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“Should I be practicing exercises?”

by Bruce Siegel on July 21st, 2014

That’s the question that Darshan, a new subscriber to Play & Sing, asked me recently. He’s a beginner who was particularly curious about the often-recommended exercises published in 1900 by Charles-Louis Hanon.

I thought my answer might be helpful to others, too, so here’s what I said.

Over the years, I’ve found that students make the best progress not by practicing dry exercises, but by being deeply involved in learning to play music they love.

Having said that, exercises such as Hanon and scales can be helpful at the right time and for the right student. But only when played correctly! I would much rather have someone practice no exercises, than play Hanon (for example) with stiff wrists and a body that’s tense and uncomfortable.

So what do I recommend for beginners? That’s easy: the sorts of activities I teach and demonstrate in Play & Sing.

One of the strengths of my course is that it incorporates technical training into the lessons in ways that are enjoyable and practical. For example, as I teach you to play specific songs and styles, I demonstrate whole-body technique, which has the dual benefit of keeping you relaxed, while maximizing the effectiveness of your fingers through the proper use of wrists, arms, and arm-weight.

So you’ll find that practically all my lessons, if practiced well, can be tools for building good playing habits and developing piano technique that will serve you well regardless of the kind of music you enjoy playing.

As to exercises in the literal sense, some basic ones that have proven their value to my students can be found here:

Piano Technique: A Whole-Body Approach (Parts 1 & 2)
Playing Your First Piece (which is sort of an exercise/piece.)
• The exercise at the end of Inversions: The secret to smooth chord changes
Big Leaps Made Easy. The music in this lesson is geared more to advanced players, but the basic principle is crucial at all stages, and can be applied as early as Playing Your First Piece.

Thanks, Darshan, for asking such a great question!

  1. David permalink

    As with your videos, your instuctions and tips are very easy to understand and apply. Thank you for these blog entries.

  2. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Thanks, David!

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