Tag Archives: coordination

Brendan Cooney, piano teacher

Triggering Improvisation

This article was originally published on the Golandsky Institute blog.

Triggering Improvisation

by Brendan Cooney (www.mtairypianolessons.com)

When I was invited to contribute something to the new blog on the Golandsky Institute site I thought that it would be a good opportunity to share some ways I have applied a simple principle from the Taubman Approach in my development of ways to teach improvisation and syncopation.

The Taubman Approach has much to say about the interdependence of the two hands. Rather than conceiving of each hand as an entity controlled by a separate part of the brain, as if we were pressing ‘play’ on two tape-players at the same time, we are encouraged to eventually think and feel each musical moment as a singularity. Even before I have taught a student the complex skills of rotation, in and out, shaping, etc. I can still use this approach to interdependence to make notable improvements in a student’s playing. We take a passage and break it down into 3 types of moments- Right, Left and Both- corresponding to whether the right, left or both hands play at the same time. We first speak the order of moments out loud (ie “both, both, right, both, left left, both,”.. etc.) and then practice the sequences of motions physically at the piano ‘out of time’ before finally putting the passage in time. Each moment ‘triggers’ the next. By working out this process of triggering a passage involving tricky interdependence between hands can be made to feel natural and easy.

It was only relatively recently that I realized that I could use this approach to interdependence to help students overcome some problems quite common to the new student of improvisation. There are several overlapping stumbling blocks that I have often come across when teaching improvisation to students. Let me say a few words about each before I discuss how I think they may be connected and how a Taubman-informed approach to interdependence can aid in overcoming these problems.

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