The Musicarta Hanon

Louis Hanon's set of piano exercises have been a staple of piano teaching for  a century and a half - and with good reason. They are easy to understand and therefore to play, and train the fingers as well as warming the hands up nicely for repertoire practice and performance.

Anybody hoping to become or remain a proficient keyboard player needs daily technical practice to maintain any level of skill. Supplemented with the variations laid out on the second part of the workbook, the Musicarta Hanon finger exercises offer an excellent first-choice solution.

There is no shortage of free Hanon versions to download, so you might wonder why Musicarta expects you to pay for a new version.

The problem with these versions is two-fold. Firstly, they span two octaves, more than is needed to practice, in the author's opinion (on the grounds that you would gain more from practicing one octave each of two patterns than two octaves of the same pattern).

Secondly, and partly as a result, they present a dense, black and frankly off-putting appearance which deters many not-so-confident readers and stifles self-reliance and critical practice in as many more.

The Musicarta presentation of the Hanon exercises addresses these shortcomings first and foremost by presenting the exercises audio-visually, with the patterns that allow the exercises to creep up the keyboard individually explained.

Each exercise video has an introductory audio sample designed to correspond with 'a glance at the manuscript', hopefully provoking an "Oh yes - that one!" response - to some extent already liberated from the written music.

In the same spirit, a line diagram of the shape of the exercise is given, with an exaggerated thumbnail sketch of the profile to guide you. The more quickly you can see and play 'the pattern' from your understanding of it rather than from the music, the sooner you will listen to your own performance and truly let the exercise improve your technique.

The exercises are presented over one octave only, and - in the case of the hard copy - with only one exercise per page, both for ease of printing and distribution and to maintain a light look on the page.

The online pages also have reference audio-visual performances which demonstrate the pattern rehearsed. Listening before playing helps model the performance in advance and pulls the attention away from the written music and towards the performance.

On the web pages, the exercises are split up five per page, with a 'jump-to' block at the top of the page for ease and speed of navigation and a by-page navigation block in the right-hand column (top).

Once pupils understand how the exercises creep up and down the keyboard and can 'spot the pattern' reliably, a Hanon shorthand (Nos. 1-30) version should be all that is needed.

And yes, these are exercises! Try to build up speed, accuracy and volume first. (Piano playing is a lot more physical than most people at first think, and practicing can usefully approached as if you were training for a sport!)

One of the perils of the Hanon exercises is that, one they become familiar, they cease to be a challenge, resulting in mindless, mechanical practice. To address this, a number of variations are offered.

 Combined patterns

One essential skill for the creative modern-styles keyboard player could be described as "spotting a pattern and sticking with it". Playing alternating patterns one each up and down the keyboard can be one such challenge.

 Patterns at a tenth or a sixth

Breaking the unison and playing the hands a tenth or a sixth apart strengthens the element of tonality, clarifies whether the hands are really playing together and generally challenges creeping automatism. At a tenth, the left hand starts on the tonic and leads; at a sixth, the right hand starts on the tonic and leads. Try combined patterns (above) at a tenth or a sixth, for added zest!

 The 'touch' and 'dynamic' variations

The eight notes of each Hanon pattern offer an excellent repeating opportunity to practice keyboard touch (staccato-legato) and phrasing, and (soft-loud) dynamic.

 The 'held thumbs' variations

One hand playing more than


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