Since the first release of this classic Schirmer edition over 100 years ago, almost anyone who has taken piano lessons for more than two years has played from The Virtuoso Pianist.
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, including:
Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises, Complete. Since the first release of this classic Schirmer edition over 100 years ago, almost anyone who has taken piano lessons for more than two years has played from The Virtuoso Pianist . Millions of copies have been sold of these progressive exercises which guide a player’s technique, building finger independence and strength. This was the first American edition released of this music, and remains a classic at a remarkably affordable price.
Junior Hanon (Alfred Masterwork Edition). A slight condensation of Hanon’s first exercises. The simplification in layout and range make the exercises appear less difficult to a young student. Includes the complete Book 1 and excerpts from Books 2 & 3 of C. L. Hanon’s famous studies, The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises.
Jazz Hanon. Inspired by Charles-Louis Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist the essential technical method for any classical player these new volumes present a modern-day equivalent for the musician seeking to play the key piano styles of the 20th century. Each book develops basic technique and true facility in each genre through authentic, progressive exercises and etudes. The music in these books is fun to play for pianists at every level, building the necessary skills in each style while providing extensive musical and stylistic insight.
I’m thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano 🙂 This year, I’m especially thankful for the Internet!
When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in. The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom. Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.
Since we had the piano already, someone – probably my mom – decided that I would take lessons. We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI
Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.
Miss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.
I started with Ada Richter’s classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.
From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.
There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from – but I still have it all.
My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she’d had as a child. Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.
But I digress…
In those days, kids couldn’t do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout. Bye, bye Clara.
Girl Scouts didn’t last long but I did play piano in a talent show. I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller’s Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover. (I still have this, too)
I doubt that I played this well but here’s what it was supposed to sound like:
A few years intervened and moved to Springfield, MA. The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement. But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started “practicing”.
My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college. I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonaise by Jules Massenet. I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.
Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:
I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.
Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week. AARRGGH!
But I stuck it out.
My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident during my sophomore year and I was devastated. There will be more about him in a post on January 26, 2021 here on https://oconnormusicstudio.com
I took yet another break from piano lessons – but I kept playing.
After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school. Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin. I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music. She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.
When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano. The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone. Yesterday. She even paid to move it out of her apartment.
The new-to-me piano took up half our living room. When my parents came to visit, their feet we under my piano as I slept.
I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.
That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano. The movers accidently brought in the wrong one and I made them return it. The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.
I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland. I continued that in Wilmington, DE.
When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling. Students would come to me. And so they have since 1973.
What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, recorders, a dulcimer and other musical “stuff”.
Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life. Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.
I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years and the new ones I have found…on the internet.
Get your piano students listening to great classical music!
The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.
This Shades of Sound Christmas edition includes 20 pieces of piano and orchestral literature for the Christmas season, from the Baroque to the Modern period. Includes background and historical information on the pieces and the composers, and a beautiful coloring page for each piece.
The Christmas Shades of Sound book includes 20 different pieces, including:
In Dulci Jubilo from the Christmas Tree Suite by Liszt
The Funeral March of a Marionette (Marche funèbre d’une marionnette) is a short piece by Charles Gounod. It was written in 1872 for solo piano and orchestrated in 1879. It is perhaps best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which originally aired from 1955 to 1965.
In 1871-72, while residing in London, Gounod started to write a suite for piano called “Suite Burlesque”. After completing one movement, the Funeral March of a Marionette, he abandoned the suite and had the single movement published by Goddard & Co. In 1879 he orchestrated the piece. The instrumentation is: piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in D, 2 trumpets in A, 3 trombones, ophicleide, timpani, bass drum, triangle, strings. The work is in the key of D minor, with a central section in D major. Various arrangements by other hands exist.
There is a program underlying the Funeral March of a Marionette: The Marionette has died in a duel. The funeral procession commences (D minor). A central section (D Major) depicts the mourners taking refreshments, before returning to the funeral march (D minor).
The score contains the following inscriptions in appropriate places:
La Marionnette est cassée!!! (The Marionette is broken!!!)
Murmure de regrets de la troupe (Murmurs of regret from the troupe)
Le Cortège (The Procession)
Ici plusieurs des principaux personnages de la troupe s’arrêtent pour sa rafrâichir (Here many of the principal personages stop for refreshments)
Retour a la maison (Return to the house). (Wikipedia)
Download this music in several versions from IMSLP. Click on Arrangements and Transcriptions. There are also some arrangements for piano at the O’Connor Music Studio, including an advanced level. This is arranged for three levels starting with very easy piano in PIano Maestro.
On Alfred Hitchcock:
From Faber Piano Adventures Performance Book Level 3B No.7 (Also available in the OCMS Library):
Students always find this piece fun with its finger snaps. There are three versions in Piano Maestro and it’s in several piano books including Halloween Songbook (Easy Piano). There was a a new Addams Family animated movie out in 2019, so your students are going to be snapping all over the place when this Halloween rolls around.
We have established that regular practice routines will not happen without proactive piano parents. So, how can parents be proactive practice assistants even if they have never touched a piano?
Day 8. The Timekeeper: Some of the O’Connor Music Studio students are using Andrea And Trevor Dow’s Timed Note Reading Tests For Piano, so their parents can be the timekeeper when it is time for their daily note reading practice.
iOS: Learning to play the piano can be difficult, and even moreso if you don’t have someone there to help you fix your errors and learn good tempo. Simply Piano can do both of those things, and all it takes is your iPhone or iPad. Best of all, it’s free.
Like many “piano-learning” apps, Simply Piano teaches you various pieces of music by essentially displaying sheet music in front of you to play, guiding you to the right keys on your piano or keyboard, and showing you the right order in which to press them and when — that’s all great, and not terribly unique, even if it works well. Where the app shines however is its listening feature. Simply put the phone down near the keyboard, and Simply Piano will “listen” to you play.
As you play, the app identifies what you’re playing and gives you feedback on how to improve. Maybe you need to pick up the tempo, or maybe you missed a few notes here or there — whatever it is, the app can give you a few tips, and encourages you to try again, all while it listens and tries to help.
Simply Piano is free, and available now. It comes bundled with a ton of songs to learn (including classical and pop songs you’ll probably recognise), and is geared to all skill levels — and keyboard types, so you don’t need a fancy piano just to use the app, any keyboard will do. Hit the link below to try it out.