The Taubman Approach and Teaching Piano

On Teaching the Taubman Approach

One can encounter a great many conflicting ideas about technique from piano teachers. Some may encourage repetitive, mind-numbing exercises that tire the hands and lead to injury over time. Others may encourage “relaxation” which usually means a dropping of the wrists which also leads to pain and injury. Others, unable to describe the choreography of motions that would allow students to solve passages successfully, shroud the process of playing in mysticism, making the student feel as if their failing is a result of their own lack of “talent”, “musicality” or “dedication”.

The complex of inter-related motions that comprise a coordinate technique are not visible to the eye, and are not always apparent even to those who have coordinate technique themselves. The Taubman work presents the first systematic understanding of these motions and the first systematic approach to teaching these motions. It is a teaching method that has been slowly developed over the past 70+ years by a small group of teachers, producing a growing number of virtuosic, injury-free students. Students, like me, recover from injuries, and make stunning growth in their technical abilities, accuracy and expressivity.

I am a certified teacher of the Taubman Approach through the Golandsky Institute. The Golandsky Institute is the premiere organization working to further the teaching of the Taubman Approach. They hold yearly summer symposiums, regular workshops, and oversee the training of new Taubman teachers. The Taubman work is quite complex and takes time to learn. Learning to be a teacher presents additional challenges as students come to the work with a wide spectrum of injuries and playing problems.

You are probably wondering what this means to you, as a potential student. What would studying with me be like and how would it differ from studying with a different teacher? My teaching approach varies according to the specific backgrounds and needs of my students, but the Taubman Approach informs all that I do. Here I break down a few different types of work I do with different types of students:

Retraining

Some students come to me specifically to retrain in the Taubman work. They may be injured from years of playing with compromised techniques. Or they may have come upon limitations in their playing that they can only overcome by means of a technical overhaul. Retraining is a process of relearning to play the instrument from the ground-up, replacing old habits with new healthy habits, slowly learning all of the different motions that underlie a coordinate technique and then learning to put them together to solve passages.

This process may take a few months but it is important not too rush it. We are building the foundation of a healthy technique and it is crucial that students build a strong foundation from the start. Injured students are usually injured because they have problems with the way they have played the piano in the past. They twist the wrists, curl and stretch the fingers, and/or drop the wrists, etc. These habits are often hard-wired into their system from years of practice. Old-habits take time to let go of and replace with new ones. The sort of analytical attention to detail involved in the Taubman Approach and the totally new way of thinking about body movement takes time to acclimate to. Injured students are often quite experienced players, accustomed to playing advanced repertoire and practicing for many hours a day. Retraining requires an open mind, and patience. It is best not practiced for hours a day.

Parallel Training

Not all students come to me specifically to retrain. My young students, for instance, come also to learn to read music, theory and to play literature. Other adult students may be coming to me to learn to play jazz. For these students I pursue two parallel tracks. On one hand, we work on non-technical skills like reading or improvising. But each lesson still contains mini-lessons in technique. Once a certain critical mass of technical skills have been acquired we start to incorporate these skills into the pieces the students are playing.