Music, School of


Date of this Version

September 1999


Published online in Piano Pedagogy Forum, v. 2, no. 3/September 1, 1999:
Reprinted by permission.


Piano pedagogues disagree about whether piano technique should be developed through practicing exercises or by isolating a musical passage which requires that a select technical motion be employed. Exercises are purely mechanical note patterns of varying length, usually only a few measures long. They are divorced from any musical content, and are devoted to only one technical skill. Like exercises, etudes usually concentrate upon developing one technical skill. However, etudes are fully developed pieces of some length which allow the player to build skill within a musical context. The essential difference between the practice of exercises versus isolating and conquering technical passages from repertoire lies in the goal of the practice. When practicing an exercise, the goal is usually conditioning of the hand and fingers, while in isolation of a technical problem, the goal is to apply the selected motions within a musical context.

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