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The Most Versatile Exercise On The Piano

Use this to develop finger control, improve your speed and dexterity

Lisa Witt - Sep 24, 2019

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If there’s one exercise that I think is best for developing finger control, speed and dexterity it has to be Hanon.


These exercises are named after their creator, Charles-Louis Hanon and were published in 1873. There is criticism that the exercises are not “musical” enough, but I think there is still a lot of value in them.


The exercise Cassi will be focusing on today is the very first one. It’s a simple pattern, but it’s one you can vary to help develop control, hand independence, rhythm, and dynamics.


Hanon - The Exercise


The exercise itself is quite simple. It involves climbing up the keyboard one octave. There is one skip to begin with, but everything else is a simple stepping pattern.


You can see the first line here. Notice how there's a skip between the first two notes of each measure, and the pattern simply repeats up the scale:


I would really encourage you to master the basic pattern and exercise before moving on to any variations.


Adjustment 1 - The Finger Lift


Once you can play the exercise comfortably, slow it down and lift each finger up before playing the note. What's important here is to lift the finger with the natural curve that it already has. Do not curl the finger up even more, and do not straighten it either.



Don't worry about speed here -- focus on technique. This exercise helps with finger control and also the tone of your playing.


Adjustment 2 - One Hand Staccato, The Other Legato


This exercise helps improve hand independence, and it is definitely easier said than done.


Try playing one hand staccato (very short and detached) while you play the other hand legato (smooth with no breaks).


Again, take it slow. Many people find their fingers cannot keep up with their brains. To really challenge yourself, try switching hands as you go!


Adjustment 3 - Rhythms 


This one is a lot easier, thankfully, and is a fun way to practice rhythms. Instead of playing simple eighth notes, try adding a swing rhythm to the exercise, or try playing the notes in separate groupings.


There are lots of possibilities here to play around with. Try making up some of your own!


Adjustment 4 - Dynamics


Another difficult one, but this one will have a really big impact on your playing. I've said before that being able to control dynamics is the fastest way to go from a good player to a GREAT one


This exercise is a good next step up from that.


Try playing one hand softly, and the other hand loud. Then swap. Change the volumes around and try to change volume as you're playing.


Final Thoughts


I hope you can see how one simple exercise can be expanded to create something much more valuable. Don't expect to be able to do all of these exercises on the first go. There's a lot to take in here!


I'd encourage you to change it as much or as little as you want.


Mix and match and have fun!

#Hand Independence

#Lisa Witt



#Cassi Falk


#Finger Control

#Finger Strength

#The Most Versatile Exercise On The Piano


Hi, I'm Lisa Witt

Lisa has taught in a variety of settings from beginners just getting started to recording artists preparing their songs for the road. While her background is classical, she loves helping students play the music they love by ear and is excited to be a part of YOUR journey.