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Single and Double 07 (Rotation)

Taubman technique eschews using finger muscles to raise fingers--over and bloody over!--above the keys. Rather, for the purpose of organizing rotational movements of the forearm to lift the fingers, it defines two types of forearm rotation--single and double. When you lift the fingers rotationally, the muscles that control the fingers are freed for other kinds of more subtle work, to which they are also better suited anatomically; and they are protected from being harmed through overexertion.  

Doubtless, many pianists do this without any encouragement from the Taubman approach. Probably, it is the exception rather than the rule for pianists to use no forearm rotation whatsoever in their playing, and I say this because the forearm is so accustomed to coordinating rotationally with the hand. (Just think about all the things you do with your hands over the course of a day and reflect on whether forearm rotation was involved.)  But Dorothy contributed, among other things, an ingenious solution to the problem of how to organize the movements of the forearm so that you can consistently use rotation for this purpose, and a person who isn’t innately coordinated for the piano can benefit enormously from her ideas. I am going to explain single and double rotation in terms of movements we all know very well from experience, using some great, simple terms borrowed from the field of anatomy.

We are going to identify the two basic directions of forearm rotation, accounting for the symmetry of the body and relating to the core. (Anatomy is great at relating movements to the core.) Here are hands:

numbered hands

Just like yours, each has a thumb side and a pinky side. Thumb side coordinations are the same regardless of which hand performs them, and the same holds true for pinky side coordinations. In a symmetrical arrangement, thumbs are located nearer to the core and the pinkies are farther from the core. Coordinations that work as you move up in pitch with the right hand work for moving down in the left, so that, to give a very simple example, pianists are taught to finger a C (white key) scale going up in the right hand the same as for going down in the left.

The perfectly serviceable words you are about to learn work whether you use your right arm or your left, or whether the pitches you play get higher or lower. These basic vocabulary words are “supinate” and “pronate,” and they express simple ideas that are key to understanding this technique with greater clarity and ease:

When I pronate, the pinky side of my forearm lifts upward.
When I supinate, the thumb side of my forearm lifts upward (photo).

(From the standpoint of what muscles do, my use of “pronate” and “supinate” here is a bit on the simplistic side because the forearm is already pronated in a muscular sense when your palms face downward for playing—but the words will work well for organizing movement, which is the immediate issue.)

To use a perfectly silly mnemonic for this, when you “supinate” you “hold a bowl of soup” (or so I have been told). I don’t have a good mnemonic for “pronate” but you’re sure not going to hold a bowl of soup this way—give it a try and keep a mop handy.

For those of you who are new to the ideas of single and double rotation, I will use some examples to help you form a basic understanding.

Next: Single Rotation 008