The Taubman Approach
In 1999 I had the great fortune of being exposed to the Taubman Approach. Dorothy Taubman was a Brooklyn-based piano teacher who had an unerring eye for what worked and what did not work when it came to piano technique, and she codified a set of reliable, predictable tools that could be used time and again in any given technical situation, producing maximum results with minimum physical input. Taubman’s approach was also remarkable for helping pianists and other musicians who suffered from debilitating pain as a result of tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other afflictions. Musicians who previously couldn’t accomplish the simplest everyday tasks without pain, many of whom gave of hope of ever being able to play again, were now able to negotiate their instruments with ease. That year I attended the Taubman Institute’s Summer Seminar at Williams College in Massachusetts.
In 2000 I began to study the technique in earnest with New York-based teacher John Bloomfield, who continues to be my mentor to this day. John studied with Mrs. Taubman for many years and is considered one of the pre-eminent authorities on the approach in the world.
The technique involves complete balance, alignment, and poise of the hand on the piano at the point(s) of contact, total freedom of movement of the fingers, hand, wrist, and arm, and a precise set of motions that move you from position to position with accuracy and ease. Understanding the fundamentals is relatively simple, but the application requires, especially in the beginning, an attention to detail that can be daunting. When I began to study the technique, I decided to give myself up to the approach and abandon, to the extent that I could, any notion of playing as I used to. I understood early on that what I was doing was, in essence, a complete neurological rewiring.
This was more challenging than it sounds, because I had a technique, or thought I had. I played big pieces, some of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire, but I had to admit my approach to them was more brute-force than finessed. What I lacked in technical finish I made up for, I rationalized, with musicianship. But once I began to study the Taubman Approach I realized that I was cultivating a technique that would allow me to more completely and accurately express what I conceived in my mind and felt in my heart. It eradicated the disconnect that I used to feel as a result of having to try so hard to produce sound, to move around the keyboard, to play with delicacy and nuance. It brought a naturalness and ease to my playing that I never thought possible. Most importantly, it supports musical expression. There is no compromise of “music” in favor of “technique”; they synthesize and become aspects of one another. To me, this is the true and only hallmark of virtuosity, and it’s completely realizable with the study of this technique.