From to Pischna studied oboe at the Prague Conservatory. They have appeared in several editions and been used up to the present time in piano teaching. Josef Pischna was born at Iang Lhot Bohemia in In he graduated from the Royal Conservatory at Prague as an oboe player, however, as in all Continental schools, he was liged to study piano in addition to tire orchestra instrument. He also had the thorough training in harmony; counterpoint, musical history, etc. Consequently, although he lost his identity in the orchestras in which he performed, he really was a very able and well trained musician.
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For the past two years I have been studying with a piano teacher that is both incredibly intense and incredibly addicted to teaching piano in the way he was taught, that is, the method of the old German school. Therefore I have been doing Hanon and Pischna in all major keys for about 30 to 45 minutes every day for the past two years of my piano education. And I had never been really required to play Hanon and Pischna before two years ago.
Naturally, therefore, I drew the conclusion that it was to Hanon and Pischna that I owed my progress. In one week I am graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy and heading to University of Southern California as a music composition major. This means I have one more lesson with my current teacher. The closeness of freedom from the thankless rigidity of daily technical exercises is upon me, and it is only due to this fact that I have just recently realized the true worthlessness of Hanon and Pischna and all other exercises that are purely finger-movers.
However, as I will demonstrate later, this dictionary is full of wrong definitions and many crucial words are not even there. Therefore, if I do Hanon 45 minutes every day, lots of little notches add up to a sizable improvement on all of my repertoire.
So they say. Well, first off, I know this not to be true from personal experience. I had been working on that piece since last August, so by the time of the recital I really felt I had a more-than-fleeting grasp on the piece.
Well, it was not. In fact and this is crucial the progress I made on the Pathetique was in leaps and bounds and those leaps and bounds only occurred when I sat down and practiced the actual technical difficulties present in the Beethoven.
When there is no musical background to a technical exercise, the hand memory that you might have gained is forgotten almost instantly, for memory is based on associations. Allow me for a moment to define music as a balance between stasis and change. Sometimes different elements are changing and sometimes they are not.
This is of course one of a million definitions for music, and it gets incredibly complicated when you start discussing moment form and other modern ideas, but this works for the moment. If music is a balance between stasis and change, we must learn to train our minds and fingers, if you like to deal with that balance. However, Hanon is only teaching fingers and brains a static state of playing.
You lock your brain into the shape and configuration of the exercise and in my case, the key and you start and you turn your brain off. You can afford to turn your brain off. It will still be the same when you turn your brain back on, so there are no worries. Then you turn your brain off again.
This is incredibly detrimental to good playing of music. Music is anything but static: it engages you entirely, both physically and mentally. Playing Hanon leads you to the conclusion that music can be a brain-off activity if you want it to be.
I might also apply the principle of direct variation. Perhaps you remember from your studies of mathematics the principle of direct variation. In order for this equation to stay balanced, if x is raised, then y must be raised, too. Now, with the principles behind doing finger exercises each day in mind, let us consider x to be how well we perform Hanon and y to be how well we perform repertoire.
I can tell you from multiple personal experiences that this is simply not true. Additionally, Hanon is not only unhelpful for learning finger technique but by playing it hands-together as notated it is detrimental to the independence of the hands. Shall I keep going? Hanon is a liar.
Not a liar in the abstract sense but a liar in a quantifiably provable way. Open your Hanon to exercise 4 and look at the technical problem presented in the first beat of the left hand. Now compare that to the first beat of the right hand descending. These two figures are not the same. But these are finger exercises, not music. Instead, the finger independence is a brain issue. It has to do with understanding the musical concept of separate voices in your piece and knowing when to engage which muscles at what time and relaxing the rest of them.
And thus Pischna comes in. This is ridiculous! Once I know how to perform a few repetitions of this finger independence idea, it is clear that I have sufficiently wrapped my brain around the idea. Practicing the same thing over and over again until my fingers BURN which my teacher actually told me to do will do nothing to further improve my finger independence in this area, and will actually probably lead me to injury.
Thank God I only have to deal with this for one more week. The complete thoughtlessness that went into these exercises is evident. Take number 10 for example. This exercise only deals with the white keys. Suffice it to say that in trying to learn this exercise my fingers rebelled against me every step of the way. They knew that there was a better and MUCH easier way to hit these notes and that crossing over and holding the thumb was an incredible waste of energy.
I of course welcome any comments and criticisms in response to this gargantuan post. I hope that these thoughts can add to the body of knowledge that has already been amassed here at the Piano Forum.
Tägliche Studien (Pišna, Josef)
Pischna - The Little Pischna, 48 Practice Pieces