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How to use Hanon's piano exercises: The Virtuoso Pianist

Mizue Murakami

Several Hanon's piano exercises

We (Galaxy Music Notes) have free piano exercises by Charles Hanon, "The Virtuoso Pianist" from No. 1 through No. 37. They are useful. However, many people probably don't know how to use them and benefit from those exercises. So, today, I would like to discuss that. 

Most editions (publications) of The Virtuoso Pianist have the recommendation for how to use them. And many of the recommendations probably came from Charles Hanon himself. Some might have been edited a little. But most of them say that start practicing them slowly and increase the tempo up to 108 per minute (quarter note base). 

My opinion about the tempo on Hanon exercises is that it's better always to practice slowly. I don't think there is much of a benefit from practicing these exercises fast. It'll just make your forearms stiffer especially if you are not warmed up properly. And also you burn too much of your energy that you actually want to preserve to practice more important things later. And practicing extremely slowly will help you lift each finger each time you finish hitting a key to go to the next key with a next finger. Lifting is where you actually strengthen your muscle, not pressing down. It's better to lift slowly just like when you lift a heavy-weight at a gym. I think that Hanon's exercises are more for strengthening exercises. 

I want to mention another thing that I suggest piano students and players who are using Hanon exercises. I haven't seen any publication mentioning this. But it's better to exercise hands separately. If you play it hands together, you are not going to be able to hear if your hands are playing it evenly and consistently. In the exercises from No. 1 through No. 37, you play the same notes at the same time. Therefore, it's hard to assess how each hand is doing. So, even though it takes a longer time, it's better to do the exercises hands separately at least until you can play the exercise evenly with one hand. 

The last thing I need to mention is that Hanon's exercises are not meant for warm-up. Again this is my personal opinion. Other people may have the opposite say about it. But because I believe that these exercises are meant for strengthening and developing independence and dexterity, your forearms should be already warmed up. You also need to be mentally "warmed-up" and ready to focus on your strengthening exercises. I talk about this in another blog, "Hanon's piano exercises are not for warming up." Please take a look. 

So, the take-aways for today's blog are: 

  • Don't use Hanon's piano exercises for warming up.
  • Practice always slowly and lift each finger when you go to the next note to do a strengthening exercise. Increasing the tempo is not necessary.
  • Practice hands separately to make sure each hand is playing evenly and clearly. 

 We provide FREE "The Virtuoso Pianist" by Charles Hanon. 

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