The Benefits of Hanon Exercises for Piano Players

By Jesse Preis
Learn the Benefits of Hanon Exercises for Piano Players.

Are you familiar with the Hanon piano exercises? Learn all about Hanon exercises and see them in the videos below

Are you familiar with The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises by C.L. Hanon? This collection of exercises has been a popular resource for piano teachers, piano students, and professional performers for approximately 150 years. They are great warm-ups for everyday practice and can be used to further develop your technique as a pianist. Below, we will discuss the benefits of Hanon exercises and give tips on how to use them in your daily practice!

What are Hanon piano exercises?

Charles-Louis Hanon was a French composer and piano teacher who lived from 1819 until 1900. In 1873, C.L. Hanon published his most famous compilation of exercises, which are still used today. This compilation is known as The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises. The Virtuoso Pianist is meant to equally train each of a pianist’s fingers in strength, speed, precision, and agility, as well as train the wrists in flexibility. Hanon recommended practicing these exercises everyday in order to gain and maintain their benefits.

The 60 exercises within this collection are designed to prepare a student for daily practice and the challenges of their musical repertoire.

  • Exercises 1-20 are labeled as “preparatory exercises” and are used to develop finger independence and strength.
  • Exercises 21- 43 are labeled as “further exercises for the development of a virtuoso technique.” Since these exercises are more difficult and include technical challenges such as arpeggios and scales, they are intended to be practiced after mastering the first 20 exercises.
  • The final exercises, numbers 44-60, are labeled as “virtuoso exercises for mastering the greatest technical difficulties.” Again, these exercises are intended to be practiced after mastering the first 43 exercises. These exercises focus on more difficult technical topics, such as tremolos, scales in octaves and thirds, repeated notes and repeated double notes, and so on. 

Are Hanon exercises useful? What are the benefits of Hanon exercises?

Are Hanon exercises useful? The answer is, yes! Hanon exercises are useful in many ways: they are excellent daily warm-ups, they strengthen and coordinate the muscles of the fingers and the wrist, and they help pianists develop a clear and even tone.

What are the benefits of Hanon exercises? 

  • Strength – Through repetition and a correct approach, the fingers will learn to play patterns that strengthen the muscles of each finger and therefore improve finger independence. Remember to review your Piano Posture Checklist (included below) as you practice Hanon exercises to ensure that you are receiving the full benefits.
  • Speed – As you develop your finger independence and strength, it will be easier to increase the tempo of your performance. 
  • Precision – Through daily practice and review of your Piano Posture Checklist (included below), you will notice that it becomes easier to play the correct pitches.
  • Agility – Not only will your ability to move quickly and easily improve, but so will your ability to think quickly.
  • Flexibility – Through daily practice, your wrist and fingers will gain flexibility.
  • Development of Tone – Daily practice will allow you to play each note with a clear and musical tone.

When practicing the Hanon exercises, make sure to review your Piano Posture Checklist! Remember: anytime you play, it is super important to establish great piano posture. 

  • Bench position – Make sure that you aren’t sitting too close to the keyboard. This leads to tight elbows and extra tension. If you find that you are sitting too closely, pull your bench back so that your elbows are positioned comfortably in front of your torso. Also, make sure that your bench is high enough so that your forearm is parallel with the floor. This means that your forearm should look level and relaxed. If you don’t have an adjustable bench, you can sit on a cushion or folded blanket.
  • Tall back – Equally important to bench positioning is making sure that you have a tall back with relaxed shoulders. As you practice, pay attention to your shoulders. Are they coming up as you play? If so, you have some extra tension, so make sure that they remain relaxed.
  • Arm weight – One way to feel your natural arm weight is to take one of your arms, rest it upon your leg in a relaxed manner, and pick it up with your other hand. You can also ask a friend or family member to help you with this. After your arm is picked up, drop the arm and see if it falls naturally back to your leg. If the arm stays or has a controlled fall, ask yourself to release the muscles that are engaged in holding the arm up. When it falls naturally back to your leg, you are feeling the weight of your arm! Gravity does a lot of the work for you as you practice piano. Instead of thinking about playing with your fingers and pushing down each key, allow gravity and your natural arm weight to help you drop into each key. 
  • Hand and finger shape – Remember that you want your fingers to have a naturally curved shape. You don’t want them overly curved, because this means that you are locking your fingers into a tense position. You also don’t want them to lay out flat, since this makes it difficult to play. You are aiming for a natural and relaxed curved shape. As you play, make sure that the joints of your fingers remain in this curved position and don’t let your fingers collapse inward. Keeping your fingers in this shape allows for maximum articulation and control. 

Now that you have checked off your Piano Posture Checklist, you are ready to practice Hanon exercises!

Hanon Exercise 1

To play this exercise, make sure that your hands are in the correct starting position. For our starting positions, we will refer to the exercise as displayed in the Junior Hanon edition. In this edition, the right hand begins with finger one (the thumb) on middle C. Our left hand begins with finger 5 (the pinky) on low C. 

Notice that the next note is a skip higher for both hands, but it is extremely important to pay attention to the finger numbers written above and below the notes. The right hand will play the second note with finger 2 (the pointer finger) and the left hand will play it with finger 4 (the ring finger). This means that there will be a minor stretch in between the first two notes for both hands. Don’t leave your fingers in that position after playing, but make sure that you relax your hands so they return to a natural shape. This avoids any unnecessary tension. 

After this skip, your fingers will just step up from one to the next until you reach the right hand pinky and the left hand thumb. Then, they’ll step back to your right hand thumb and left hand pinky.

Following this, the exercise repeats. Notice how this allows your hands and fingers to move up the keyboard!

Pay attention to the pattern represented in the notes. Notice that half way through the exercise, the pattern inverts and goes down the keyboard. Again, pay attention to the finger numbers and notes.

TIPS: As you practice, I recommend practicing hands separately first, then putting the hands together! 

For extra instruction, watch this video of Mr Hoffman explaining how to practice Hanon exercise #1

Hanon Exercise 2

To get started on the 2nd Hanon exercise, watch this video with Mr Hoffman. 

Be patient and have fun. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish! We hope you’re feeling inspired to get better at playing the piano! Check out Hoffman Academy for hundreds of piano video tutorials and music learning resources to help you on your piano journey.

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