Are Hanon exercises really effective at teaching piano students? Below, piano teacher James F. shares seven reasons why he believes Hanon exercises aren’t as useful as many think…
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Hanon piano exercises. They’re often touted as a great way to improve your technique and musicality. But is this really true? In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why Hanon exercises may not be as effective as you think.
A lot of piano teachers swear by the old familiar Hanon exercises as a great way of teaching technique to their students. I strongly disagree.
I’m familiar with a lot of different ways of developing piano technique, and I think that Hanon is among the least efficient.
Below I’ve provided five reasons why I think Hanon exercises are useless as well as some much better alternatives.
Do the Hanon Exercises Work?
In my opinion, no – the Hanon exercises do not work. Here’s why:
- They don’t build strength
- Hanon piano exercises don’t build agility
- Your movements won’t translate from the exercises to when you are playing real songs
- Some of them are just too easy
- They don’t translate well to rhythmic playing
There are lots of differing opinions on this subject, though, so it’s important that you work with a qualified piano teacher who will be able to give you the best recommendations for your skills and musical goals. Sign up for piano lessons here, and check out some of the other benefits of taking lessons in the video below:
5 Reasons Why Hanon Exercises are Useless
1. Hanon Piano Exercises Don’t Build Strength
The fundamental component of any good piano technique is strength. Just like strength is the core component of any athlete’s development and technique.
Hanon does next to nothing for strength, because all the student is doing is playing lines over and over again.
Here is an example of an exercise that can be done for even a few minutes a day that will give students better results:
2. Hanon Piano Exercises Don’t Build Much Agility
Hanon exercises could be classified as agility exercises, but low-grade ones. Even just plain old scales are superior to Hanon.
This is true for one simple reason; when you play scales, you’re working the thumb-under and finger-over movements that are often necessary when playing actual songs.
If you want to work on agility, try something like this:
3. Hanon Movements Don’t Translate When Playing Real Songs
In all honesty, real songs played on a keyboard are mostly solid chords. However, you also need to be able to play melody lines.
Once again, even your basic old scales are a lot closer to those melody lines than Hanon exercise book.
Jumps do occur occasionally in melodies, but even when they do occur, they are nothing like what you practice with Hanon.
4. Piano Hanon Exercises Are Just Too Easy
Most students breeze through piano Hanon exercises too easily, and then get “stuck” because they don’t know where to go afterward.
“Too easy” sounds great, but the problem is that if students aren’t properly challenged during their practice routines it’s going to take them a lot longer to get desired results.
Like me, students have very little spare time, and need to make the most of their limited practice time. Hanon, on the other hand, is guaranteed to have you spinning your wheels for a long long time.
5. Hanon Exercises Aren’t Conducive to Rhythmic Playing
Not all exercises have to be rhythmic in nature, but Hanon pretends to be, which is where the danger comes in.
This is because it is needlessly complex in a dimension (i.e. all the leaps and turns in the more advanced exercises) that has very little musical use.
I always recommend that if you want to work specifically on rhythm, one should start with basic rhythms and then move on to syncopation—the kind of syncopation that actually goes on in real songs.
Below is an example of a highly syncopated rhythm.
6. They Don’t Build Power
Another reason why Hanon exercises aren’t that helpful is because they don’t improve your ability to play with power and agility. You’re just practicing the same lines over and over again – there’s not much room to improve here.
7. They Aren’t Realistic
Finally, Hanon exercises just aren’t realistic. Songs are chords – and once you have the ability to play chords and scales, you can play most songs. Simple as that. Hanon exercises just aren’t realistic enough to help – they are too simplistic.
Alternatives to Hanon Exercises
If you want to get better at playing the piano, there are other ways to improve that work much better than Hanon exercises.
Scales, chords, and arpeggios help build finger strength and independence better. Plus, these are patterns that you’ll encounter in actual piano music.
You will also likely experience some success by developing a good regimen of practice, ideally through repertoire rather than repetitive exercises.
Technical grounding and the motivation to conquer a piece of music will be far more groundbreaking in helping you to become a better pianist than stand-alone exercises will.
Another dangerous myth about Hanon exercises is that they build forearm strength. However, your arms really should be more relaxed, with the power coming from your lower body instead. Focusing on improving your posture will likely be more beneficial to you than doing rote exercises, like Hanon exercises.
Hanon exercises just aren’t as musical as they could be. They don’t build endurance and they can cause tension and even injury. You need to train your ear in addition to your hands – you need to combine a variety of techniques and tactics and not rely solely on Hanon exercises to get you to your musical goals.
Are Hanon Exercises for Beginners?
Many piano instructors teach Hanon exercises to advanced players, but they are also used for beginners who want more finger dexterity. As far as I’m concerned, there are better ways to improve this skill.
While Hanon exercises may be useless, there are still plenty of other tips and tricks you can use to improve your hand eye coordination on the piano.
One option? Piano lessons. Sign up for piano lessons with an experienced teacher who can help show you the ropes – and help you find the exercises that are best for you.
Give piano lessons a try and see if you notice an improvement in your game.
Don’t agree? Tell us why you think Hanon exercises are beneficial for students in the comments section below. Or check out this post from piano teacher Heather L. titled, ” 3 Reasons Pianists Should be Playing Hanon Exercises Daily.”