Finger Twisters

Raise your hand if you grew up playing Hanon exercises on the piano. I was the nerd that actually liked playing Hanon. It felt good to let my fingers fly, and I geeked out on the musical patterns. I guess I just like that kind of thing.

Hanon can be a little tricky to introduce to piano students because of how it looks. Take a look (Hey! I got a gold star for this one!):


It is so dense with all those note heads packed so tightly together. Also, the sixteenths can be a little intimidating if you haven’t played them yet.

However, I have found that my piano students – even the young beginning students – love to play Hanon. I found this out by accident. I was at the end of a piano lesson with a student, trying to think of a fun little finger exercise to teach by rote. Boom. Hanon pops into my head. (Thanks Mrs. Isaacs for teaching me Hanon!)

So I teach the student the ascending right hand pattern of the first Hanon exercise. Seriously, you would have thought I had taught that student the latest, greatest pop song. Her eyes lit up when she “got” the pattern, and soon she was playing that pattern all the way up the keyboard.

I tested it out on a few other students, teaching just the ascending right hand pattern of the first exercise once again. Instant success again. What?!?! This is crazy! A few of my students attend the same church I attend, and soon I was hearing them play – you guessed it – the ascending right hand pattern of Hanon 1 at church to show off to their friends!

Since I think it is important for students to be able to read music also, I wanted to supplement the rote learning with reading the score as well. At the very least I wanted the students to know what the pattern looks like so they can recognize it by sight as well as sound when it comes up again in other pieces. But I wasn’t crazy about presenting a young student with a page of tightly-packed note heads. Might be a little intimidating.

The simplification process when like this: changing the sixteenth note rhythms to eighth notes, shrinking the range to only one octave, and only presenting the ascending pattern (for now – I did write the descending portion of the pattern as well and will put it on the blog in a future post). The fingering for right hand is located below treble clef, while the left hand fingering is located beneath bass clef.

Finger Twister 1

The students have been able to decipher this page of Hanon a lot more easily – probably partly because they already learned it by rote. There is nothing new I added to the music itself, just made the page look more appealing to younger students. Given the limitations we as teachers struggle with when teaching music from a page when music is auditory and understood with the ear, I think it’s okay to tweak a piece to make it usable.

Feel free to download a copy for yourself:

Finger Twister 1

Let me know how it goes for you and your students!