CTYPE html> Ten Things: no. 3

Point of Sound

Ten Things I Wish I Could Have Understood about Taubman Technique from the Very Beginning

Ideally, a person would rebuild her piano technique under the regular watchful supervision of an insightful, knowledgeable, and inspiring teacher.  But I’ve observed that few people benefit from ideal circumstances. You may live too far from any Taubman instructor (at least from one who is ideal for you) or constraints to your time or finances may stand in the way of your visiting one. If you learn basics in a seminar situation (as many people do), perhaps it will be a number of weeks or months before you get to work with a skilled instructor again. In the meantime, you might practice without adequate understanding and therefore without the fruitfulness you should be able to enjoy in a best case scenario. In a worst case scenario, you could drive yourself backward from your goal, as I believe happened initially in my own case.

The body arranges any coordination from a practically limitless range of possibilities, involving muscles and the timings of their interactions. In the case of Taubman technique coordinations, gravity and momentum are crucial elements that are part of the body’s calculation process.  How does the body choose from among all the possible combinations?

Scientists call this particular conundrum the "degrees of freedom problem,” with no one exactly certain what rules the body uses to come up with solutions.

I would like to suggest that, with greater insight into how this ingenious approach to playing is supposed to feel, students are much more likely to arrive at the most efficient coordinations in their own bodies, much more quickly. Yes, a wonderful teacher makes a huge difference, but there is a heavy component that no teacher can give you, even if you are fortunate enough to have regular access to one. That component has a lot to do (besides things of a psychological nature like confidence and self-esteem) with the difference between information the teacher is able to convey, and what your body itself has to figure out to be able to play as you would wish.

That component can all too summarily be identified as talent or lack thereof. But I feel that there is so much more that teachers can convey before we reach for that explanation.

So, I present to you ten insights into the Taubman approach that I wish I could have had from the very beginning of my studies. I hope they will help direct your attention for your own brilliant start.


        1. 1. The wrist plays a huge role in making this approach work.

          2. Settling the arm into every note is not optional.

          3. You must learn to allow gravity to play a role in the arm’s downward swing into the piano key.

          4. With tightness in the upper arm and shoulders, it is difficult to get the benefits of rotation.

          5. It is important to “trick” the hand so that the weight of the arm can be supported on the thumb.

          6. You always supinate your forearm in preparation for playing on the thumb.

          7. How important it is to feel the ulna doing the work of driving the pinky down into the key.

          8. How to separate the different facets of the technique for reliable, quicker storage in long-term memory.

          9. To keep "over" and "under" shape as simple as possible: Just "overshape” as you move from higher finger to lower,  and “undershape” as you move from lower to higher.

          10. Your beliefs about yourself must be consonant with the project of learning this skill.

Just so you know, the opinions expressed on this site are those of Kathy Malyj Santiago alone. They will diverge in various respects from those presented by the Taubman Seminar, with which she is not affiliated but which she wholeheartedly recommends.


next: XYW: examine your wrist!