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#947863 - 12/07/04 05:00 PM How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
BlingBling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/04
Posts: 77
Loc: NJ
Hello... after years of practice, my 4th and 5th fingers are still weak (or not strong enough) I avoided it so many years but it's time for me to address it.

I know Hanon is good but can anyone recommend any particular exercise to improve these fingers? How long should I play each day?

Your help is appreciated!

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#947864 - 12/07/04 06:40 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13796
Loc: Iowa City, IA
It's all about keeping the weight of the arm behind them when they play. 9 times out of 10, weak 4th and 5th fingers are because they're not getting proper support from the rest of the hand and arm.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#947865 - 12/08/04 01:01 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21657
Loc: Oakland
Oddly enough, I consider my third finger to be my weakest. If I move it, it moves the fourth more than any other finger moves any other. It has the least independence.

Anyway, just like voicing a piano, if you want it to be even, it is usually easier to make all the strong notes as soft as the softest.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#947866 - 12/08/04 06:43 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
As Kreisler said, it really comes down to proper support from arm weight.

But don't expect that you'll ever be able to have total independance and equal strength in each finger as that isn't physically possible. (which is the biggest and most devestating flaw of Hanon, it's entire premise is impossible to achieve so no, Hanon is not good, but that's a different thread \:\)

-paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#947867 - 12/08/04 10:00 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
yes, i agree that arm weight helps with each finger when playing, but there is a situation where you have to use finger strength alone, such as playing trills, where your arm just have to stay steady and relaxed and let fingers do the job (relaxed as well). i may be wrong on this, but i am not sure that when a trill, 45 trill for example, is played, if arm would play a role other than a supporting role. for tremolos, arm definitely plays a main role, but trills, especially so called 'finger trill' mean to be played mainly by fingers.

could someone with more authority on this tell me i am wrong?

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#947868 - 12/08/04 11:46 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
yes, i agree that arm weight helps with each finger when playing, but there is a situation where you have to use finger strength alone, such as playing trills, where your arm just have to stay steady and relaxed and let fingers do the job (relaxed as well). i may be wrong on this, but i am not sure that when a trill, 45 trill for example, is played, if arm would play a role other than a supporting role. for tremolos, arm definitely plays a main role, but trills, especially so called 'finger trill' mean to be played mainly by fingers.

could someone with more authority on this tell me i am wrong? [/b]
I don't think you're wrong, I see exactly what you're saying. But look at what you put in parenthesis - "(relaxed as well)" - that's exactly the point, strength does not produce relaxation.. I agree though, even my teacher happend to say in my last lesson "four five trills are a b*tch" haha.. but relaxation, as you said, not strength, is what you're after.
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#947869 - 12/08/04 03:00 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
signa, you're not wrong. As a matter of fact you're right on the money. That's one of the major characteristics of the French piano school training. French school piano playing is well known for nimble, fleeting fingers. I mean in a positive sense, of course.

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#947870 - 12/08/04 05:46 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
BlingBling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/04
Posts: 77
Loc: NJ
Thank you all for your input! You guys are great.

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#947871 - 12/08/04 06:04 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
BB,

Another relatively easy way of doing this is using only the 3-4-5 fingers to practice chromatic scales up and down the whole range of keyboard in moderate tempo. Make sure you have 'open' elbows. Be very careful to start with 'mp' or even 'p' in dynamics. Listen to evenness of tone and play with 'legato'. Stop and rest at the first sign of fatigue. Never force your weak fingers. Remember the lessons of Schumann and Czerny...

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#947872 - 12/08/04 06:28 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Go with Signa!! Arm weight is necessary in playing but the individual fingers need strengthening. The third and fourth fingers are 'tied' together by a band between and to move one without some motion by the other is pretty difficult! At one time the band was surgically cut but it left the fourth finger absolutely useless. DON'T DO THAT!!!

I can't agree, either, that Hanon is useless. Russians are noted for their technique and Hanon is one of the mainstays in that development--at least when Lhevinne, Rachmaninoff, Gabrilowitsch, and others were trained. I can't imagine it's been discarded.

To strengthen the fingers and gain as much independence and evenness as possible they need proper exercises (just like weight lifting, if you want a comparison) so the individual muscle tissue is developed. The Henselt method does this but it is tiring and very demanding. And I do mean both--tiring and demanding. Unless you have some real dedication to achieve stronger fingers, hands, and wrists, then continue your present course. It should be explained in some detail so I won't go further into it but Signa has the right idea--the fingers and knuckle bridge--not the arm, must be strengthened and that takes some doing. Good luck!

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#947873 - 12/08/04 06:31 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Oh--the stronger the fingers, the easier it is to relax so Signa is right about that too. Relaxation is achieved by conscious effort as well. Note how some players' shoulders rise as they tense. Then you know they're not relaxed and the tone gets hard and percussive from tight wrists, stiff arms and fingers.

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#947874 - 12/08/04 08:14 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i am glad that i am right on something! thanks, AndrewG and Varcon for your confirmation and more inside ideas!

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#947875 - 12/11/04 04:47 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Re Hanon: "It may be interesting to hear something of the general plan followed in the Imperial music schools of Russia. The course is nine years in duration. During the first five years the student gets most of his technical instruction from a book of studies by Hanon, which is used very extensively in conservatories. In fact, this is practically the only book of strictly technical studies employed. All of the studies are in the key of "C." ......... "

"At the end of the fifth year an examination takes place. The examination is twofold. The pupil is examined first for proficiency in technic, and later for proficiency in artistic playing, pieces, studies, etc. However, if the pupil fails to pass the technical examination he is not permitted to go ahead. He knows the exercises in the book of studies by Hanon so well that he knows each study by number, and the examiner may ask him, for instance, to play study 17, or 28, or 32, etc. That student at once sits at the keyboard and plays."

"Although the original studies are all in the key of "C," he may be requested to play them in any other key. He has studied them so thoroughly that he should be able to play them in any key desired. A metronomic test is also applied. The student knows that he will be expected to play the studies at certain rates of speed. The examiner states the speed and metronome is started. . . . . . . ."

Article by Sergei Rachmaninoff, pgs, 210-211, GREAT PIANISTS ON PIANO PLAYING.

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#947876 - 12/12/04 07:40 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
I cant argue that many folks have excelled, whom also used Hanon. Russians especially. But the real question is, how relevant in fact was it? And how worthwhile are any potential benefits, in light of the potential harm?

My "view" against hannon is not based on any personal experiences with it. I do not use it, nor have I ever, nor has my teacher ever suggested it. If that alone makes my opinion irrelevant to you, so be it.. I do however know the premis of Hanon, and I have looked at the exercises it suggests. And in fact for coordination issues, if you ignore everything about how Hanon suggests (physically) you execute these exercises, they may in fact be helpful. But my problems with it, based only on my understanding of what it is are as follows:

1. technique cannot be seperated from musicality. To seperate them as mutually exclusive is a waste of your time. If you're spending 2 hours a day working on "technique" and acquiring no repertoir (or anything that even remotely resembles music) in the process, you are wasting your time.

2. Hanon's entire premise is to gain equal strength in all fingers, which, as 130 years of progress in human physiology now shows us, is physically impossible. I for one am not interested in studying a method which claims to allow me to do what I know is impossible.

3. Technique can and should be gained from repertoir. Look at the Bach Inventions, much of Hannon is derivative of it, why not study them instead?

But, Bernhard on pianoforum.net has a well thought view-point which I agree with, and can't come close to explaining as well as he does (so what else is new??? ;\)

A piece of his writing follows:
-----------
First my usual disclaimer: What follows is just my opinion (what else could it be?) and it is not my purpose to convince anyone of anything. Piano playing cannot be improved on the basis of verbal argument. Instead, think of it as experiment suggestions. Choose two pieces of similar difficulty. Learn one following your own ideas. Learn the other following my suggestions. Compare results. Use what is useful, discard what is not. People are different. What may work for me or my students may not work for you or anyone else. However, if I do make a suggestion (you will notice that although I post a lot, I will not get involved in any threads to which I feel I cannot contribute) it is usually because it yields spectacular results. Can you afford not to try? Beliefs are just unnecessary limitations. Do not worry about beliefs. Go after the facts.

Now for Hanon.

1. The Virtuoso Pianist was published in 1873. Could we have learned something about technique since then? But more to the point, did Hanon have at his disposal all the knowledge needed to write a collection of technical exercises that would still continue to be valid even 131 years later?

2. Have you ever read the preface Hanon wrote for his exercises, where he gives directions on how to practise them? It makes for a most intriguing reading. Here are a few excerpts (but I suggest that you read the full preface):

[..]To attain this end, it sufficed to find the solution to the following problem: If all five fingers of the hand were absolutely equally well trained, they would be ready to execute anything written for the instrument and the only question remaining would be that of fingering, which could be readily solved.

We have found the solution of this problem in our work “The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises”. In this volume will be found the exercises necessary for the acquirement of agility, independence, strength and perfect evenness in the fingers as well as suppleness of the wrists - all indispensable qualities for fine execution; furthermore, these exercises are calculated to render the left hand equally skilful with the right. […]

Now, in 1873 it was not the practice of piano pedagogues to be fully acquainted with human anatomy. In fact I doubt that the full details of anatomy and muscle physiology were available then. In particular, Hanon seems completely ignorant of two anatomical facts – one obvious – the other not so obvious but nevertheless there. Fact number one: fingers have different sizes. Fact number two the fourth finger shares a tendon with the third finger, so it cannot move independently. Therefore the whole Hanon project and directions for practice are based on a completely false premise: that it is possible to acquire equal strength on all fingers, and moreover that you can acquire finger independence. From that false premise he jumps to a now hopelessly false conclusion: that the way to do so is to do his exercises.

If a salesman knocked at your door and proceeded to try to sell you a book of instructions that- if followed -would allow you to fly like superman would you buy it? You would not even need to read and try the instructions in the book, because no matter how reasonable and compelling they may appear, it promises something you know to be impossible.

Likewise I do not need to even enter the merit of Hanon exercises, because their final aim (equal finger strength and independence) is anatomically impossible no matter how much you repeat them.

3. But it gets worse. Hanon directs you to keep all the playing apparatus (shoulder girdle/arm/forearm/hands) motionless and move only the fingers. I kid you not! Here are his very own words:

Lift the fingers high and with precision, playing each note very distinctly. (Exercise 1)

We repeat that the fingers should be lifted high, and with precision, until this entire volume is mastered. (Exercise 5)

Lift the fingers high and with precision without raising hand or wrist (Exercise 44)

Lift the fingers high and with precision throughout this exercise without raising hand or wrist (Exercise 47)

Strike the octaves without lifting the wrists, and hold them down while deftly executing the intermediate notes with a good finger movement. (Exercise 58 )

Neither wrist nor hand should be moved in the least while playing this exercise (Exercise 59)

Do any of these exercises in the way prescribed and you end up with a serious injury.

Only in six of the more advanced exercises the wrists are allowed to move at all, and specific directions are given to that end. Here again in his own words:


Lift the wrists well after each stroke, holding the arms perfectly quiet; the wrist should be supple, and the fingers firm without stiffness. Practise the first four measures until an easy wrist-movement is obtained. (Exercise 48).

The wrists should be very supple, the fingers taking the octaves should be held firmly but without stiffness, and the unoccupied fingers should assume a slightly rounded position. At first repeat these three first lines slowly until a good wrist-movement is attained, and then accelerate the tempo continuing the exercise without interruption. If the wrists become fatigued, play more slowly until the feeling of fatigue has disappeared, and then gradually accelerate up to the first tempo. (Exercise 51).

We cannot too strongly insist on the absolute necessity of a proper wrist-movement; it is the only means of executing octaves without stiffness and with suppleness, vivacity and energy (Exercise 53).

This highly important exercise (broken octaves) prepares the wrists for the study of the tremolo (Exercise 56).

To begin with practice the first arpeggio in C which must be played cleanly and distinctly, with a good wrist-movement, before passing to the next in minor (Exercise 57).

Finally, by oscillations of the wrists, the rapidity is still further augmented up to the tempo of the drum roll (Exercise 60).

Nowhere in the whole book do we find reference to forearms, arms, shoulders, back or even posture. One gets the impression that Hanon’s ideal is for the pianist to remain motionless while his fingers - and in a few instances - his wrists do all the work. There is simply no piece in the entire piano repertory where such a way of playing would be appropriate. There may be a few pieces that you may be able to play like that, but even the Hanon exercises can benefit from using the whole of the playing apparatus. So what can possibly the point of endless practising something that will never be appropriate? Whatever technique you may acquire from Hanon will be pretty much useless.

I play the recorder. Even when playing the recorder the whole body must move (although a careless observer may get the impression that all you are doing is moving your fingers up and down). So Hanon’s technique is inadequate even for the recorder – an instrument which is far more limited in terms of arm movement than the piano.

Now of course, this is what Hanon tells us in his writing. Maybe in his personal teaching he would say more. So apart from developping finger strength and independence (two impossibilities as we have seen), what else are they good for?

4. What about equalizing the hands? Hanon promises that in no uncertain terms:

these exercises are calculated to render the left hand equally skilful with the right.

Not if you play them as directed, that is with hands together. Assuming that your left hand is weaker, as you play through the exercises hands together, the left hand will always be playing beyond its capacity (and therefore getting tense, making mistakes and developping bad habits) while the right hand is never playing at its full potential (since it has to wait for the left).

Cold you play the exercises in a way that it would equalise the hands? Yes, practise them hands separate.

This of course would defeat the main goal of the book, as Hanon tells us:

This entire volume can be played through in an hour

Well, not if you are going to do it hands separate as well, more like three hours…

5. What about Finger coordination?-

This is – in my opinion – the only saving grace of these exercises, the only level where some benefit can be derived. By finger coordination I mean the movement of each finger in turn according to a preestablished pattern. So in exercise number 1 each finger follows the other in the order 12345 (rh) and 54321(lh) when ascending and 54321 (rh) and 12345 when descending. In Exercise 15, fingers follow one another in the order 12132435 (rh) and 53423121 (lh) when ascending and 53423121 (rh) and 12132435 (lh) when descending. Such coordinations are by no means trivial, and may elude the practitioner for many weeks. The way to master them is through repetition and slow playing. Yet you have to play fast enough do that you do not have to “think”, for this will slow you down.

Is Hanon good for this purpose them? Undoubtedly. But so is every piece of music ever written! So why, for crying out loud, practise these musical monstrosities in order to acquire something that can be acquired playing pieces from the repertory?

6. What about speed and agility?
Hanon suggests (for the majority of the exercises) that one starts on MM ´ = 60 and progresses to MM ´ = 108.
Is 108 beats per minute the fastest one can play the exercises? No. However if one is to follow Hanon’s injunction of not moving the wrists and lifting each finger high and with precision, 108 beats per minute is about the limit speed. If you try playing faster one of two things will happen. Either you will tense and the fingers will loose their precision and cramp, or you will start moving wrists and forearms around in order to help with the finger movement. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the later as will be discussed later on. However there is something very wrong with tension. In the best scenario you simply will not be able to produce the best tone the piano has to offer. In the worst case scenario, insist on playing as fast as you can with tense wrists/arms/back/etc. for hours on end, repeating the same pattern over and over in the hope of eventually improving (no pain, no gain), and you may end up with a very nasty injury (eg. repetitive strain syndrom, carpal tunnel syndrom, focal dystonia). And this will mean not playing for 2 - 3 years (and in some cases never again).

Hanon must have been aware of the potential dangers, since he set the limit at 108 beats per minute.

The point here is that you cannot develop speed and agility with fingers alone. Velocity is a function of the upper arm. So once again, Hanon is pretty much useless for true virtuoso technique, since such technique demands the co-ordinated use of the whole body. How are you going to learn and practise such co-ordination from a set of exercises that allow you only to move from the wrist down?

7. All of the above leads us to an interesting question: can we salvage these exercises? Can’t we ignore Hanon’s suggestions and practise the exercises in a more appropriate way (hands separate for equalizing the hands, moving the whole playing apparatus and not only the fingers, etc.)? Of course we could.Hmoll, who disagrees with me on my rejection of Hanon has said that Hanon is good but should be used under the guidance of a teacher. I suspect that he is very aware of all the shortcomings above, but still thinks that with the necessary modifications Hanon can still be useful.

Although I agree that it is possible to modify Hanon so that it becomes sort of useful, there are two problems with trying to salvage it. The first is the serious one. If your teacher is aware of all these problems – and therefore knowledgeable enough to modify the execution of the exercises so that they add up to something - most likely he will not assign you Hanon. Which means that a teacher who assigns Hanon most likely has not even reflected on all the above, s/he is just following tradition. Therefore you are facing a huge waste of time in the best case scenario and some nasty injury in the worst case scenario. The second argument about salvaging Hanon is much simpler: Why bother? Instead play Scarlatti sonatas, or Bach 2 voice inventions. They will give you all the technique Hanon promises (without delivering) and much, much more.

Best wishes,
Bernhard
-------
(source: http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=print;num=1084072922;start=28)
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#947877 - 12/12/04 08:12 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Not sure who this Bernhard guy is, but he must do a bit of teaching while he's not writing "War and Peace" on that other forum.

My brief comment **DISCLAIMER: I'm not a piano teacher** is Hanon helped me because I had a teacher who used it creatively. I never played Hanon, Czerny etc. the way Hanon and Czerny said to play their etudes and exercises, nor did I use them for the stated objective of "complete finger independence," "quiet hand," and so on. Not sure who said "it's not what, it's how," in these forums, but that's what I agree with.

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#947878 - 12/12/04 09:54 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
haha.. yeah, this Bernhard guy is a mystery, he has enormous knowledge of many things.. He is a piano teacher, in the UK. Somewhere on pianoforum.net is his piano studio policy.. every one of his students has a daily 30-45 minute lesson, and he applies all of the concepts he talks about with them all.. They learn up to 100 pieces per year.. That doesn't imply they all become performance level, his methods go more to learning repertoir. Taking them to performance level can be a life-long persuit, regardless the methods you employ to actually learn them.

Phlebas - I agree that as long as you use the notes in the Hanon exercises, and completely ignore everything he says about "how" then perhaps they might be of some use.. But I still believe you can accomplish the same thing with real repertoir, ya know, something you can actually enjoy, and play for others ;\)

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#947879 - 12/12/04 02:36 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Could you cite some cases where harm has occurred from the use of Hanon exercises? I don't know of anyone. I do know those who use them and get great benefits from them. What is the potential harm? There are other similar exercises and many books of them--Joseffy, Dohnanyi, Phillip, Plaidy, Pischna, etc. Do you decry them as well as potentially harmful?

Unless you've tried them, then I think your premise is somewhat faulty. They develop the 'tools' with which to facilitate learning repertoire. It would take quite judicious selection of repertoire and approach to it to develop technique from repertoire alone. It can certainly be done--no argument there.

I realize there are Pro and Con arguments about the use of Hanon, but I have gained immensely from their use and have never suffered any harm. It reminds me of the Purrone (Spelling) site which has various technical systems outlined. He implies great harm yet many have followed those precepts and have been some of the most famous artists ever--students from Liszt, Leschetizky, and others.

I'm sure your opinions might sway some to avoid Hanon and other exercises of similar design but it's pretty firmly entrenched in the system so I think the books will still sell. Why? It works!

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#947880 - 12/12/04 05:02 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i only played Hanon's first 2 exercises when i started and haven't tried others much since except for checking on some fingering reference. i noticed people have huge disagreement on Hanon, and i am not on either side, although Bernhard's ideas make a lot of sense to me. i also think that for those who do use Hanon there is a right way to do it rather than the way Hanon described there himself in the book, because using fingers alone in playing is not always the right way to do. except trills or maybe a few other exceptions there are hardly any passages we can just use fingers alone to play.

i found it boring to play Hanon and stopped doing it long ago, and i'd rather learn some pieces to acquire techniques instead. i find myself succeeding in doing so, as i have learned more pieces, such as Bach inventions/preludes, Beethoven sonatas (although only a few movements) along the way. especially lately, i noticed that my control and touch over keyboard have improved greatly (although still not perfect). the point is that each piece may present certain technical challenge and by overcoming such challenges through learning the pieces, you are gaining the technical abilities anyway. i do believe that i am on the right track.

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#947881 - 12/13/04 07:03 AM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
Hi Varcon -

 Quote:
Originally posted by Varcon:
Could you cite some cases where harm has occurred from the use of Hanon exercises? I don't know of anyone. I do know those who use them and get great benefits from them. What is the potential harm?
I cannot cite examples off the top of my head. Were I to do research, perhaps I could find some. I think probably anybody who was injured by it, could never go on to become famous, and as such, you never heard of them. That of course is pure conjecture. I think the potential "harm" would be two-fold:

1. repetitive stress injuries trying to make your hands do something they are physically incapable of doing.

2. technique wise, the idea of not using your arms, or your body, which comprise a large part of the piano playing mechanism, is just absurd. Again, if you are using the exercises for coordination, note reading etc. but NOT trying to execute them using the physical techniques he suggests, rather, modern technique, then I don't think you will do any harm. But I do believe that you could match any good that may come from them, using actual repertoir.

again - only "harmful" if you try to physically tackle the exercises using the technique he suggests.. Otherwise, it's just non-musical activity at the piano.

 Quote:

There are other similar exercises and many books of them--Joseffy, Dohnanyi, Phillip, Plaidy, Pischna, etc. Do you decry them as well as potentially harmful?
I have not read those, so I can't say. I have heard others converse on them in various forums like this one. Again, it's not so much the idea of "exercises for the sake of exercises" - if you gain benefit from that, by all means, go for it. I study martial arts, and we do repetition of basic motions constantly. It's not sparring. It's not forms, it's just drilling on technique. But with Hanon, in particular, the physical approach he suggests is entirely founded on a premise which we now know to be physically impossible. Exercises in and of themselves are not dangerous, Hanon technique, would seem to be. If any of the works you cited also claim the ability to give you absolute independance and equal strength in all fingers, I would decry them as well for the same reason.

 Quote:

Unless you've tried them, then I think your premise is somewhat faulty.
Fair enough.

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It would take quite judicious selection of repertoire and approach to it to develop technique from repertoire alone.
So? What's wrong with judiciously selecting and approaching the acquisition of your repertoir? The discipline and attention to detail and long term goals is one of my favorite things about studying classical piano (vs. the Bass which I played for 10 years in rock/jazz settings.) I say, be judicious and disciplined in your work and hopefully accomplish more in less time as a result.

 Quote:
They develop the 'tools' with which to facilitate learning repertoire.
I don't believe that's exactly true. Repertoir has musical context which Hanon does not. It will require more than any Hanon exercise is going to give you when it comes time to use these techniques in an musical manner. As such, any technique you derive from a Hanon exercise, will need a certain degree of modification in order to work musically within a given piece of repertoir. This is why I don't believe you can seperate technique from musicality. You might have the fastest, most nimble fingers on the planet, and be able to blaze through all kinds of scales and odd patterns, and even repertoir. But if the result is lacking all musicality and expression, then you do not have good technique. Just as, in my martial arts, I might have the fastest and strongest roundhouse kick when it comes to drilling with the kicking targets, but if I consistently fail to score during a sparring match with my roundhouse kick, the technique is no good. So why learn something you're going to have to change anyway? Why not just learn the technique required while learning the repertoir itself?

Again, if it works for you and you believe it to be a worthwhile endeavor, by all means continue to use it!

 Quote:

I realize there are Pro and Con arguments about the use of Hanon, but I have gained immensely from their use and have never suffered any harm.
Excellent! Do you execute the technique he describes? (#3 in Bernhard's post above) or do you use modern piano technique?

 Quote:

It reminds me of the Purrone (Spelling) site which has various technical systems outlined. He implies great harm yet many have followed those precepts and have been some of the most famous artists ever--students from Liszt, Leschetizky, and others.
Again, the question isn't "how many famous people used Hanon" moreso, "how relevant was Hanon to their fame?" (and to your first point, "how many people aren't famous because they used Hanon?") - people spend much time doing things which they could do more efficiently and more effectively. That was the case 130 years ago just as that is the case today. In all aspects of life. Many pianists will easilly obsess for endless hours in a given day on a single passage (as I myself have been guilty of), when in fact they could accomplish their goal much faster, and learn much more repertoir in the same time frame, if they spent less time each day, broken out over several days. Studies in the psychology of learning show us this. My own attempts to utilize these studies with regards to my piano pracitce prove it for me. So just because "famous player X" practiced for 12 hours every day doesn't mean he couldn't have excelled equally in 3 hours a day if he had approached it differently. Just because people are doing things one way, does not mean it's right. With Hanon, many might never get injured.. People type away at computers all day everywhere and never get repetitive stress disorders.. Many do.. If you don't, you're lucky. We now have ergonomic keyboards, office chairs etc. that, based on what we now know about anatomy and physiology serve to prevent such injuries. Did people get away w/o harm before such devices came along? Sure. Will they continue to? Sure, but why use old keyboards and poorly designed office equipment when you can better ensure your safety and still get the job done? Many people did many great things using these old devices and techniques. Where else in modern life are we sticking to methods and techniques that are over 130 years old? Imagine if surgeons still doused you up with whiskey and strapped you to a chair to operate on your brain? ;\)


 Quote:

I'm sure your opinions might sway some to avoid Hanon and other exercises of similar design but it's pretty firmly entrenched in the system so I think the books will still sell. Why? It works!
I really don't intend to sway anybody. We are all free to choose our own devices. I just like discussing these types of things. Yes, I realize it is firmly entrenched in the system, but that does not imply it is right.. The way I see it, there are two "camps" in the world, the folks who say "well, this is how it's always been done" and the folks who say "lets see how we can do it better." If I can judiciously choose my repertoir, make a disciplined plan and spend 2 hours a day simultaneously developing technique AND repertoir, or spend 2 hours a day just preparing to learn actual repertoir, doing endless repetitions of non-musical exercises which, against my better judgement, seperate technique from musicality, I will choose the former. If you believe that technique and musicality can in fact be seperated, and do not mind spending considerable time partially preparing yourself to learn repertoir, you are free to choose the later.

\:\)

-Paul
_________________________
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

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#947882 - 01/30/05 04:37 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
Piana Justice Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 299
Loc: Greenville, NC
well, i have to agree with mound on using the arm to support your weakest fingers. i didn't realize it until now. with my weakest fingers to play the piano, i use my upper body strength the support those fingers by instinct. how else am i gonna play some of the notes as strongly as i should? i would have to say that my 4th finger is my weakest finger, b/c i don't use it as often as my other fingers. i also notice that most pianists use just their thumbs and baby fingers on their left hand when playing the harmony. but with their right, the use the thumb, index, middle, and baby fingers the most, like me. i hardly ever use my 4th finger.
well, anyway, one of the tips for making your 4th and 5th fingers stronger is... well, i know this sounds strange, but i think that it has done me a world of good. you may wanna try keyboarding [typing on the computer], and do it often. i spend a few hours every other day typing, b/c i've joined several forums, so i spend a lot of time typing.
_________________________

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#947883 - 02/10/05 03:31 PM Re: How to strengthen 4th and 5th fingers
DeutcheGramophon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/10/05
Posts: 44
Loc: Macedonia
Listen, play for example C-major slow, but only with those fingers. It's very hard but try it. Only non-legato.

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