2: TECHNICAL EXERCISES and RUDIMENTS:
Get yourself a technical exercise book and a book of piano rudiments. The books I specifically reference later in this post are mentioned mainly to let you know that those particular books are among the ones I have used for myself and that I still use them with some of my students.
There are hundreds of these types of books on the market and they are not all the same. I’ve seen and had students who’ve gone-it-alone and made ill-advised choices and purchases of music books of various types only to find out that the “water” they’d gotten themselves into was way too deep! And too hot! So watch out for that!
In choosing something that most closely fits your needs, your current level of musicianship and pianistic capabilities have to be considered! In order to objectively assess that, you may need the opinion or advice of someone other than yourself to help make that determination.
In any case, once you’ve obtained the books, factor the exercises from of both of them into your practice routine so that you’re spending a “good” amount of time with the material during any given week. The “good amount of time” which you should spend will depend on your present level of development and the advice of your musical coach.
If you don’t already own any books of these types, check out the rest of this post and ask your teacher for recommendations because your teacher may wish to have you use a different publication from the two I reference here. So with all of that said, let’s move on!
Technical Exercise Books are usually focused on presenting you with many finger-strengthening exercises. One of the books I used for myself was the “Ernst Von Dohnanyi: Essential Finger Exercises” book. In any case, whichever book you use, you should follow your book’s prescribed practice instruction for each exercise, after which, you might then try some of your own experiments and variations.
I used to set up a rhythm track, or a metronome, and work each finger or group of fingers until the point of fatigue, then I’d stop!… Shake it off!… Then I’d do a few more reps… Then I’d stop again!. Before long, I noticed that my hands and fingers were starting to feel stronger at the piano keyboard. They even looked stronger and their “keyboard posture” felt more stable and more powerful than before. My execution was cleaner and a lot more articulate.
For an example of what I used to do, watch the next video to see how I practiced a technical exercise that uses all five fingers on a full diminished 7th chord. I encourage you to do the same thing or something similar if your fingers aren’t able to comfortably reach all five notes.
Notice how the inactive fingers keep their notes held down while the active fingers are engaged in the exercise.
This is the kind of thing you might do on any number of the exercises you’d find in this type of book.
I want to emphasize that you should not rush through this type of practice. Dedicate yourself to setting small goals of one or two exercises and thoroughly practicing those exercises for a while before moving on to another exercise.
Click here to search for and purchase your next “piano technical exercise book“. You might precede your search string with the word “beginner”, “intermediate”, or “advanced”, depending on your present level of musicianship.
When practicing “on-your-own”, feel free to be creative as you improvise your own rhythmic variations. It’s ok for the rhythmic composition of each rep to have some minor, or moderate, or even drastic differences! Just keep it in the groove!
Rudiment Books are usually focused on presenting you with material such as scales, arpeggios, I-IV-V-I chord progressions and resolutions, etc. Since this type of material is pretty much self-explanatory, I’m not going to say much here other than that this material is essential to your growth and development. If you have any questions, contact me.
Watch this video clip to see what Oscar Peterson said about his experience as a kid with a rudiment book and how his dad, mom, and family helped him get through it by insisting he practice!
One of the books my dad had me use from this category was the “Hanon Complete Edition” publication from the family of Charles-Louis Hanon finger exercise books.
Hanon finger exercises were first published in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France in 1873 and the first release of the Schirmer’s Edition was also over 100 years ago. The Hanon books have been in the “public domain” for some time now. This means that you can easily find them for sale from a number of publishers and distributors who’ve placed them in their catalogs, or you can easily obtain them as free downloads from many places on the Internet.
There are many published third party Hanon variations on the market. I put my own spin on Hanon Part 1 by creating a digital package that has on-board MIDI drum accompaniments.
If you’d like to play along with the “Music-Minus-One” version I made for you, click here or here.
The M.M.O. video’s on-screen notation is written in the treble staff only, starting from Middle-C. I used 8th notes instead of 16ths notes and the exercise is played twice-through per video play. The chord changes I used are also there so you can use the video for “comping” practice too!
I still use Hanon with my current students. I use their current level of development to determine which volume to recommend to them and/or the specific exercise(s) I assign. For example, one of my students may be working from the Hanon volume titled “Part I” which contains the first twenty scale preparatory exercises while another student who’s further advanced might be working from “Part III” which contains exercises #44 to 60 .
The Hanon Finger Exercise Books:
Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist, Part I – Preparatory Exercises – #s 1 thru 20 only
Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist, Part II – Scales and Arpeggios – #s 21 thru 43 only
Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist, Part III – Scales and Arpeggios – #s 44 thru 60 only
Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist, Complete Edition – Approximately 120 pages
If you wish to have your copy of Hanon in a traditionally-bound book you might opt to purchase it. Click here then type or cut and paste your choice into the next page’s search box .
If you are a “do it yourselfer”and you wish to obtain your Hanon as a free PDF download, then click any of the following options, courtesy of the anonymous person who uploaded and shared these files.
Hanon Part I – Exercises 1 thru 20 only (20-page PDF)
Hanon Part II – Exercises 21 thru 43 only (50-page PDF)
Hanon Part III – Exercises 44 thru 60 only (46-page PDF)
Hanon Complete – Exercises 1 thru 60 (116-page PDF)
So, get busy!
Part-3 coming soon in AC #26…