Hanon-Faber, “Three Dimensions, No Tensions”

We’ve all heard the Hanon Exercise No. 1. How do we play that without tension? In fact, notice the title we’re giving it: “Three Dimensions, No Tensions.” We want to take out any tensions by giving coordinated playing and we do that through our three-dimensional form, our use of wrist circles. So we’re coming back then, building on the gestures, to not just swoop under or arc over, but to take the complete wrist circle. To do so we’re going to take hands alone and we’re going to give a preparatory exercise. That’s vital. Each of the Hanon exercises are accompanied by these preps. And I’d like you to focus that the prep pages are more important than the hands-together Hanon exercises. So it’s not just preparing us for that Hanon exercise, but indeed the prep is where you’re going to build most of your skill. The hands-together Hanon exercise is almost an afterthought to the value of the preps. It’s that much concentration of important information and concentration of exact precision motion. Let’s take a look. I’m going to start with the right hand because usually our right hands a little more coordinated than the left hand. So if we can find a gesture in the right hand so it feels comfortable, then we can look at the mirror image in the left hand. Our right hand actually became a model for the left hand. And ultimately they can feel equally comfortable. R.H. Prep 1: We’re going to take a complete wrist circle here by dropping under and over the top. So I’m pulling out slightly here and walking in with each consecutive finger. So notice the three-dimensional form. Now that’s a preparation for the exercise itself. We have in our exercise “D”… Notice, exactly the same motion we had just traced. And follow-through at the end. Left hand similarly dropping in and walking. Don’t feel speed is important. Remember to taking your time. It’s okay to take a rubato also. Sometimes the thinking is that I need to take this as a metronomic speed and the metronome is really important. But I would suggest the opposite. You can get to some metronome playing, but instead, start by thinking of these as a chance to discover how these feel together. Notice how much speed and how comfortable it felt because I’m willing to take a little stop and rest point and get to know the gesture. Let’s look at our hands together. Three Dimensions, No Tensions. We did the hands alone and what you’ve probably observed, as soon as you go into this, that we have this sort of opposing directions of the wave because our left hand and right hand are mirror images of each other, and yet we’re moving in parallel motion. Because we’re in parallel motion, I’m going to swoop under with my right hand while I’m going over the top with my left. At first this may seem pretty foreign and rather difficult, but you’ll get used to it and you see right away how important doing the preps are because the preps become automatized and then it’s easier to put it hands together. A little hint: We’re opening the hand here for starters, and we know a basic rule of piano technique is that we prefer closed hand to open. Because with open hand, you can’t align the arm weight over a finger. But as it closes it aligns nicely. So we have to get rid of those skips. What I like to do sometimes is think of this as isolated. Then notice as you end here you’re done and the new one feels very relaxed because we’re emphasizing the closed position of the hand as opposed to open. You can do this in your repertoire, too. In difficult repertoire, you can group notes in your mind so you’re grouping into the closed positions instead of grouping over open hand positions which induce tension.

One comment

  1. It does help. I've only been practicing for a month now, and I'm having trouble playing Burgmüller's Arabesque evenly, but adding these motions does the trick.

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