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BellaOnline's Musician Editor

Piano Exercises

If youíve been a couch potato for a while, you know the benefits of exercise. It not only tones up your physical body, but smoothes out your emotions and thoughts.

Since Iíd been rather sedentary for the past few months, I started to look for exercises that would be easy on my back. So I tried everything from pilates to weights to ball exercises, stretching, callanetics and core exercises. Finally I realized I had to work into things SLOWLY. And thatís whatís helped the most.

Most musicians would love better technique. And donít we envy those players who can rattle off lightning speed pyrotechnics. (Okay, so just let me have a fifth of the technique of some of the players Iíve heard). Well, I realized I could begin my journey to better technique now, by applying what I learned for physical exercise. Start SLOWLY. And WARM UP FIRST.

Almost all the exercise books Iíve read say the same thing. Even if youíre starting with easy stretching, WARM UP FIRST. You are far less likely to strain warmed up muscles!

The same thing applies to music. WARM UP FIRST. Some of easiest ways to warm up for piano players are Hanon Exercises. These are exercises first published in 1873 to help piano players with speed, precision and agility.

These particular exercises sometimes come under fire because if you practice them mindlessly they are not very musical. But hereís something you can try. Just use Hanon exercise number one (there are 60 of them but donít bother with the rest at first) as a warm up for about three weeks and see for yourself what it does for your playing.

You can print a FREE copy of Hanon exercise number one

Start very slowly, in a relaxed way, hands separately. Listen to each note sing back to you as you play it. SLOWLY. RELAXED. Play the rhythm of it smoothly. Then play it in a different rhythm Ė whatever rhythm you like, but slowly still. And smoothly. Again, all the time listening to each note ďsingĒ to you. Then try the same thing with your other hand.

The reason you want to practice the exercise hands separately is because itís easier to listen to the note ďsingĒ back to you if youíre only listening to one note at a time. Itís also easier to hear if you are playing smoothly if you listen to only one note at a time.

After youíve played the exercise with each hand, then practice with both hands together Ė SLOWLY. Donít bother with speed. It will come of its own, in a natural way. Only think of warming up, not playing quickly.

If you are new to Hanon exercise number one, you can see it played on YouTube:

Good luck on warming up. Writing this article has warmed me up to the idea of doing more warm-ups!

All the best,

Bellaonlineís Musician Editor

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