and also seeing that he was carrying the promised kangaroo, his mother and sisters said: "Ah, Goolahwilleel spoke truly. He has kept his word, and now brings us a kangaroo. Pile up the fire. To-night we shall eat meat."

About a hundred yards away from the camp Goolahwilleel put down his model, and came on without it. His mother called out: "Where is the kangaroo you brought home?

"Oh, over there." And he pointed towards where he had left it.

The sisters ran to get it, but came back saying: "Where is it? We cannot see it."

"Over there," he said, pointing again.

"But there is only a great figure of gum there."

"Well, did I say it was anything else? Did I not say it was gum?"

"No, you did not. You said it was a kangaroo."

"And so it is a kangaroo. A beautiful kangaroo that I made all by myself." And he smiled quite proudly to think what a fine kangaroo he had made.

But his mother and sisters did not smile. They seized him and gave him a good beating for deceiving them. They told him he should never go out alone again, for he only played instead of hunting, though he knew they starved for meat. They would always in the future go with him.

And so for ever the Goolahwilleels went in flocks, never more singly, in search of food."

Offline Dazzer

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #44 on: June 26, 2005, 06:58:44 AM »
Funny... i don't get it :D

Offline c18cont

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #45 on: June 26, 2005, 10:54:46 AM »
I assume back to the orig. title of this thread, A somewhat contentious issue ;) :-X :-X

John


Offline dveej

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #46 on: June 29, 2005, 12:19:22 PM »
Jumping into the Pischna fray....

I never did Pischan at all, but did Hanon as an adolescent about twenty years ago. After getting to the point where I would play through the whole of Hanon (not transposed) once every day for a couple of months, I dropped it and never went back to it. I think having gone through Hanon was beneficial, especially because it made me do scales better than I had done them before, and also because the last few exercises like the tremolo gave me a lot of confidence.

So I have this idea that Hanon is something one should do for a little while, and then move on. Maybe it's just true for me. I think that there are a lot of things in piano which one should do for a while and then move on from.

Now I am taking lessons again and am working harder than I ever have before. My teacher is more conservative than teachers I have had in the past, and she wants me to do Pischna. So I have been doing it for about a week now: she assigned the first five exercises, so I have been playing one exercise a day -- not putting rhythmic variations on it or anything, just playing it through.

Even though it's only been a short time, I think I notice a big difference in one of my pieces: Beethoven Sonata no. 14 no. 1 in E Major, Ist Mvt., m.s 39 to 44. When I started this piece about two months ago, the right hand of these measures was difficult to play cleanly because it has a turn G# F# E#F#, with RH fingers 4 3 2 3, which must be played with the upper part of the RH while the lower part of the RH is playing something else. After one week of Pischna, I seem to be able to play these measures and this turn with much more clarity and control. I think it may be psychological: but it is undeniable that Pischna makes one get one's fingers into tight little squeezes and work out the kinks.

All my life I have been around musicians who vehemently insist that technique must be tied to and dependent on the music itself. Many people today say that any exercises you do should come from the music, so that the technique will be a means to expression rather than mechanical emotionless exercises.

I think this is mostly true...but then I remember growing up and learning scales. At some point I had to learn the dang scale, and after the intitial interest of the new idea of scales, it simply wasn't all that musically expressive to play notes ascending and descending. Sure, I make my students today do crescendo/diminuendo, and diminuendo/crescendo, and staccato, and contrary motion, and all kinds of things with their scales. But it is never going to be as much music as there is in even two measures of any Chopin piece.

My point is, I think there IS a place (not a huge one) for some mechanical technique exercises. Thins like Hanon and Pischna may be something it is good to have gone through once in one's pianistic life, and then you won't have to do it again.

I read about how Richter said he never did scales or arpeggios, and I find it hard to believe. I am still trying to keep an open mind about the merits of Pischna (when I first looked at it I groaned), but so far it has already had one tangible benefit, even after only a week. Time (and possible injuries?) will tell...

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #47 on: June 29, 2005, 02:02:59 PM »
Even though it's only been a short time, I think I notice a big difference in one of my pieces: Beethoven Sonata no. 14 no. 1 in E Major, Ist Mvt., m.s 39 to 44. When I started this piece about two months ago, the right hand of these measures was difficult to play cleanly because it has a turn G# F# E#F#, with RH fingers 4 3 2 3, which must be played with the upper part of the RH while the lower part of the RH is playing something else. After one week of Pischna, I seem to be able to play these measures and this turn with much more clarity and control. I think it may be psychological: but it is undeniable that Pischna makes one get one's fingers into tight little squeezes and work out the kinks.

My point is, I think there IS a place (not a huge one) for some mechanical technique exercises. Thins like Hanon and Pischna may be something it is good to have gone through once in one's pianistic life, and then you won't have to do it again.
tell...

Now, this is a perfect example for the "alternative approach": don't you think that an exercise based on the problem spot in your Beethoven sonata would have solved your problems as well? You could have designed your own little exercise that addresses just that one issue. Perhaps you were lucky that those Pischna exercises helped you in that respect, but very likely, they won't help you in a lot of other situations.

So, I completely agree that exercises are important, but I think they should be taylored to specific problems. I think that way they are much less boring (because there is a clear purpose), and they are much more efficient (because they address a very specific, real-world issue).

Offline dveej

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #48 on: June 30, 2005, 05:41:00 AM »
Well, xvimbi, my immediate reaction to your post about taking the difficult piece and making an exercise out of it is:
1) that's what most people say to do, and it's what I usually do with my own students--but in this case I have been working on this music for a couple of months now, and only in the last week (since starting Pischna) have I suddenly felt better able to do it. So all the little exercises I had made up for myself don't seem to have caused the breakthrough that I have experienced after one week of Pischna.
2) this could all be cumulative, combining the benefits of something else I am doing but don't know with the "take the exercise from the music" exercises I have been doing with this Beethoven. there is no real way to know what has worked -- it just seems that Pischna gave me a little nudge, but who knows? it could be any number of things -- my biorhythm, or Jesus loves me, or my Mars is in Jupiter, or whatever.

I think that music is an art precisely because there are many things that are not quantifiable, and we as musicians must try to be smart and listen to other musicians who have done things we want to do, and ask those musicians what it is they did, and how they feel about having done it, and do they feel that it was beneficial, or somewhat beneficial but with some bad side effects, or....?
So this is just something else I'm trying, primarily because my teacher recommended it, and if I'm going to keep paying her, I should at least try what she recommends, don't you agree?  :-\

Offline xvimbi

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Re: The Case Against Hanon and Pischna
«Reply #49 on: June 30, 2005, 11:48:11 AM »
So this is just something else I'm trying, primarily because my teacher recommended it, and if I'm going to keep paying her, I should at least try what she recommends, don't you agree?  :-\

Ah, money! Now, there is a factor that we haven't discussed at all yet in the context of technical exercises ;D

Well, as I usually say: if it works it works. Fair enough :)