Whether you’re a novice or advanced pianist, having sound technique is crucial. Pianists with poor technique struggle with all kinds of issues while playing, so they often seek out technique books to help them with these issues. This can include fatigue in the hands and arms, poor control in musical passages, and sound production.
Good piano technique is something that needs to be taught from the very beginning and refined over time. While technique books are not the only way to achieve good playing habits, they are still very important. Technique books offer a roadmap to consistent playing when paired with good teaching and study.
Too often, pianists use technique books that are not right for them. Having plenty of experience with technique books I thought it would be a good idea to put together a compile a list of the best ones to use. Below are some of the best piano technique books to help improve your playing.
1. Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist
Hanon is one of the most well-known piano technique books in the world, and for good reason. This book contains nearly every technical difficulty a pianist will face from beginner to advanced repertoire. it’s been around since 1873, so naturally, the delivery of the study material is a little dry.
The book starts off with simple five-finger patterns, but over time those patterns are varied with a mixture of interval patterns. This is really good for helping the pianist develop independence in the fingers.
As the book continues, Hanon starts introducing all of the musical scales. He also includes playing exercises in double octaves, chord progressions, and much more.
In reality, most pianists will not learn all of the material in this book. Originally there were 60 exercises geared towards molding a virtuoso piano technique. Now there are 240 different exercises to help accommodate for every key, so its’ quite dense.
There is simply a lot to be covered. However, if there is a particular skill that you struggle with as a player this book is really good. You can isolate just the exercises you need and then work on them in addition to your repertoire. Ideally, you want to play no more than just a few of these exercises per day, although you could play through the entire book in one sitting.
2. Czerny School Of Velocity
The School Of Velocity is one of my favorite technique books, and one intermediate to advanced pianists will love. Its main goal is to develop fast-playing habits through cleverly composed pieces. Everything is based on scales and repetitive patterns that sound very musical and almost like complete pieces on their own.
With this in mind, some of the tempos in this book are incredibly fast and require some really advanced technique to pull off. This is a book that should be worked through slowly so that the pianist does not play sloppy for the sake of speed.
Compared to Hanon this book is a little less complete as far as covering every technical difficulty, but it still covers a lot. It’s more pleasing to the ear compared to Hanon and the pieces are simply more musical.
I suggest using some of the earlier exercises in the book for daily warmups, and then combining with some of the five-finger patterns exercises in Hanon. This book is also a good supplement (or replacement) for scales.
3. A Dozen A Day
If you’re just getting started with the piano, definitely give A Dozen A Day some attention. This is an old piano method book with stick-figure artwork that makes it stand out. It’s been around since the 1950s and is still widely used today in many teaching studios.
Each of the exercises is really short, so it helps new pianists to feel accomplished. The figures are drawn representing whatever the day’s workout is on the keyboard.
Each of the exercises is designed to be short enough to complete before the real practice session begins. The exercises are good for developing basic note reading, solid hand positioning, and working on dynamics. Because the passages are short, it makes it easy to self-assess your playing on a smaller scale.
There are several volumes of this technique book available, but I suggest checking out the entire anthology here.
4. Mozkowski Etudes Op. 72
I highly recommend the Mozkowski etudes for their musicality. These pieces are really wonderful and it’s technically a lot less demanding than Chopin or some of the Czerny exercises. Still, it’s not something I would recommend for a complete beginner as these pieces are quite advanced.
There are 15 etudes in Op. 72, and each one has it’s own unique characteristics about them. While these etudes focus on the fingers and hands, there’s equally as much demand on dynamics and musical expression. The melody lines are very lyrical, and all though it’s an etude it really doesn’t feel that way when playing it.
5. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
Bach wrote these pieces in the early 1700s to help develop technique and provide equal temperament. There are actually two parts to the books, which leaves a total of 48 short preludes and fugues. While there are some easy preludes and fugues in this set, overall the difficulty of the Well-Tempered Clavier makes pianists shy away.
These exercises are definitely not for beginners, but there are some beautiful selections here. I especially love the C major, both G minor preludes and fugues, as well as the D major from book one.
Ideally, you should start with some of Bach’s two-part and three-part inventions. These pieces are shorter but offer good insight into what Bach is doing musically. Starting with those first can make learning the prelude and fugue sets much easier.
6. Chopin Etudes Op. 10 & Op. 25
It’s hard to talk about piano technique and not include the Chopin Etudes. Chopin etudes do not sound or feel like exercises at all because of how musical they are. From the sweeping motion of the Ocean etude all the way to the black key etude, these are just fun pieces to play.
He published these etudes in 1830 and they are in multiple sets. I find that Op. 10 offers easier selections than Op. 25, although they both have their demanding works.
Some of the etudes such as the C sharp minor and E major are on the slow side and might be better options for beginners just getting started with his music. Overall I find that these etudes are structured so well and are easy to understand. Some of the more complex etudes should be saved for when the pianist has developed in their playing.
There are several editions of these etudes available, but I definitely recommend the Alfred Cortot which you can find here. His edition is especially helpful because he gives detailed practice suggestions, finger suggestions, technique development tips, and some insight on how the pieces should be performed.
7. Czerny Art Of Finger Dexterity
One of the more complex piano technique books is the Art Of Finger Dexterity by Czerny. It’s a rather thick book with 180 pages of exercises geared towards developing good hand technique. The pieces in this technique book are much longer than what you’ll find in Hanon and certainly in the School Of Velocity books.
It’s definitely a book for advanced pianists, so the expectation is that you already have some good technical facility before trying this book.
The way the book is structured is like Hanon as it progressively gets more and more difficult. It starts in C major but eventually travels through all of the key signatures. The etudes in this book are comparable to Chopin’s. They are wonderful pieces that don’t’ feel like exercises.
Grab a copy of Czerny here.