—by Anne Sullivan

Often mistaken for an exercise, never the fun piece on your music stand, the etude rarely gets the credit it deserves. But our guide is likely to give you a new outlook on etudes.

If the names Pischna, Hanon, and Czerny mean anything to you, then you probably had a piano teacher like mine. She was an excellent piano teacher, and so naturally, the etude books by these eminent 19th century pianists were part of my studies. Not surprisingly, my teacher saw more value in the etudes than I did. She knew they were invaluable training; my eight year old self wanted to play “real” music. To make matters worse, when I began harp lessons, I discovered harpists had to learn etudes too.

Today as a teacher, I am a convert to the critical importance of etudes for every harpist. I know the difference they have made in my harp journey, and I still rely on them for maintaining my technique and stretching my musicianship. When my students look dismayed at the new volume of etudes on their music stand, I nod sympathetically, add an encouraging word, and we begin.

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