Are Hanon exercises really effective at teaching piano students? Below, piano teacher James F. shares five reasons why he believes Hanon exercises aren’t as useful as many 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.
5 Reasons Why Hanon Exercises are Useless
1. Hanon 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 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 any Hanon exercise in any of their books.
Jumps do occur occasionally in melodies, but even when they do occur, they are nothing like what you practice with Hanon.
4. Hanon Exercises Are Just Too Easy
Most students breeze through 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.
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.”