Don Glanden

Don Glanden, Professor, The University of the Arts

In the fall of 1995 I began to experience some discomfort related to my piano technique. This usually took the form of stiffness in my hand, occasional tingling, a sore area on the inside of my forearm and occasional soreness in the elbow. I saw several doctors, a physical therapist and three classical piano teachers who had expertise in piano-related injuries. I also built my own library of over thirty books, endless articles and videotapes about healthy piano technique. I’m thankful for all the help and insight this search yielded. I continued playing for the next seven years and the problem never became debilitating. It also never completely went away. I became careful in terms of my practice schedule and playing schedule.

I became aware of the Taubman approach several years ago through two fellow jazz pianists. Doug Roche, a good friend from high school days, was severely injured and unable to play for two years. Through his work with John Bloomfield in Colorado he is playing better than ever and making some wonderful recordings.

My friend and colleague Tom Lawton also frequently urged me to explore the Taubman approach. The ease and virtuosity of Tom’s playing and his enthusiasm about his work with Bob Durso made a compelling case. I also received enthusiastic encouragement from an excellent Philadelphia concert pianist named Carl Cranmer who had studied with Bob Durso.

On August 27, 2002 I began my lessons with Bob. We agreed that during the retraining process I would scale back my professional playing to two gigs on the weekend and that my practice routine during the week would focus solely on the retraining work. I quickly became aware of Bob’s extraordinary ability to analyze the positions and movements of the hand, forearm, and entire playing mechanism. Using his depth of knowledge about the physiological principles involved in piano playing, he identified and helped me correct problems such as the over-curling of my fingers, forcing the keys down from the fingers and tightening the upper arm. As we have worked on the Taubman principles of forearm rotation, in and out arm movements, walking hand and arm, and shaping, his attention to detail and insistence on perfecting each step have been of great benefit.

I’ve also had the opportunity to take a lesson with Edna Golandsky, which added to my appreciation for the intellectual consistency of the Taubman approach and for the pedagogical excellence demonstrated by both Edna and Bob.

Now five months into the training process I can see the tremendous impact that this work will have on my playing. When employing the Taubman principals my hands can feel loose and free after a period of playing, rather than the progressive tightness and fatigue that results from straining to force keys down. I’ve also developed a deeper physical sense of the legato touch, which is particularly helpful in playing ballads. The even tone that results when the forearm, hand, and fingers are connected allows for accents and idiomatic jazz articulations but frees me from the strong finger vs. weak finger problem. Still relatively early in my study of the Taubman approach I am experiencing many positive results and anticipate many more as my understanding and experience of the principals involved deepens.

As jazz musicians, improvisation is central to the music we play. The vocabulary we use to create our ideas is rooted in scales, arpeggios, motivic development and all the same musical shapes that a classical pianist must negotiate in performing a composed piece. Classical and jazz pianists play the same instrument and are governed by the same physiological principles. The physical freedom offered by the Taubman approach is the perfect companion to the creative freedom pursued by improvising jazz pianists.

I look forward to continuing my work with Bob as I return to a busier playing schedule.

Thank you Bob Durso and Edna Golandsky! 
Don Glanden