Jailbreaking Hanon

Are the exercises of Charles-Louis Hanon to be consigned permanently to the dustbins of history, or might they serve a useful purpose if done mindfully, with choreography that is natural to modern thinking about piano technique?

Hanon’s instruction to “lift the fingers high and with precision” is a relic of a bygone era, prevalent before we understood human anatomy as it applies to piano playing. Today’s pedagogy has moved away from finger isolation, focussing instead on coordinated movements of the finger, wrist and arm, doing away with the notion that we need to “strengthen” the fingers, or that some fingers are “weak”.

When all is said and done, Hanon’s exercises are innocuous in themselves, whether they are useful or damaging depends entirely on how we do them. The simple, repetitive patterns we find in the exercises might be used in ways that differ markedly from Hanon's old-school technical instructions, in order to experience and develop fundamental movements we need for real music (where the patterns are more complex).

In this video series, Graham Fitch demonstrates creative applications of the exercises, showing how they can be used to develop:

  • Lateral wrist adjustments
  • Wrist circles and hinges
  • Rotational movements
  • Thumb dexterity
  • Combined touches and dynamic contrasts between the hands
  • Transposition
  • ... and more!


Graham Fitch

Graham Fitch, based in London, maintains an international career not only as a pianist, but also as a teacher, adjudicator, examiner, lecturer, writer and commentator on piano playing and musical subjects.

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