If Your Piano Technique had a “Walking Gait”

Pianists often find that forearm rotation as explained by Taubman Technique is counterintuitive. As much as I value the approach to piano embedded in the Taubman explanation, I share this complaint. The single and double terminology is inherently awkward to say the least, and also doesn’t steer the pianist toward a correlation between her body’s movement and looser musical patterning, as the example suggests:

Chopin G Minor Ballade, mm. 32-34, with fingerings purely for the sake of argument.  S/D: single versus double. Notes connected in a “single” rotary motion are circled. Placement of singles and doubles do not appreciably coincide with musical shape.

A while back I published a series of posts boiling single and double rotation down to a simple logic involving finger numbers. The “Six S P Rules,” as I call them, are utterly consistent with everything I was able to learn about rotation practices from four different Taubman teachers over quite a long period of time. (This included a period of quitting, after numerous lessons with one highly regarded teacher, out of complete frustration.) By releasing me from the dead weight of the single/double dichotomy, these rules freed me to integrate brain and spirit, to systematically combine rotation with other equally critical aspects of healthy technique, and to integrate instruction about rotation fluidly into my teaching.

A second post in that series, Why S P?, expounds upon the S P rules, pointing out the big advantages they present over the cumbersome single and double instructions. (You might find it useful to look at the entire series for context.) But, if I may say so myself, there is further beauty behind the S P rules beyond what I wrote several years ago.

First, other body parts can learn to unify behind their simple numeric logic to create cycles of movement. What you end up with is something like a walking gait, with each body part playing its brief and minimal part within a cycle. This will feel like relaxation but it is actually skilled coordination involving minimal exertion. With some determination and perseverance, you can arrive at a meaningful musical use for the upper body in this “gait,” and for each of the body segments on down to the fingers.

Second–and to drive all of this toward a highly desirable conclusion–when you understand the patterns of coordination to be transferring patterns of force into the piano, you can link the logic of movement with heartfelt expectations of sound, to create musical flow.  Musical patterning involves rise and fall, high and low points in the small and large, as do numbers. If you can create gradations of force from each of the levers, changing their values over time, you create musical dimensionality.

By suggesting that there are mechanisms, technologies, whereby the body creates music, am I suggesting mechanical music making? Absolutely not. You can only play from the heart if you can predict exactly what sound will come out of the piano with your movements. Good technique, after all, is not merely about getting around the piano with ease, but about a musical result. I, along with Abby Whiteside, am convinced that all technical education should point in this direction. This is the thrust of Taubman Technique Demystified.