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  • Writer's pictureandreahywong

Technique: Hanon – but in 24 Major/Minor Keys!

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

I mentioned before that I started learning jazz to be able to not just play sheets, scores, and instructions presented to me, but hopefully one day be the music myself and play from… nothing! Anywho, one thing I’ve been working on is being familiar playing in the 12 major and 12 minor keys, as well other scales, modes, and switching between them!

I’ve been practicing a variety of exercises and focused on a different key every time I practice to evenly cycle through all of them before coming back to any particular one. It occurred to me that in my classical training, there were very popular composers with technique methods and exercises that I could use and apply to other keys!

Charles-Louis Hanon (1819 – 1900) is a French composer, and his volume, The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises, is widely used today. I really enjoy how intentional these exercises are with special attention in building “Agility, Independence, Strength, and Perfect Evenness” for specific and all fingers! Because of this focus, I believe most of Part I (1-20) and II (21-43) utilize only the white keys until the different keys are introduced in Exercise 39 onwards. I thought it would be beneficial to apply these finger patterns into other keys, especially the black keys I am less comfortably improvising on. These exercises are rather repetitive, so I thought it’d be more economic to make a summary sheet! I’ve finished Part I which looks like this:

Hanon The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises Summary Sheet
Hanon The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises Summary Sheet

I’m thinking maybe I should add in Hanon’s small notes on what fingers are intended to have special attention in each exercise too, even though that might change when the patterns are applied to other keys.

Exercises 39 onwards I’ve decided to leave out as I’ve already internalized them and the general patterns are well known. Exercise 39 is a collection of the 12 Major Scales, and the 12 Minor Scales. I found it interesting the harmonic minor scale was termed a “modern” minor scale, and the melodic scale as an “ancient” minor scale. Exercise 40 focuses on chromatic scales at an octave, minor 3rd, major 6th, minor 6th, and in contrary motions (beginning on the octave, minor 3rd, and major 3rd). Exercise 41 introduces tonic arpeggios, and Exercise 42 and 43 introduces diminished 7th and dominant 7th arpeggios respectively. I don’t think I’ll apply Part III (44-60) to all keys just yet though. There are focuses on repeated notes, in a variety of groupings, trills, wrist exercises, and playing multiple notes a hand evenly (thirds, sixths, octaves) in a controlled manner, and tremolos. That seems way beyond what I’m aiming to do right now (improvising lines in different keys and scales), so perhaps another #future project!

Carl Czerny (1791 – 1857) is another composer (a student of Beethoven’s!) that wrote many piano technique-oriented exercises but that’s for another time! #futurepost



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