If you’re a live musician that plays guitar, bass or keyboards then you know that having good finger strength and coordination is essential to mastering your instrument. If you ever took piano lessons then you’ve probably run across the piano exercise book by Charles-Louis Hanon titled “The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises“. I remember my piano teacher asking me at the beginning of every lesson to play my “Hanon Exercise”. Because the name “Hanon” was the largest word on the cover of the book we all just called it Hanon. I’ll tell you, those exercises were easy to learn, quickly became boring and built my finger strength and coordination in a way that few things have over the years. I owe a lot of my hand strength to good old Hanon.
Okay in all fairness the exercises are only boring if you don’t push yourself to be faster and more accurate as you play them. If you keep challenging yourself then they aren’t boring at all. They are also very easy to memorize and play whenever you have a spare five or ten minutes to spend at the piano. The mechanics of pressing down keys on the piano use the same muscles as the guitar so if you’re a guitarist or bass player these piano exercises will build your fingers just as much as playing scales on the guitar. In fact they’ll build your finger muscles better because it takes more effort to press down piano keys than to hold down guitar strings. So guitar players, if you have a piano in your house then you need to buy “Hanon-The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises” and get practicing! Nothing builds strength like cross-training and here’s a very easy way to do it.
The book has a good introduction that gives excellent suggestions for how to approach the exercises. In a nutshell, you play the exercises as slowly as you need to in order to stay accurate and even. Then you slowly increase the speed of each exercise with your focus on accuracy. Your goal is to play the exercises as quickly as possible while still staying accurate. You’ll want to have a metronome handy so you can also work on your ability to stay on tempo. The ultimate achievement is to play the entire book cover to cover in one practice session. I guarantee your finger strength will be amazing if you reach this goal.
Whenever I have a gig approaching, I sit down at the piano for about 15 minutes a day and run through Hanon exercises. After I’m finished I practice my guitar for however long I want to. Playing through “Hanon – The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises” is a great way to prepare for a gig and keep your fingers strong and dexterous!