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#1036634 - 07/10/04 07:41 PM Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
devils4ever Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/04
Posts: 477
Loc: northwest NJ
Hi all,

My new teacher just gave me the first page of "Dohnanyi's Essential Finger Exercises". Boy, are they challenging. Of course, I like a challenge otherwise I wouldn't be playing piano. \:D But, I can see the benefit in finger strength and agility. I thought I was pretty decent with the fingering until I started these. I feel almost like a beginner.

I was wondering if anyone else has done these exercises? If so, do you find them difficult? How much have they helped you.

BTW, he also said not to waste my time with Hanon and Czerny.
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#1036635 - 07/11/04 05:13 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
Mark Davidson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/04
Posts: 116
Loc: NC
I have worked on a few of these. They're not for beginners! If you read the preface, you'll find they're written for professionals to maintain technique. And the first one IS difficult. I would recommend practicing hands separate ONLY for at least a couple weeks - probably longer. You can concentrate better on what you're doing that way, and these require you to concentrate on every note. Don't worry about trying to go fast. Don't worry, it will get easier. Doing a few of these every day with some scales and arpeggios and you will notice a definite improvement in your technique in short order.

Hanon are good exercises - esp. for beginners and younger people who need to build basic finger strength, but only take you so far and don't give you enough work in other keys. Basically not enough variety for a more advanced student.

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#1036636 - 07/12/04 06:23 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
devils4ever Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/04
Posts: 477
Loc: northwest NJ
Mark,

Thanks for your reply. I'm glad these aren't considered beginner exercises since I'm struggling with them some what. My teacher did say I'm at early intermediate level.

He only gave me the first page. Are the other pages any easier? (I would guess they get harder as go?)
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August Förster 190 Artcase

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#1036637 - 07/12/04 07:17 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
Mikester Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/17/04
Posts: 1254
Loc: Minneesooota
What exactly are "essential" finger exercises? Do they help you understand dominants and subdominants? Do they have any musical value? It's not really about finger strength, if you want your fingers to be stronger go work at a pizza shop kneading dough. And the fingering techniques are way overblown, once you play a piece that uses unorthodox fingering, like most pieces in the world, you have to relearn the fingerings. Even scales 1231234 use completely different fingerings in something as scaley as Mozart. There's no such thing as a general technique.

The only preparation for playing real pieces is to play real pieces. Finger exercises are baloney. Go tell your teacher to get you some Bach. That'll work your left hand. Or tell your teacher to bring you some Brahms. This will train your ears. But finger exercises, waste of time.

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#1036638 - 07/12/04 07:48 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
devils4ever Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/04
Posts: 477
Loc: northwest NJ
Mikester,

I know from reading these forums that most execises are not highly regarded. However, I think these do help with finger independence. Otherwise I wouldn't be struggling with them so much. My teacher feels these will help my sense of touch also.

As a student, I feel I must put my trust in my teacher. That is why I'm paying him. He did agree that Hanon and Czerny are not worth too much.
_________________________
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August Förster 190 Artcase

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#1036639 - 07/12/04 07:59 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
Piano wannaB Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/01/04
Posts: 7
Loc: Louisiana
Hey Devils,

My teacher gave Dohnanyi to me last month--1st 2 pages. Don't laugh, but on the 1st page when I first started them I would hold down fingers with the other hand (Just on left hand) LOL

But now I have no problem doing these & it was really improved the eveness of my sixteenth notes.

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#1036640 - 07/12/04 08:10 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
pete Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 796
Loc: port washington, ny, us
I disagree that Czerny and Hanon are time wasters. They build the muscles in your hands.

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#1036641 - 07/12/04 10:06 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
talking about improving hand independence, there is nothing more useful than playing Bach's inventions which are real exercises.

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#1036642 - 07/13/04 03:06 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
Mark Davidson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/04
Posts: 116
Loc: NC
I think "Essential" is just a weak translation from the original Hungarian or whatever. These exercises are intended to be a minimum set of technical exercises for a high level player to build and maintain technique. Hanon are your knee pushups. Dohnanyi are your one-handed pushups. Once you are strong enough to do them, you do a few every couple of days to maintain strength.

They are not in order by difficulty. In the preface, Dohnanyi groups them roughly into three difficulty groups. But they aren't intended to be progressive. Rather, they tend to address specific problems. For instance, I was having problems with block chords getting all the notes to come down precisely together. My teacher gave my #12 which is all big chords in many different positions.

Anyway, they tend to address specific weaknesses, so many are difficult. For instance, scales in thirds, or trills in thirds.

I agree that many technical exercises at best ineffecient, but I think these are very focussed. I don't agree that all exercises are a waste of time (but some are), but I wouldn't spend more than 15-20 min per day on technique at your stage.

Have to agree with Piano WannaB's comments. I had a very hard time with #1 at first, especially with L hand. Makes you feel like you have NO control over your hand. Gets easier with time (never "easy" though). A particular passage in the Chopin c# minor scherzo that gave me problems (descending flourishes based on broken chords - awkward L hand part) became noticeably easier.

The independence gained by playing Bach is of a different type than this exercise provides. Third and fourth fingers are very weak, and this will really help strengthen them. Bach is often the first music people try that has independent voices in the music, but that's not necessarily the same as finger independence. Bach inventions present more mental problems than physical ones, as evidenced by the fact that the difficulty comes when the two parts are combined, but not when played separately.

For those of you who are curious - try this. Hold down all five fingers on C, D, E, F, G at the same time. Then pick up each finger while holding down the others and play the note again. Try each hand in several keys. Try a trill with 3rd and 4th fingers.

-Mark

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#1036643 - 07/13/04 07:43 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
devils4ever Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/04
Posts: 477
Loc: northwest NJ
Piano wannaB,

 Quote:
My teacher gave Dohnanyi to me last month--1st 2 pages. Don't laugh, but on the 1st page when I first started them I would hold down fingers with the other hand (Just on left hand) LOL
I'm glad I'm not the only one having some difficulty with these. I almost [/b] had to hold down some of my fingers with my other hand but not quite. I can't imagine ever playing these really[/b] fast though.

My teacher also told be not to press straight down on the keys when doing this. He told me to kind of stroke the key (pulling towards me) as I press.
_________________________
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#1036644 - 07/13/04 09:36 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
(Mark D)The independence gained by playing Bach is of a different type than this exercise provides. Third and fourth fingers are very weak, and this will really help strengthen them. Bach is often the first music people try that has independent voices in the music, but that's not necessarily the same as finger independence. Bach inventions present more mental problems than physical ones, as evidenced by the fact that the difficulty comes when the two parts are combined, but not when played separately.
i know that i shouldn't make any comment on this topic because i know nothing about "Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises". but i am just curious about what you said, "Bach inventions present more mental problems than physical ones..." how so? isn't it true that the inventions, 3-voice especially, present physical difficulties too when you are playing 2 voices on one hand which actually test your finger independence at the time?

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#1036645 - 07/13/04 05:00 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
Mark Davidson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/04
Posts: 116
Loc: NC
Bach inventions (2 part) are often some of the earliest pieces given to help the left and right hands gain independence from each other - a very difficult and important hurdle for beginners. I agree with three voices it gets into issues of same hand finger independence, but still it is often not the physical obstacles that make it difficult but just trying to keep in mind what each finger is supposed to be doing (more things to do and think about at once).

Dohnanyi just takes these problems to the next level - kicks it up a notch so to speak. Imagine the first Bach you ever played X 50. That's what it feels like. Making you use very weak muscles that you didn't even know you had and probably don't have good control over.

-Mark

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#1036646 - 07/14/04 08:56 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
Thanks, Mark, for your clarification. I would agree with you on Bach's inventions.

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#1685631 - 05/27/11 04:18 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: signa]
SteveV Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/30/08
Posts: 1
Loc: Texas
Dohnanyi..oy vey! not for the faint of heart. Essential to whom and for what? I have found such individual differences in hands...hard to say one set of exercises fits all. One thing I will say..is if someone has the determination to work thru Dohnanyi's excercises...he or she probably has the work ethic to study lets say one or more of Bach's Preludes and Fugues from the WTC. Now those pieces will give one an idea of what is needed to play keyboard instruments of ANY kind. The inventions are very useful as well.

One American pianist from the past is well worth knowing: Guy Maier. His approach and philosophy makes good sense..and his excercises using "impluses" are fanntabulous!!! and you get good results without MINDLESS repetition, or danger to your hand.

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#2022534 - 01/28/13 12:08 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: devils4ever]
Jay T Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 4
Loc: United States
I loved the density of these exercises, after enjoying Czerny and Hanon, but would be remiss suggesting them without a teacher. My first had me 10-25% on Czerny "School of Velocity", which in conjunction with actual pieces, worked together to make the technique transparent by becoming easier (though strength and familiarity). And they're musical.

My second teacher, years later, upon my mention of Hanon, reinforced that with "perhaps Czerny", but I'd heard of Dohnyani and upon purchase (getting his name and country right) was told "these will make a man out of you!" (a bit "Old Country"). The first study was very different from anything I'd done. I spent weeks on it, trying to get truly quiet independent fingers, but my hands were feeling rather locked and narrow. My teacher who noticed just as I was thinking this while working on Chopin, "some practices make your hands lock".

My point driven home, any practice is powerful, but needs discernment for how much, when, and why. Without a teacher, it's very hard to find an expedient path to proper technique, and ultimately expression. If playing seriously (e.g. 2-5 hours a day), it's potentially harmful, not just misguided. What works and doesn't go against the natural.
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#2022541 - 01/28/13 12:29 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: devils4ever]
Jay T Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 4
Loc: United States
As to Bach Two-Part Inventions, I'd started to use them as "warm up" instead of scales, but kept up my scales. It depended on whether I was just asked to play on the spot, preparing for a recital, or a long period of practice. I like 8, 13, & 14.

One day I "unlearned" Invention No. 8 (F Major), by repeatedly trying to fix a mistake. They kept adding up, and 4 hours later I was upset and unable to play. On any given day I'd been able to knock it off at 144 with 100% accuracy. But I'd always had to slow down to refine a measure or phrase. There seemed a gap between fast and slow playing, and Paderewski's noted "slow motion" practice.

What had happened? I realized after a few days I'd simply reinforced errors, forcing a piece I'd known for 10 years to be learned as though from scratch. Turn off the memory (to some extent), then look at the music, and rebuild it. This was fascinating to me - how does memory work? Do exercises help with memory? A concert level friend said "it's all patterns" - not that hard to memorize.

So recently a friend was learning a Two-Part, and so we played it as duet. As she got one hand then the next, separately. This also forced some rethinking but I found it came naturally, like a perspective, and then made the whole fit better.
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#2022608 - 01/28/13 03:38 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: Mark Davidson]
floydthebarber71 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 178
Loc: South Africa
Originally Posted By: Mark Davidson
For those of you who are curious - try this. Hold down all five fingers on C, D, E, F, G at the same time. Then pick up each finger while holding down the others and play the note again. Try each hand in several keys. Try a trill with 3rd and 4th fingers.


Hmm. I don't understand this but I am a beginner. Physically, as I've read, the tendons on the 3rd and 4th fingers are intertwined so you physically cannot get full independence with them anyway. I've seen more experienced players using wrist motions and others (including other fingers raised) to help them when trilling with 3&4. Why would you suggest something so impractical.. unless you are expected to play like this for certain pieces? Am I missing something?
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#2022641 - 01/28/13 05:33 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: devils4ever]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Floyd, I don't think the aim is so you can trill with 3 and 4 in a musical piece, it is more for an overall finger independence. I love dohnanyi exercise, I practice them once in a while and they really helps, least for me anyway. Also the exercises are short and to the point, so you have more time to learn actual repertoire.
Yes I realize the original post is dated 2004.

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#2023018 - 01/28/13 07:00 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: floydthebarber71]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1048
Originally Posted By: floydthebarber71
Originally Posted By: Mark Davidson
For those of you who are curious - try this. Hold down all five fingers on C, D, E, F, G at the same time. Then pick up each finger while holding down the others and play the note again. Try each hand in several keys. Try a trill with 3rd and 4th fingers.


Hmm. I don't understand this but I am a beginner. Physically, as I've read, the tendons on the 3rd and 4th fingers are intertwined so you physically cannot get full independence with them anyway. I've seen more experienced players using wrist motions and others (including other fingers raised) to help them when trilling with 3&4. Why would you suggest something so impractical.. unless you are expected to play like this for certain pieces? Am I missing something?


True, you can't get full independence, but you can gain some independence. Just placing my fingers on my desk, I can raise my 4th finger without raising the other fingers. I just can't raise it as high as the other fingers.

Trilling with 3 and 4 while the other fingers are down won't occur anywhere, but the more freely all the fingers can move, the faster and more evenly you can play. I used to unintentionally squeeze my thumb in towards my second finger when playing my second finger. If I then had to play something with my thumb, it was already stiff because the muscle was locked and it would play with a thunk. The same goes with the other finger combinations.

Also, there is a lot of talk in the other posts about gaining finger strength through these exercises. I think that is largely a misnomer. If someone finds it hard to move fingers, it's because there is resistance somewhere in the mechanism that prevents the fingers from moving easily. We need more to find how to coordinate our muscles instead of building our muscles.

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#2023268 - 01/29/13 05:21 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: devils4ever]
floydthebarber71 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 178
Loc: South Africa
Exactly. I personally think these "finger strength" exercises actually gain finger strength by default, but what you are actually working is finger control more than anything? I'm not experienced though, so my take on these things may change in time, shrug.

Hmm, as for continuing to post on a thread that started in 2004, I hope we will be spared by those that reign terror for such atrocities!
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Self-taught renegade - Kawai CL-36

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#2023297 - 01/29/13 06:50 AM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: devils4ever]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Yes exactly, It's more about the control/independence/agility of fingers than strength. I don't believe in building "finger strength" anyway. Many kids can play Chopin études, it's definitely not because they have "strong" fingers.

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#2023559 - 01/29/13 05:15 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: floydthebarber71]
Jay T Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 4
Loc: United States
Dear "Beginner",

I am not suggesting Dohnyani, merely repeating in summary the details of his first exercise. Please, focus on "under supervision of a teacher" and what others have written: this is bit one serious way for more experienced players to carefully develop skill. But lke any powerful tool, used inappropriately is "potentially misguided and harmful". It seemed an example would give folks an idea of what the book was like before buying it, but your right to be concerned. It's a great question to raise. Maybe not for everyone?

That said, with supervision, it may be just the right medicine. I'm still learning, and marvel at concert pianists trills and seeming ease over difficult passages. But I ran into a problem with these; they're very intense, and fortunately I caught a side effect, as noted. Too much time on this, would cause my hands to feel "narrow", altering a free, wide range of arms like Chopin's "Military Polonaise" or Nocturnes. Czerny and Chopin balanced that.

I wasn't going to write this as it seemed too long, especially for the forum, but I met a woman who worked on her last 2 fingers ("3rd and 4th" or "4th & 5th": the pinkie and its neighbor.). We'd met in a music store and were talking about piano. She had so aspired to concert level, and as I asked, politely, what her scars were from on right forearm, was stunned to hear she'd had a nerve removed after it was "irreversibly damaged" by 3 hours a day of exercising the weak fingers. Not deterred, she recovered, and harmed a second nerve, incurring another surgery and eventually not being able to play.

I'm not a doctor, but I have been very athletic, learned typing on mechanic typewriters, and always kept ergonomic form, as taught for each situation and practice. I don't mean to scare anyone, I just share this as improper training for a person can not only lead to difficulties later (having to relearn fingering or fine motions), under the most extreme cases it can literally hurt you. I cried inside as the joy and gift of music can last a lifetime, amd should.

So I thank you for asking that poignant question, and graciously defer to the teachers out there, and maestros, for guiding aspiring performers in the best style possible.

Enjoy!
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#2023578 - 01/29/13 05:51 PM Re: Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises [Re: albynism]
Jay T Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 4
Loc: United States
Do eludes have a dual purpose? Especially difficult peaces, which as a set from a composer like Chopin or Liszt, progress through areas of specific difficulty? I read that Liszt's "Transcendental Etudes" are considered among the most difficult, as I watched Evgeny Kissin play them with remarkable clarity and character for someone only 18. Prodigies and eidetic memory aside, the piano offer a vast repertoire for everyone.

It seems, at least for me, there's a continuum of music expression, and the interweaving of that through certain sub-genres for various reasons: Bach's Inventions as pedagogy for composition, Etudes for routing out any technical deficiencies, and expression,, such that by working on a well thought out mixture of periods and forms, one attains a high level.

A famous dancer asked what is hardest about dancing? "To dance well."
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