The Taubman Approach
Decades ago, Dorothy Taubman’s genius led her to analyze what underlies virtuoso piano playing. The result of that investigation has produced a body of knowledge that can lead to an effortless and brilliant technique. It can also prevent and cure fatigue, pain and other playing-related injuries.
The Taubman Approach is a groundbreaking analysis of the mostly invisible motions that function underneath a virtuoso technique. The resulting knowledge makes it possible to help pianists overcome technical limitations as well as cure playing-related injuries. It is also the way that tone production and other components of expressive playing can be understood and taught.
Edna Golandsky is the person with whom Dorothy Taubman worked most closely. In 1976 Ms. Golandsky conceived the idea of establishing an Institute where people could come together during the summer and pursue an intensive investigation of the Taubman Approach. She encouraged Mrs. Taubman to establish the Taubman Institute, which they ran together as co-founders. Mrs. Taubman was Executive Director and Ms. Golandsky served as Artistic Director. Almost from the beginning, Mrs. Taubman entrusted Ms. Golandsky with the planning and programming of the annual summer session. She gave daily lectures on the Taubman Approach and later conducted master classes as well. As the face of the Taubman Approach, Ms. Golandsky discusses each of its elements in a ten-volume video series.
Mrs. Taubman has written, “I consider her the leading authority on the Taubman Approach to instrumental playing.“
The Taubman Approach: Basic Principles
Correct alignment is fundamental to a well-coordinated and high functioning technique. The principle of coordinate motion is the cornerstone to the Taubman Approach. The fingers, hand and forearm must be properly connected and move together at all times for the pianist to play with efficiency and ease.
Correct seat height is a major factor that allows alignment and coordination to function properly.
Rotational and lateral forearm motions allow the fingers, hand and forearm to move as a unit and prevent fingers from isolating, curling and stretching. Fatigue, tension and pain are avoided and a technique emerges that is symptom free, fast and reliable.
In and out motions refer to movements into the black key area and out to the white key area. These movements prevent the curling and twisting that are the root cause of tension and pain.
Shaping motions are curvilinear motions by the hand and forearm over groups of notes, due to the different lengths of the fingers, changes in direction, fingering and more, that add to the feeling of naturalness, speed and ease. Shaping allows a person to sound musical without effort; without it passages tend to sound notey and static.
Tone production of every quality and dynamic range is a basic technical skill that all players need in order to be able to express their musical ideas reliably at any time. Contrary to conventional thinking, tone production can be taught like any other physical skill; it is a combination of weight and speed into the key. Paired with shaping, it gives playing two of the most basic and powerful elements for expressive playing.
Leaps. The Taubman Approach teaches the correct strategies to make leaps reliable, showing the motions that are involved in order to achieve this goal. Insecurity and endless practice without consistent results become a story of the past.
Fingering. The Approach explains and presents examples of good fingering that adheres to the laws of alignment and coordination. Awkward fingering needs to be forced, practiced endlessly, and is difficult to absorb. Conversely, the hand absorbs comfortable fingering very quickly and does not forget it. Good fingering helps best in conjunction with the other basic elements of technique.
Grouping. Dividing long lines of many notes into small clusters, according to certain categories, immediately makes long and complex music easy to play and remember. This works in all areas of life; for example, long lines of phone numbers are spaced in order to help us to remember them. It’s the same in playing.
Interdependence of the hands. Scientists have shown that multitasking doesn’t work; the brain cannot concentrate on several activities at the same time. This means that at the piano the hands have to feel and play as one entity. Even though we need to work in certain skills separately, to feel secure, the Approach shows how to enable the two hands to powerfully relate to each other when playing together, alternating with each other, playing with polyrhythms, passing from one hand to the next, and more.
Legato. Does legato always mean that fingers have to connect to each other? What happens when fingers have to jump over large distances and the composer still wants the phrase to sound legato? The Taubman Approach shows how to achieve a legato effect using tone production, shaping and pedaling and avoiding stretching, a major cause of tension and injury.
Octaves and chords. The Taubman Approach first shows how the hand can open to its maximum without stretching. Then, by learning to rebound from key to key with a free and aligned playing mechanism, keeping the wrist at the right height upon landing, and using gravity to reduce muscular effort, the pianist can play octaves and chords with clarity, ease and speed.
Major injuries include:
A repetitive strain injury (RSI), sometimes referred to as repetitive stress injury, is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities, including:
- using a computer mouse
- swiping items at a supermarket checkout
- grasping tools
- working on an assembly line
- training for sports
Some common RSIs are:
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- rotator cuff tendonitis
- tennis elbow
RSI frequently affects your:
- wrists and hands
- forearms and elbows
- neck and shoulders
Some activities that can increase your risk for RSI are:
- stressing the same muscles through repetition
- maintaining the same posture for long periods of time
- maintaining an abnormal posture for an extended period of time, such as holding your arms over your head
- lifting heavy objects
- being in poor physical condition or not exercising enough
Previous injuries or conditions, such as a rotator cuff tear or an injury to your wrist, back, or shoulder, can also predispose you to RSI.
Hecht, M. (2017, March 14). Repetitive strain injury (rsi): Causes, prevention, and more. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/repetitive-strain-injury.
Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of a tendon — the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. The condition causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint.
While tendinitis can occur in any of your tendons, it’s most common around your shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels.
Some common names for various tendinitis problems are:
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
- Pitcher’s shoulder
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Jumper’s knee
Most cases of tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest, physical therapy and medications to reduce pain.
Signs and symptoms of tendinitis tend to occur at the point where a tendon attaches to a bone and typically include:
- Pain often described as a dull ache, especially when moving the affected limb or joint
- Mild swelling
Although tendinitis can be caused by a sudden injury, the condition is much more likely to stem from the repetition of a particular movement over time. Most people develop tendinitis because their jobs or hobbies involve repetitive motions, which put stress on the tendons.
Using proper technique is especially important when performing repetitive sports movements or job-related activities. Improper technique can overload the tendon — which can occur, for instance, with tennis elbow — and lead to tendinitis.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 25). Tennis elbow. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20351987.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand. When the median nerve is compressed, the symptoms can include numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and arm.
The anatomy of your wrist, health problems and possibly repetitive hand motions can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Proper treatment usually relieves the tingling and numbness and restores wrist and hand function.
“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 July 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20355603.
Trigger finger is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.
Trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis (stuh-NO-sing ten-o-sin-o-VIE-tis). It occurs when inflammation narrows the space within the sheath that surrounds the tendon in the affected finger. If trigger finger is severe, your finger may become locked in a bent position.
People whose work or hobbies require repetitive gripping actions are at higher risk of developing trigger finger. The condition is also more common in women and in anyone with diabetes. Treatment of trigger finger varies depending on the severity.
Signs and symptoms of trigger finger may progress from mild to severe and include:
- Finger stiffness, particularly in the morning
- A popping or clicking sensation as you move your finger
- Tenderness or a bump (nodule) in the palm at the base of the affected finger
- Finger catching or locking in a bent position, which suddenly pops straight
- Finger locked in a bent position, which you are unable to straighten
Trigger finger can affect any finger, including the thumb. More than one finger may be affected at a time, and both hands might be involved. Triggering is usually more pronounced in the morning, while firmly grasping an object or when straightening your finger.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 20). Trigger finger. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trigger-finger/symptoms-causes/syc-20365100.
Ganglion cysts are the most common mass or lump in the hand. They are not cancerous and, in most cases, are harmless. They occur in various locations, but most frequently develop on the back of the wrist.
A ganglion rises out of a joint, like a balloon on a stalk. It grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint, such as ligaments, tendon sheaths, and joint linings. Inside the balloon is a thick, slippery fluid, similar to the fluid that lubricates your joints.
It is not known what triggers the formation of a ganglion. They are most common in younger people between the ages of 15 and 40 years, and women are more likely to be affected than men. These cysts are also common among gymnasts, who repeatedly apply stress to the wrist.
Most ganglions form a visible lump, however, smaller ganglions can remain hidden under the skin (occult ganglions). Although many ganglions produce no other symptoms, if a cyst puts pressure on the nerves that pass through the joint, it can cause pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Ganglion cyst of the wrist and hand – orthoinfo – aaos. OrthoInfo. (n.d.). https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/ganglion-cyst-of-the-wrist-and-hand/.
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.
Despite its name, athletes aren’t the only people who develop tennis elbow. People whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers.
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. Pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist.
Tennis elbow is an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow.
As the name suggests, playing tennis — especially repeated use of the backhand stroke with poor technique — is one possible cause of tennis elbow. However, many other common arm motions can cause tennis elbow, including:
- Using plumbing tools
- Driving screws
- Cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
- Repetitive computer mouse use
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 25). Tennis elbow. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20351987.
In addition to the Golandsky Institute’s symposium, workshops, seminars, and private lessons, these resources may help in furthering the understanding of the work of the Taubman Approach.
Golandsky Institute YouTube Channel
Choreography of the Hands: The Work of Dorothy Taubman
Edna Golandsky's website
Robert Durso's website
Basic Alignment and Rotation
PhD Dissertation of Therese Milanovic
The 10 Taubman Technique videos
The 10 Taubman Technique videos are an essential set of DVD’s featuring the principles of the Taubman Approach.
Taubman in Spanish
Taubman in Other Languages
Learn about the Taubman Approach in 10 different languages!
Are you or someone you know interested in finding out about the Taubman Approach? The Golandsky Institute, the preeminent center for the teaching of the Taubman Approach, now offers information and instruction in the following ten languages: English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, German, Turkish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Hebrew.
Due to the great demand from all over the world to learn and benefit from this groundbreaking body of knowledge, you can now get in touch with us and be connected to someone who speaks your language!
People can learn at any age, provided they’re open to learning. In fact, the Taubman Approach has become known for its success in applying principles of coordinate movement to reverse a declining technique. Age has nothing to do with a technique deteriorating; poor physical habits have everything to do with it. What’s not often known is that correct movements not only reverse a troubled technique, but are also responsible for creating healthy skills which can lead to high-level playing. It’s one and the same thing.
No. The Taubman work is primarily a means for growth for a musician– for developing good skills, maintaining them, and progressing to the next level of technical and artistic mastery. Learning the Taubman Approach is about removing the obstacles in the way of that growth.
The Taubman Approach can assist:
- Those who are not injured but looking to prevent injuries. Through studying this technique, one can prevent problems before they occur through a “diet” of correct positions and motions.
- Musicians who are injured who want to solve their problems.
- Those who are looking to learn how to produce an infinite range tone and color at the piano, especially a beautiful cantabile, which many find difficult.
- Musicians who are seeking more freedom in their playing: from greater speed, security, reliable leaps whether legato or staccato, and / or to solve passages in the repertoire that have always seen insurmountable, to name but a few benefits.
One of the most exciting aspects of this knowledge is that the Taubman Approach can be of help at any level – from beginners to seasoned players. It’s never too late to make positive changes to your playing.
There are many answers to this question. One is that there can be a change in one encounter. Pianists often come in the midst of a busy concert season. Unless there’s a severe injury, just putting into place a few changes can make a profound difference. The following few items are examples of some of these common changes:
- Correcting the chair height
- Explaining how the finger, hand and forearm must be connected
- Showing the correct wrist level
- Showing the correct height of the forearm when playing
- Making them feel the freedom of the forearm (a missing link for most players)
- Feeling the support and freedom of the forearm in putting down a key
- Feeling the support of the forearm in helping to move from finger to finger without stretching
This is the short answer. The long answer is that there are many complex skills involved in playing the piano. As in any other discipline, it takes time to learn, deepen and make a habit of those practices, which can improve the playing in ways that are surprising and unexpected.
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. Minimizing 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.
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.
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. 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 emphasize 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. Skype is another means to continue the process in between lessons in person.
Although some value the enjoyment of practicing 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.
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 emphasize 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 prioritiesestablishing 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.
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. 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).
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.
Many Golandsky Institute teachers and students undertake long-term learning. Apart from Teacher Training requirements, many students choose to undertake long-term Taubman study as they continue to find benefits. Many believe that one’s facility, timbral palette and freedom at the instrument can continue evolving. Faculty member and acclaimed pianist Ilya Itin (see YouTube video below) describes learning the Taubman Approach as a “complex development and ever deepening education altered by the grasp of experience” (Oltuski, 2009). As with any field, there are degrees of knowing and understanding. To acquire a deep embodied, intellectual and pedagogical understanding of the Taubman Approach requires absorption, practice, and training. Taubman teachers constantly work on their own technique to embody what they teach; they “never stop refining their skills” (Bloomfield, cited in Oltuski, 2010). This is reflected in the Teacher Training Program requirements, which stipulates ongoing individual lessons, attending Symposia and presenting students for feedback across all certification levels. Ongoing learning also reflects the focus in the Golandsky Institute on constantly refining the pedagogy, new strategies in teaching and learning. Through this process of ongoing analysis and reflection, new insights emerge.
Oltuski, I. (2009). Crafting the well-tempered pianist: Introducing the Taubman Approach. Retrieved January 9, 2010, from http://blogcritics.org/music/article/crafting-the-well-tempered-pianist-introducing/
Oltuski, I. (2010). Crafting the well-tempered pianist: Teaching the Taubman Approach. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://blogcritics.org/music/article/crafting-the-well-tempered-pianist-teaching/
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.
There are quite a few commonalities between Alexander’s work and the Taubman Approach. Alexander and Taubman were innovators in insisting that one’s use is the source of one’s physical problems, and in advocating improved physical function as the only means of complete recovery. In both disciplines, overcoming injury is a side effect of improved use, requiring the full commitment of the student, and study with a skilled teacher. Many parallels can also be drawn with the fundamental principles of alignment, balance, and efficient, coordinate use of one’s body.
Neither Taubman nor Alexander had formal medical training, yet both were decades ahead of their time in challenging long-established attitudes held by performers, teachers, and the medical profession (see Gelb, 1994, p. 21; de Alcantara, 1997, p. 275). As Alexander found, medical practitioners do not always “recognize the relationship between misdirection of use and that unsatisfactory standard of functioning which is always found in association with disease” (1931/2001, p. 88). Additionally, he recognized that a typical medical approach is diagnosing the problem, but not necessarily building healthy skills (1931/ 2001, p. 90). In this way, both Taubman and Alexander were unique in realizing that it is insufficient to say what not to do; incoordinate patterns of movement need to be replaced with effective, healthy ones.
One key difference is that the Taubman Approach is absolutely specific to the requirements of playing the instrument and the requirements of the music. So for example, the Taubman Approach deals with how the fingers are able to move with ease, speed and power, how a singing tone is produced, how the hand can open to play chords. While the Alexander Technique may bring a musician to a certain point wherein their body will intuitively seek these precise details, it is not specific to the demands of playing the instrument. The same is true for Feldenkrais and other whole-body approaches.
Alexander, F. M. (1931/ 2001). The use of the self: Its conscious direction in relation to diagnosis functioning and the control of reaction (Rev. ed.). London: Orion.
de Alcantara, P. (1997). Indirect procedures: A musician’s guide to the Alexander technique. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gelb, M. (1994). Body learning: An introduction to the Alexander technique (New ed.). London: Aurum Press.
For pianists with a history of isolated finger technique, a temporary “training wheels” stage of large rotation may be a necessary step to experience freedom of the forearm and hand. For others, it can be more effective to immediately begin training with smaller movements. Emphasizing the forearm’s role reconnects the forearm with finger movement and releases the tension accumulated by isolated, raised finger technique (Taubman Institute, 2003, see DVD 2). As soon as is appropriate, the movements are gradually minimized, at which point they begin to feel much more natural. That is hugely enhanced when the minimized rotation is combined with other movements such as shaping, in and out, and the walking hand and arm.
Taubman Institute. (1995). Virtuosity in a box: The Taubman techniques, Vols. 1-5. [DVDs]. Medusa, NY: Taubman Institute.
Learning the Taubman Approach is an experiential process of embodying coordinate movement. One can certainly learn aspects of the Taubman Approach through studying the videos, 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, the videos can supplement but not replace individual tuition with a certified Taubman teacher.
While studying other disciplines may be complementary with Taubman lessons, it is also important to recognize 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).
Gelb, M. (1994). Body learning: An introduction to the Alexander technique (New ed.). London: Aurum Press.
The laws governing coordinate motion that enable the fingers, hand and forearm to move with ease, speed and power are the same. For example, as pianists need to depress keys and move over the keyboard, violinists need to depress the strings and move over the fingerboard. While each instrument has its own specific requirements, the fundamental principles of motion are the same.
Many of the videos 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 minimized. 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.
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 summarized, “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 reviews from medical professionals can be found on this page.
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.
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If you cannot travel to have lessons in person, it is possible to take Skype or Zoom lessons with one of the Golandsky Institute teachers. Online lessons can be invaluable if one lives at a distance from their teacher. Since 2009 Skype has enabled students to continue study with certified instructors. Additionally, through Skype and Zoom, participants in the Professional Training Program can also present their students to instructors for feedback on their teaching.
Though it is a helpful tool, there are undeniable limitations, including restricted vision and imperfect sound quality. 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. It is often helpful to supplement online lessons by taking an extended period of time to stay in a teacher’s locality and take several lessons or by regularly interspersing in-person lessons.
The requirements for certification in the Golandsky Institute can be found here.
Taubman lessons are student-centered 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.
* FAQ text contributed by Edna Golandsky, John Bloomfield, Robert Durso, Mary Moran, and Therese Milanovic.