Most anyone who has ever played piano has a love-hate relationship with the “Hanon”.
The Virtuoso Pianist (Le Pianiste virtuose) by Charles-Louis Hanon, is a compilation of sixty exercises meant to train the pianist in speed, precision, agility, and strength of all of the fingers and flexibility in the wrists.
First published in Boulogne, in 1873, The Virtuoso Pianist is Hanon’s most well-known work, and is still widely used by piano instructors and pupils although some teachers are getting away from the mechanical playing these can produce.
Personally, I’ve sometimes played these on “auto-pilot” since all one really needs is to get the first pattern going, then move up a step, up a step…
Notes by C. L. Hanon: Preparatory exercises for the Acquirement of Agility, Independence, Strength and Perfect Evenness in the Fingers. For studying the 20 exercises, begin with the metronome set at 60, gradually increasing the speed up to 108.
The exercises are intended to address common problems which could hamper the performance abilities of a student. These include “crossing of the thumb”, strengthening of the fourth and fifth fingers, and quadruple- and triple-trills.
The exercises are meant to be individually mastered and then played consecutively in the sections they are placed in.
Apart from increasing technical abilities of the student, when played in groups at higher speeds, the exercises will also help to increase endurance. The exercises are divided in three parts:
- Exercises 1 – 20: Labeled “preparatory exercises”, these are also the most famous exercises, and are used to develop finger strength and independence. Each exercise contains a sequence of 8 semiquavers, beginning on C, which is then repeated starting on D, and so on across two octaves. The exercise is then repeated in reverse down two octaves to the starting C. The exercises are intended to be practiced in groups of three, except for the first two which are practiced together.
- Exercises 21 – 43: Labeled “further exercises for the development of a virtuoso technique.” This more difficult section is meant to be played after the pianist has fully mastered Part 1. Part 2 includes scales and arpeggios.
- Exercises 44 – 60: Labeled “virtuoso exercises for mastering the greatest technical difficulties.” Since this section is considerably more difficult, Hanon recommends the mastery of both previous parts before proceeding to this one. This part includes repeated notes,, and more.
After all three parts are mastered, Hanon recommends all exercises be played through daily to retain technique.
The O’Connor Music Studio has several editions of this work.