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I've played piano for many years but I'd like to do some work on my technique and am going to attack the Hanon exercises. I have a very simple question on the instructions though. You are instructed to play each exercise initially slow (eg at 60bpm) moving up to fast (eg at 108bpm).

Is the book intending for you to master the entire first part (20 exercises) at 60bpm before increasing the tempo, or are you supposed to master each exercise up to fast before going on to the next?

I've read the instructions several times but can't decide which it means! I think I could make a good argument for doing either, but I'd rather stick to what is best practice.

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The book doesn't specify what path to take for a good reason and that is the final goal is to master them a faster speed and exact path you take isn't as important as where you end up. A simple example is you may find that exercise 2 is easier for you then exercise 1 so you may be able to master exercise 2 at a bpm of 108 before you are able to master exercise 1 at 60 bpm. This most likely isn't the case, but you get the idea.

The Hanon exercises are very intensive and take a while to master. I suggest you only focus on one or two exercises at a time at a low bpm initially maybe even lower than 60 if you are having a lot of trouble. It will take a while to master each. This site plays the execerizes for you and you can get an idea of how long it will take to play just the first excersize at 60 bpm not even considering you tying to lean it. When you master them and can play them faster you can string together a few exercises and use it as an excellent warm up for playing.

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Usually with a book of etudes, the thing to do is to work on one for about two weeks, give or take, allowing the tempo to increase by itself, guided by comfort, and then move on to the next etude. After a couple of months of this, you can start cycling back to the first, and continuing to review. This means that if you spend 8 minutes working on the etude you are currently studying, you should spend 2 - 4 minutes on etude repertoire review. The second time you work something up, it will go much quicker than it did the first time around, even if it's been six months since the time you last played it. And chances are that the second time around you'll achieve a faster tempo than you got the first time around.

I will tell you frankly that we can't stand Hanon at our house, and use Donald Waxman's Exertudes instead. Perhaps you would like to give this a try in addition to your Hanon. The Waxman books are quite affordable. It may not be in stock in your local shop, but it's easy to order.

The Waxman etudes are interesting harmonically, with some nice surprises, and contain many different aspects of piano technique. There are several different levels in the series. Even the first volume has lots of interesting and fun things going on.

  • Thanks man =) Yeah the hanon are painfully dull, but I have already found that they "work", in terms of building dexterity and freedom, and so am going to persevere through them. They're also very easy to learn/sightread... which means all the time is spent on developing the technique without need to learn new musics. Meaning I can spend more time on my own music after the drills. Thank you! – Phillax May 17 '15 at 10:59
  • That is certainly a drawback of Waxman, from your point of view. - - - There are rock, jazz and blues versions of Hanon that you might want to look into. They don't have as much emphasis on note reading as the Waxman has -- they work more with patterns. – aparente001 May 17 '15 at 11:30
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When doing any technical exercise, like Hanon, practice moving as quickly as you can with good technique. Think of scales - when you were learning them, you did them until you "learned" them, and then added more. As you progressed, you learn to get the tempo higher more quickly than on the previous one, and the ones you already learned continued to get faster.

Hanon is really the same idea, just a lot fancier.

So work I one up to 60 or so, then start II, but revisit I periodically and keep increasing the tempo. Trying to get a particular exercise from a set very fast before going to the next will not be as helpful as doing many exercises at a medium speed, but at the same time, there's no reason to hold yourself back. Keep playing as fast as you can with excellent technique.

The exception is if you're playing Hanon Part 1 as a complete piece, then you'd want to keep the tempo intact throughout. Generally though that will be at a high speed.

I'm not sure if this is a "normal" way to work through Hanon, but my piano teacher had us to each exercise 3 ways once we reached a late intermediate level:

  • mf ("normal")
  • Slow, loud, legato, and with exaggerated finger motion (focusing on finger independence)
  • Fast, very soft, and staccato

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