Frequently asked questions

Click below to read a compiled PDF of frequently asked questions.

FAQanswers

Why do some people find the Taubman Approach controversial?

Taubman was one of the first to acknowledge playing-related injuries in the 1950s, and to correlate specific problems with particular incoordinate movements at the instrument. For some, her claims posed a major threat to the piano establishment. As one Taubman student summarised, “If she’s right, a lot of traditional training is wrong” (cited in Dyer, 1995, p. B21).

Taubman called for unchallenged traditions of piano pedagogy to be “weighed, codified, and tested against our contemporary knowledge of the basic principles governing body movement and the mechanical laws governing the piano” (cited in Schneider, 1983, p. 21). However, this was greeted with “hostility” (Taubman, cited in Del Pico-Taylor & Tammam, 2005, p. 47). At that time, there was little interest in musicians’ problems; “Teachers denied any such thing existed” (Taubman, cited in n.a., 1986, p. 40). Apart from a handful of specialists, the medical profession has also been largely reluctant to embrace her work. One of the exceptions is Dr. Frank Wilson, a neurologist, who asserted that “She has challenged the medical establishment with remarkable results” (cited in n.a., 1986, p. 40). Other testimonials from medical professionals can be found at http://www.golandskyinstitute.org/about/doctors

Reference List:

Del Pico-Taylor, M., & Tammam, S. (2005). The wisdom of Dorothy Taubman. Clavier, 44(10), 19, 46-47.

Dyer, R. (1995, August 13). Dorothy Taubman teaches piano without pain. Boston Globe, p. 21

n.a. (1986, Sunday, July 27). Piano school tones up the hands on the keys. New York Times, p. 40.

Schneider, A. (1983). Dorothy Taubman: There is an answer. Clavier, 22(7), 19-21.

What is the role of the student in Taubman lessons?

Taubman lessons are student-centred and are adjusted to the student’s needs. Although guided by the instructor, the student is required to assume a high degree of responsibility and ownership in their learning. The student largely directs content and control, along with the teacher’s insights and feedback, particularly after moving beyond early retraining.

When acutely injured, the student may feel security, or even relief, in entrusting their learning to a professional. However, as retraining can require making dramatic changes to one’s playing, it is vital that the student actively engages in and values the importance of their learning and private practice. Golandsky Institute teachers rely on continuous feedback from the student to guide the learning process; therefore, blind compliance will not yield the same results as active participation. At all levels of studying Taubman, the learning process requires commitment from both the teacher and student.

Why is it important to have lessons in the Taubman Approach, besides just watching the 10 DVDs?

Learning the Taubman Approach is an experiential process of embodying coordinate movement. One can certainly learn aspects of the Taubman Approach through studying the DVDs, and become familiar with the vocabulary and key concepts. However, problems may arise if the individual disregards crucial information, exaggerates or misunderstands instructions, or adds variants that contradict the fundamental premises of the technique. Each individual has to be seen by a skilled teacher in order for their specific problems to be diagnosed and addressed.

The teacher’s role is central in diagnosing inefficient or harmful positions and movements, and assisting the student in incorporating healthy, coordinate alternatives into their playing.  It is with this expert guidance that a student can transition from the more pronounced practice of the Taubman Approach’s central components to the more subtle integration of these movements into a healthy high-level technique. Thus, DVDs can supplement but not replace individual tuition with a certified Taubman teacher.

What can I gain from studying the Taubman Approach?

Any pianist can benefit through studying the Taubman Approach, regardless of their current performance standard. Apart from overcoming technical limitations, many pianists find they develop greater facility, control, timbral palette, security, reliability in memory and performance. Intuitive performers can become more conscious of what they naturally do well, allowing them to grow further as well as help others. Others report they can practice fewer hours, yet achieve higher-level and more consistent results. As students come to lessons with a wide range of backgrounds and varied learning goals, Taubman teachers tailor lessons to addressing each student’s particular needs at that point in time.

Why are some of the demonstrations in the 10 Taubman Technique DVDs exaggerated?

The 10 Taubman Technique DVDs were tailored to feedback at the time that Taubman students wanted to see the mostly invisible movements comprising the Taubman Approach, as the technique merely looks “natural” or “effortless” when minimised. To suit this need, some demonstrations are exaggerated and are thereby unrepresentative of the integrated technique. The large rotation is often a necessary stage in the learning, but is not the final result.

Taking Taubman lessons via Skype – by guest writer, Therese Milanovic

Skype lessons can be invaluable if one lives at a distance from their teacher. Since 2009 Skype has enabled me to continue studying with my teacher in New York, Edna Golandsky. Through Skype, I can also present my students to Edna for feedback on my teaching, bringing her into my Brisbane studio. When the connection is good, I forget the time difference (and early mornings) and feel like I am in her studio, looking over her shoulder, watching her hands move on the keyboard. Skype also allows me to teach interstate, regional and international students without travel expense and time, whether they be in Kingaroy or Singapore.

Although I find Skype to be a helpful tool, there are undeniable limitations, including restricted vision and imperfect sound quality. Having said that, these elements can vary, seemingly at random, according to the connection. Another drawback is not being able to guide the student through touch, an essential component in learning the Taubman Approach, particularly in the early stages. Despite these disadvantages, Skype can be invaluable. In this article, I will share what I have found to be helpful in navigating Skype lessons, including the necessary equipment and suggestions for lesson preparation.

Equipment and Setup

First, access to high speed internet is essential. Without this, the screen can frequently pixelate or freeze. Second, two cameras are ideal, to facilitate multiple perspectives. In my setup, I have my laptop computer with an inbuilt camera placed on a chair at the side of the piano. Additionally, I have a webcam positioned overhead, attached to a microphone stand with a boom arm (a clip, blu-tac or rubber bands work well). I use a Logitech 720p Webcam Pro 9000, which retails online on Amazon and other sources for between US$50-80 (pictured below).

When this is in place, the overhead and side views during the Skype lesson can be alternated quickly. To do so, click through Skype / Preferences / Audio-Video / camera input. It is only possible to show both views simultaneously when using multiple computers through a conference call, however in my experience the sound and audio quality can suffer considerably. If the majority of the lesson is spent using the overhead view, I then move the laptop to the right of the piano’s music stand, which is more comfortable than turning my body to the right to see the screen.

 Suggestions to prepare for lessons:

  • Familiarise yourself with the basics of Skype and your technical equipment before your lesson. Make sure the cameras are positioned to facilitate a helpful view; practice changing between screens. A trial call with a friend or colleague can reduce spending valuable lesson time on troubleshooting technical difficulties.
  •  Both teacher and student need to allow time in their schedules to set up for the Skype lesson, and to return the studio to normal for the next lesson. This time varies for each individual, but with practice, set up does not need to take more than a few minutes.
  • Check the time difference, if applicable, to ensure you are punctual. Also make a note of when clocks in the appropriate timezone are changed due to daylight saving or summer time.
  • Let your teacher know of the repertoire you wish to study at the lesson with sufficient advance notice. If she does not have the score in her studio library, scan and email the selected pages prior to the lesson, making a note of the composer and page number. Writing in the measure numbers and any particular fingering can also make the lesson more efficient.
  • The sound quality is such that lesson time can be better spent targeting questions to specific issues, rather than playing pages at a time, or performing a piece all the way through. To counteract this issue, the student may choose to record themselves performing a piece and uploading the video to YouTube (as a private link) for the teacher to see.
  • With your teacher’s permission, use a video or third-party program to record the lesson for later review. Some students recommend Pamela for Skype, or Call Recorder, others use their IPhones or other recording devices.
  • PayPal is a convenient method for international students to transfer funds, and cheaper than bank transfers. Allow extra funds, to compensate for the PayPal surcharge the teacher incurs.

Although one-on-one lessons are undoubtedly more effective than Skype in its present form, Skype lessons can still be highly productive and rewarding. Hopefully the suggestions discussed in this article illuminate the process, and encourage some students at a distance to pursue Skype lessons as an option, interspersed with in-person lessons where possible.

Therese Milanovic

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