Piano Technique: Commentary on Hanon, Cortot, Czerny, etc.

Myth #1. Great piano technique is achieved by making your fingers stronger, faster, and more independent.

Myth #2. You can make your fingers stronger, faster, and more independent by putting in countless hours of special physical exercises, day after day for years and years.

How can so many people be so wrong?

The mythical claims of the “exercise school” of piano technique are perpetuated by four conspiring problems:

  • Ignorant teachers continue to regurgitate falsehood by the millions.
  • Trusting students continue to accept falsehood by the millions.
  • Publishers continue to publish “exercise” books (Hanon, Cortot, Czerny, etc) into the musical canon by the millions.
  • In the early stages, doing physical exercises seems to “improve” one’s playing.

The Truth

Although physical training creates the illusion of progress, realize that…

  • While doing something is better than doing nothing, the same may be said about doing anything more than nothing.
  • If you subscribe to the physical training school, you will never master anything; you will just get slightly better at doing things the wrong way…. the hard way.
  • Any such improvement will be incremental and painfully slow.
  • Because progress will be painfully slow, you will eventually give up trying, believing that you are untalented, that you just don’t have what it takes.
  • If you study the right way, you should expect quantum leaps in improvement, not slight improvements over years and years of effort.

Advice

  • Beware of any method that subscribes to the “exercise school” of technique.
  • Do not waste your precious time doing physical exercises.
  • While it is possible to do exercises the “right” way, why would you waste your precious time learning music that you have no intentions of keeping in your repertoire?
  • Even if you did exercises the “right” way, all of the exercise books in the world will never be comprehensive enough to solve every technical problem that you are going to encounter in real music.
  • Once you understand the basic principles of technique, and the rudiments of scales and chords, go right to the music that you want to play.
  • You get good at Bach by studying-practicing Bach. You get good at Rock by studying-practicing Rock.
  • In studying the music that you want to play, you will discover the particular technical problems that you need to solve, problems that you can now give your focused attention.
  • Enough said… Now just do it!

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
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