What is the impact of combining whole-body disciplines with learning the Taubman Approach?

While studying other disciplines may be complementary with Taubman lessons, it is also important to recognise that each discipline is complete in itself, and to understand what each discipline achieves. Differences in language must also be addressed. Terms such as “alignment” or “free” may overlap, but other concepts can be contradictory. Alexander practitioner Gelb also cautions that combining the Alexander Technique with other disciplines is a “formula for failure”, as “each discipline is best pursued under independent auspices” (1994, p. 153).

Reference:

Gelb, M. (1994). Body learning: An introduction to the Alexander technique (New ed.). London: Aurum Press.

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Is it possible to play old repertoire again?

Although some value the enjoyment of practising familiar repertoire, it is advisable to initially suspend playing old pieces, particularly in the case of severe injury.  The learning is faster and healthier that way.  However, after retraining many pianists find it possible to return to old repertoire.

How can I help myself in retraining?

Undertaking retraining requires patience, an open mind, and willingness to change one’s technique. The process is easier when one maintains a positive mindset, and commits to consistent, quality practice. People are often surprised by the logic and clarity of the principles presented, and thrilled by the positive and unexpected results emerging in their playing. Passages that were previously difficult suddenly become easy.

Learning something new requires a willingness to risk being temporarily dislodged from the familiar, even from skills that are functioning to some degree. To combat this displacement, Taubman teachers emphasise giving the student alternatives that actually work and are symptom free. Thus, when initially learning the Taubman Approach, certain principles from earlier training may need to be temporarily suspended. Later, these concepts may again be incorporated, understood from a different perspective, or dismissed.

If someone is stubbornly unwilling to make changes, retraining can be very difficult and learning the Taubman Approach may not be for them.

Taubman understood the need for the student to rebuild a relationship with the instrument, believing that “The piano should become something very loving to you.  You should want to touch it all the time. That’s very important” (Taubman Institute, 1995, see DVD 2). Trust and courage are required to resume playing when there is pain. With a skilled teacher, an injured student begins to experience Taubman’s revelation that correct movement is therapeutic.

Learning new skills can also be aided if one is not stressed by the conflict of a looming performance. A common reaction after overcoming pain is to succumb to the pressure of prior commitments, returning too quickly to preparing for performances or other pressing commitments. However, if the fundamentals are shaky, or issues unresolved, symptoms may recur until completely addressed.

Thus, for thorough retraining, it is often best, and faster in the long-term, to prioritise establishing healthy movement patterns over preparing for performances.

However, other pianists manage to incorporate new aspects to their playing while preparing for a performance, and do so successfully. It really depends on the individual.

How often should I have lessons at the beginning?

As with anything new, immersive learning can be very helpful, particularly at the outset. Understandably, progress can be slower and motivation may decrease if lessons are irregular or months apart. Feedback from Taubman students confirms satisfaction with the speed of learning is linked to the frequency of lessons. To enable this, many pianists travel large distances for lessons, even within the US. Similarly, Taubman teachers also make a considerable effort in travelling regularly in an attempt to meet demand (see

http://www.golandskyinstitute.org/teachers/find_a_teacher_in_your_area).

Skype is another means to continue the process in between lessons in person.

Is it true that retraining requires only playing the C major scale for two years?

No way! On the rare occasion whereby a Taubman student has spent two years on the basic movements, it is often due to the student only taking very few lessons during the year, or working with an inexperienced Taubman teacher.

It is an unfounded myth that Taubman retraining is necessarily long and arduous (cited in Durso, 2011, also see the blog on “How long does it take to learn the Taubman Approach”).

In fact, retraining can be fast, depending on the situation. Taubman also reassured that the body can adjust quickly if given the experience of movement aligning with the playing apparatus’ physiological principles rather than against them (see Schneider, 1983, p. 20; Rezits, 1998, pp. 21-22).

Reference List:

Durso, R. (2011). Robert Durso Website.   Retrieved August 25, 2011, from http://www.robertdurso.net

Rezits, J. (1998a). Dorothy Taubman, miraculous mentor. Piano & Keyboard, 190(1), 21-24.

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

Is the Taubman Approach about relaxation?

No.  One needs to understand that the opposite of tension is not relaxation, which causes its own set of problems and tension. Taubman’s work clearly identifies the root causes for tension. Resolving these particular issues results in a tension-free technique, which is not relaxation. When the whole playing apparatus is relaxed, fast, efficient movement becomes difficult. There are often consequences, including resultant tension, backache, and carpal tunnel syndrome due to playing with a low “relaxed” wrist.

What are the common steps in learning the Taubman Approach?

Students who are not injured may work immediately through repertoire in combination with pure technical concepts to develop greater freedom. The inherent positive aspects of the playing are encouraged and made conscious. In these cases, students report rediscovering their “natural” and “instinctive” playing. While this works well for some, in other cases it is faster to confront core issues within the basic movements. For profound improvement, partial or full retraining may be required to “learn the system underneath what is natural”, which in Golandsky’s experience is learnable, and teachable.

Depending on the student’s situation, establishing comfort may mean beginning with single note drops before moving to rotation. When this is working well in combination with other basic movements, such as the lateral “walking hand and arm” and movements of the finger, hand and arm unit in and out towards and away from the fallboard, the next stage is to incorporate these new skills into repertoire. Characteristically, a “scaley” piece at an appropriate level in close position is chosen as a practice vehicle, such as Mozart, Haydn, or Scarlatti.

Throughout the learning process, the student is allowed to experience and thoroughly consolidate each step. With time, new skills become automatic, requiring less conscious attention. Minimising the technique begins, as rotation works best when small in combination with other movements. An essential step is (re)integrating the fingers’ lively movement with the support of the hand and forearm. Attention is also turned to incorporating elements of musical expression if not already present, including adding shaping, tone production, and rhythmic expression, thus beginning the transformation of craft into artistic playing.

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