Lesson 269

Hanon Finger Exercises

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Hello and welcome back I'm Joseph Hoffman, and in this lesson we're going to revisit a collection of famous finger power exercises
by C.L. Hanon.
These are finger exercises that I have used for years, ever since I was a child,
and I highly recommend them as a way to build finger strength and speed,
and also as a way to develop a clear and even tone.
Let's come to the piano to get started.
Let's start by reviewing our piano posture checklist.
Whenever you're doing finger power, it's super important that you're establishing really great piano posture.
Actually, anytime you play, but especially when you're working on finger power.
Number one on the checklist is your bench.
Make sure that you're not sitting too close. That will lead to really tight elbows and some tension.
So pull your bench out where your elbows can float just barely comfortably in front of you.
Make sure that the bench is high enough
that from your elbow to your knuckles is about parallel with the floor.
It should look level.
Next is to have a tall back with relaxed shoulders.
And number three is arm weight.
So remember this.
Take one of your arms and just pick it up with your other hand, or you could ask a friend or someone at home to do this for you.
And then drop it and just see if it can just plop on your lap.
So you can feel the weight
of your arm,
and gravity is going to do a lot of the work for you as you play the piano. instead of thinking of playing with your fingers,
like this, think of letting just gravity help you drop into each key.
That's playing with arm weight.
And the last one is hand and finger shape.
Remember that you want your fingers to just have a naturally curved shape. Not overly curved,
not straight, but just this natural kind of relaxed curve.
And then as you play, make sure that the joints of your fingers stay in this curved shape, not bending backward like that.
This means your finger has collapsed. I call that hula fingers.
You want to keep the joints in this outwardly curved shape for maximum articulation and control.
Another thing to watch out for is your pinky should always play near the tip like this, not flat like this.
Now let's take a look at Hanon Exercise Number One.
Our right hand begins with finger 1 on middle C.
Our left hand begins on this low C.
So notice our hands are two octaves apart.
And then what?
They go up a third, but be very careful. When we're learning Hanon exercises, you have to watch the notes and the fingers.
It's not 1 3,
it's 1 2 in the right hand and 5 4 in the left hand so we're doing a little bit of a stretch there,
but don't leave the fingers there. Once you're done with that stretch, let the fingers gather.
Okay, it's very rare in music that you want to leave your fingers in a stretch position. After you do a stretch,
you're always going to let the fingers gather.
So we're going to play that skip, then let the fingers gather
as we play these other notes, and then you'll notice when we step down in measure two, we start on a D
this time and then there's another skip up.
And then what happens? Now we're going to land on E, another skip up.
So you can see we're kind of traveling up the keys. You might remember this exercise way back in another unit. We called it the 1-2 finger skip.
This is actually from Hanon's Exercise Number One.
Now, so you'll keep going up the piano. You do it on E,
and then I'm going to skip ahead. You do F, you do G, you do A,
and now let's go to measure seven. You're on B,
and then notice what happens here. We do four notes stepping down, and you're going to really, really, really want to play a C here,
but that's not the next note. Look at measure eight.
Instead of playing C, you skip back to what? Tell me the letter name of this first note of measure eight.
If you said G, you're correct. So we play G, and now what happens?
We skip down.
Now we're going to start traveling back down the piano. We step up, now we're on F, skip down.
And we're to E, skip down, now we're going to fast forward.
Now notice here.
When you get here, you're going to want to play a G but it's not right. You get to F, and now we're done.
We go to C.
All right, so the places to really watch out are measure fourteen here
because this is where the pattern ends.
It's just four notes stepping up and back to C, and the other measure to watch out for
is measure seven because this is where we turn it around. We're stepping down only to D, then it goes back up to G.
Now I put a big pause there. Eventually you'll do that without a pause.
Right? Okay.
Now, I've kind of given you a preview. I'd like you to pause the video and work on Hanon number one.
And this by the way is a simplified version.
In Hanon's original, it goes up and down two octaves.
I've spread the hands apart an extra octave and we're only going up and down one octave.
Later on we'll uh do the full Hanon.
But for today, let's try this exercise number one. Press pause,
work on this on your own for a little bit, and then press play and we'll talk about how you're going to practice it this week.
Now as you're practicing this week, I strongly encourage you to use the metronome Maybe the first day you're just figuring out the notes and getting the hang of it,
but very quickly I'd like you to bring in the metronome. I would recommend starting around 96 beats per minute.
Play one note per click like this.
As you're playing, I want you to really think about your arm weight. Notice how my wrist is bouncing a little bit as I play?
That's helping me send the weight of my arm into the keys. I'm not just using my fingers.
I'm using my wrist lifts, and then I can drop into each key.
And that dropping motion helps me play. So I'm not using
my finger strength only. I'm using the whole weight of my arm, and I'm thinking of falling into each key.
So that's one thing to think about. Also remember playing near the pinky tip,
keeping the fingers in a good shape. No hula fingers.
All of these piano posture things. Your tall back, your bench is in a good place.
Now, that's one note per click with the metronome.
When you feel like you can do that with no missed notes and no pauses with perfect piano posture,
then you can try speeding it up.
Maybe you want to go to 120.
When that feels easy, you can go even faster.
Try going all the way up to 200.
If you want to go even faster than that, well here's what to do: Go back to 100,
and start doing two notes per click, which is equivalent to being at 200. Hear how at that speed now you're basically playing eighth notes. TI-TI TI-TI
The metronome is clicking quarter notes TA TA, but you're playing eighth notes. TI-TI TI-TI TI-TI TI-TI
And so then you can go even faster.
Try that at 120.
Now when you start playing two notes per click,
keep trying to do wrist bounces. When it, the faster you go the less you're going to use your wrist bounces to make
the notes play, and the more you're just going to turn it into one smooth arm motion.
See how at that faster speed it's just kind of this smooth motion. At a slow speed,
you can think of dropping into each key like this.
But once you get to two notes per click, just blend them all together to one smooth arm motion. The last thing I'd like you to think about is your tone as you practice.
Tone is the sound that you make. It's a fancy word for just the quality of the sound.
The tone that you play is influenced by a lot of things.
One thing that I love when I hear a great pianist is when they have a clear tone.
And a clear tone means your notes don't blur together like this. Can you hear
how mushy that sounds?
If I don't pick up my last finger when I play the next note,
it creates kind of a blurry sound. It's like if you leave your socks and clothes all over the floor.
If you don't pick up after yourself, your floor gets really messy and the tone can get really messy
or blurry if you don't remember to pick up your finger.
Sometimes I'll see students
just have a little moment where two fingers are down at the same time, and so it makes a little bit of a blur.
You've got to remember to pick up the last finger exactly when you put the next one down.
Otherwise, you get a little bit of a blur
in your tone.
Okay, so listen for a clean and even tone.
Another thing that makes for an even tone is no one note louder or softer than the next one.
You want them to be very even.
You don't want like:
Hear how some notes are louder and some are softer?
Try to make it really smooth.
Maybe sometimes you want to crescendo a little bit as the notes go up,
and decrescendo as they go back down. That's okay, but I don't want to hear notes like popping out unexpectedly.
Listen for a beautiful smooth tone as you practice Hanon.
Now to me, Hanon is kind of like running laps. If you're a basketball player or a baseball player, when you practice
most of the time you're practicing basketball moves,
but your coach also might have you do some running
to help you just get faster. So when you're running from first base to second base, you can run faster.
In piano, most of the time you're practicing repertoire: actual songs or pieces.
Hanon isn't a piece. It's not necessarily beautiful music. It's just a way to develop strength and speed.
I encourage you to try it every day.
Once you feel like you've mastered Hanon Number One, on your own you can try out Hanon Number Five or Number Six.
And those are the two that I usually like to do after Number One.
Why do I skip Two, Three, and Four?
Well, I'll explain later.
Just trust me that this is the order that I like to do them best.
Let's preview Number Five.
What's the very first interval that you see?
Goes up a sixth.
And then what?
Do you see this pattern? What happens?
Can you describe that pattern?
Go up a sixth,
down a step,
up a step,
down a third, up a step, down a third, up a step, down a third.
And then what?
What happens in measure two? The same pattern repeats. Up a sixth,
down a step, down a third, up a step, down a third, up a step, down a third. And now we're on E.
Do you see the pattern?
Okay, and that continues.
Going in fast motion. Now here's measure seven.
Now the pattern changes and we're in measure eight. Now we start on C.
Up a step, down a step, then up a third, down a step, up a third, down a step, up a third, down a sixth.
Down a sixth, down a sixth.
And then we end.
Okay, so that was a little preview of Number Five. Let's take a look at what happens in Hanon Number Six.
Hmm, looks very similar at first to Number Five. What's this first interval?
Start on C again.
We go up a sixth.
And then what happens this time?
Tell me what pattern you see this time.
I'd like you to pause the video and try to play measures one, two, and three.
On your own try to figure it out, and then press play and we'll look at it together.
What do we get? We go up a sixth, down a second up a second, down a third, up a third, down a fourth, up a fourth,
down a fifth.
Let's stop there. So do you see that pattern?
This is going to be like a little pinky exercise for your right hand, right?
Because it keeps coming back to your pinky. When you have this back and forth between two notes like this, it's good to use a little bit of a rotation motion. See how I'm tipping my hand back and forth? Almost like you're turning the doorknob to a handle on the door.
Okay, this is a little rocking back and forth,
and making sure you're staying near your pinky tip.
See that pattern?
Now if you go on,
look here in measure seven.
What happens here on the last two notes?
Ah, the pattern changes.
You've got to really watch out. Sometimes
when Hanon is about to change directions,
he'll change it a little bit to help your fingers be in the right position for the coming down part. So here's measure seven again.
What happens?
D C then up to what?
G, then down a sixth, up a step.
Now we've got this pattern going down.
Make sure you're staying on the pinky tip. Now you're picking the left hand working out.
What happens here?
Tell me the name of these next two notes.
If you said F, E, you're correct. C, and once again the pattern changes.
You've got to be on your toes and watch out for surprises in Hanon.
Sometimes he changes the pattern right before a transition moment, right before the ending.
You can never make any assumptions. It's helpful to read every note carefully.
So that's a little preview of Number Five and Number Six.
I would suggest you practice Number One for a week,
and when you feel ready to go on to Number Five,
work on Number Five for a week. Start very slow.
Work on really good piano posture one note per click.
Gradually speed it up until you feel like you can play it pretty fast: two notes per click.
Give your fingers a little workout.
I like to do a little bit of Hanon every day for a workout for my fingers,
and do that every day before you practice your other pieces.
After you finish learning One, Five, and Six, I'll have some others that you can learn as well.
Great work today learning how to practice Hanon's finger power exercises.
Thanks for watching and learning with me, and happy practicing!
Oh, Master Monkey!
I've done three days of breathing just like you asked.
My mind is so free and clear! I feel like I can perceive the entire world in one glance!
Yes, Master.
I saw 48 trees, 29 pine, and 19 juniper.
One of them had a cute little squirrel in it.
Right, I saw fourteen birds, my Master.
Five flying southwest, eleven perched in trees, one on the ground looking for food.
Am I ready to finally start learning some ninja moves?
Yes, I see the cave.
A lion?
Are you crazy? Get a whisker from the lion? The lion will eat me!
The path will be clear?
The only thing that's clear is that I'm going to be dead!
Breathe. Right...
Okay, I'll trust you Master Monkey.
Just breathe.