The piano is one of the most popular instruments in the world for many reasons, from its sound to its welcoming nature to beginners, however there are a lot of exercises to be done before fully learning the instrument.
While it can be easy to play at first, there is a lot to learn and a very high skill ceiling when it comes to the piano.
In order to continue developing piano skills, teachers need to remind their students the importance of practice and exercises.
Warm Up Exercises
Just like any sport, you need to be in control of your body and muscles by having warm ups and exercises to avoid injuries and improve your performance.
This applies to a pianist’s fingers, so remember to stretch your fingers, your arms and get ready to start playing piano.
The Hanon Exercises
The Hanon exercises for piano were created by French piano pedagogue and composer Charles Louis-Hanon, these exercises consist of independent finger practice. The main goal consists of training the pianist in speed, agility, strength and precision of fingers, as well as training wrist flexibility and endurance. There are 60 finger exercises that were made into a book called The Virtuoso Pianist which was first published in 1873. The exercises include beginner level, moderate and advanced level of training.
There are three main areas that you can improve with the hanon exercises, these are:
- Finger strength and independence
- Overall endurance
- Strength in the wrist and the forearm
These are two of the most effective exercises:
This one improves finger strength and independence, as well as wrist and forearm strength.
This one helps with wrist and forearm strength and endurance.
There are many many more but this is just a taste of what these wonderful exercises offer.
Exercises for Children
Exercises may not be as fun as playing a complete piece, this is specially true to younger piano players.
The idea is that exercises should be fun for children, it needs to feel like a game, for example, teachpianotoday.com has a few good ideas like:
Have your student place their hand on a table top with their wrist resting on the surface and their fingers nicely curved. This is the “spider”. He needs to stretch each of his legs. Have your student reach one finger at a time starting with their thumb and reaching in an upward motion while keeping their other fingertips touching the table top and without allowing their knuckles to collapse. You can hold something for the spider legs to reach up to touch, giving them something to aim for.
Once your student has mastered this, this you can give the spider specific exercises for his legs. Write out finger numbers in random order and have the spider’s legs lift accordingly (ie. 1-3-5-2-4).
So the main thing should be to find fun little twists in order to make it feel like a game.
Mikael Pettersson Tips
Mikael Petterson is Swedish concert pianist. He obtained a B Mus (Hons) degree at Birmingham Conservatoire the year 2000 and also attended Masterclasses with Prof. Hans Leygraf and Prof. Peter Feuchtwanger.
After that he became inspired during his time at the Birmingham Conservatoire, he began teaching piano at various levels which eventually took him to become the Head of Keyboard Studies for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students completing a Music Degree at the University of Wolverhampton.
In an interview with crosseyedpianist.com he talks
I wanted to pass on my ideas on the physical approach to piano playing. Following my studies with Peter Feuchtwanger, I teach my students various exercises where the focus is on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’. So the movements, relaxation of certain muscles and tension of others are all important, while the notes in this case are almost incidental. I therefore encourage the students not to be overly concerned with accuracy but instead to learn a new movement and degree of relaxation that can then be incorporated into the repertoire. There is a great advantage to having this one aspect in isolation since when performing a piano work there are so many musical elements to consider. Technique and teaching of movements at the keyboard is often neglected until the teaching becomes quite involved, by which stage bad habits have often set in and are hard to correct. The DVD may be used to learn the exercises from scratch in which case it is paramount to try copying the movements demonstrated as closely as possible. In the case of my own students the DVD is used as a reminder of the exercises and to support the information I give in the lessons. Closely related to these exercises are fingerings which are chosen to encourage a particular movement when working on repertoire. The traditional ‘five finger position’ is not present; in fact there is rarely a position but always a movement which gives much more suppleness and freedom at the keyboard.
There are always new techniques and discoveries in order to make learning piano a lot easier so be on the lookout for new ideas to improve your piano lessons.