Robert Estrin - piano expert

Are Czerny and Hanon a Waste of Time?

Are these tedious exercises really needed?

In this video, Robert tells you why the well-known Czerny and Hanon exercises are very important for your piano learning.

Released on October 14, 2015

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to LivingPianos.com and VirtualSheetMusic.com. I'm Robert Estrin with a viewer question. Visch asks, "Is Czerny and Hanon a complete waste of time?" That's a really loaded question. I imagine some teachers out there hear that question right now and have blood in your eyes thinking, "I've got my students working on these. What do you mean a waste of time?"

Well, I understand the point of the question, and indeed there are some teachers who make the students endure hours and hours of tedious exercises. Is this really necessary? Well, exercises can be extremely beneficial, and sometimes indeed working on exercises like Hanon and Czerny could be a great way to develop strength. Why? Because without the demands of learning a score that has so much nuance of expression, complex rhythms, melodies, and countermelodies, you can quickly learn and exercise it as more or less a pattern, certainly with Hanon exercises and even Czerny.

So you can learn a piece that has a lot of notes very quickly without having to spend a tremendous amount of time learning it. But what about that relative value of doing exercises versus learning music? Well, you know if you do have some musical etudes, etudes of Chopin certainly or Moskovsky but even simpler etudes on student levels like Heller or Burgmuller. You can get much of the same benefit of the strength building that Czerny or Hanon provide without having to play non-musical exercises. So I think there's a balance you must reach.

Certainly in the early levels of study in preparation for working on scales and arpeggios, which are about as pure an exercise as you can get, just to develop enough finger strength, that's where really the first Hanon exercises are so valuable. Because you don't have the cumbersome finger crossings and learning all the different thumb crossings and finger crossings in the hands. You just have simple patterns so a younger student could easily master several of these exercises, get a lot of strength by playing them and then build up to scales and arpeggios, in which case the exercises are no longer that important, in my opinion. Because if you could already play your scales and arpeggios you can use those for the same purpose of developing strength and a lot more since you'll be also mastering the technique of smooth finger crossings.

So I would say don't get bogged down with exercises, but there's an important place for them. A lot of times you could actually come up with your own etudes. You could take a section of music, for example, that gives you a great deal of difficulty and turn it into an exercise by creating patterns and bringing out different voices, playing different rhythms in the same section of music. So exercise can come in all flavors and sizes and just remember that you want to be able to play some music. I think it's a mistake to have a student having to endure nothing but exercises for weeks or months.

I think it's a mistake that some teachers make because the great thing about piano is the repertoire is so vast that even in the younger levels of study there are some masterpieces, little gems of Bach, Mozart, Schumann, that young students can enjoy great music, not even arrangements, but the original piano music that the masters wrote for you. So use exercises judiciously to build your technique, but make sure you reward yourself with great music because there's so much of it for the piano. Thanks for the great question. Keep them coming in. Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at VirtualSheetMusic.com and LivingPianos.com.
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Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 14, 2015 @6:27 am PST
I must be the odd ball! I really enjoy the studies of Czerny that I forget to play anything else! And I feel the benefit of Hanon, especially for gradually improving my speed.
reply
Robert - host, on October 15, 2015 @1:54 pm PST
Actually, some of the Czerny etudes are pretty fun! Just remember to explore other music so you don't miss out.
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