My goal in technique training is to teach students how to play fluently and beautifully, without tension or strain. Toward this goal, students learn principles of a natural hand position, efficient and healthy movement, how to apply these to standard musical patterns (such as scales, chords and arpeggios) and how to solve specific problems in the music.
My experience is that with proper know how, pianists can make huge breakthroughs in their playing.
What is technique coaching?
It is specialized training to master or refine the physical mechanics of playing the piano. It’s different from a traditional piano lesson, in that the goal isn’t necessarily to perform an entire piece, but to work on just the segments and skills that you need help with. You can refine and retrain from the basics, or just work on problem spots. You can undertake to study on a regular basis, or just when you need extra help.
Who can benefit most from technique coaching?
*Intermediate to advanced pianists, teachers, accompanists, soloists who have a solid reading and rhythmic foundation, and just want to improve certain aspects of their playing, get help with difficult spots, or help their students solve problems.
*Pianists who would like to be able to play with greater ease, control, and technical brilliance.
*Pianists who are tense, uncomfortable, and want to feel better at the piano.
Why can’t I play this? I’ve worked on it for 6 months!
When a passage fails for an experienced musician, it’s often not a matter of not working hard enough, or practicing it carelessly. And it’s not a lack of talent. It’s a lack of skill or know-how. If you’ve spent a fair amount of time on something and you aren’t getting it, it just means you might need to move differently or even just think about it differently. Improving your technic is more than just playing the same thing 1000 times and hoping you’ll get it right. It involves choosing using the right tool for the job, and knowing how to use it.
Remember the famous saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? This applies to practicing the same way over and over again when it clearly hasn’t been helping. It’s better just to get some help and try something new. There are specific principles and movements that work for different passages. My goal is to teach you those rules and master the movements and when to use them. I firmly believe that virtually any passage is playable, once you develop the skills and knowhow that you need for that passage.
But I’m really busy. I just don’t have time right now to practice hours per day.
Most of us don’t have time to practice hours every day, and that’s okay. One of the great things about being an experienced musician is that you already know a lot about music, and we don’t have to cover all the stuff you already know because you can work that out on your own. For a technique lessons, you don’t have to come and give a flawless performance. You can just focus on skills and passages that you need help with, or that you want to help your students with. Often, technique will intersect with other musical elements, and when needed, we can do that, too.
Even a half hour per day to learn specific skills can eventually make a huge difference. If you are a teacher, you can apply and practice new skills (for example, how to play your thumb), as you demonstrate for your students. Sometimes when a pianist is trying to relearn or retrain the basics of how they move, they don’t even want to practice a lot.
You may also want to consider that learning good technical skills my actually SAVE you time. If you regularly perform or accompany, you’ll retain what you learn much better when it feels natural.
Will this help me be a better teacher?
Absolutely! I found that I was better able to recognize tension and discomfort in my own students, when I knew what to do about my own tension. And I could give them specific instructions on how to move so the tension would go away. Remember that tension is a symptom of ineffective alignment or movements. Telling someone to ‘relax’ usually doesn’t work. They’ll relax when it’s no longer a struggle to play.
Also, students will enjoy playing more if it feels good, and if they can successfully master their music. Their confidence grows when they can be proud of their mastery and progress.
Teaching others can be a wonderful way to reinforce what you are learning by applying it to new situations and showing it to someone else. Most skills have immediate applications to share with students, although I would caution against teaching certain skills (rotation) until you have them fully mastered.
What makes your training different?
I blend traditional training with newer technical approaches. I earned a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance, so I have a strong traditional background in typical practice methods and exercises. I know what did and didn’t work for me. I do know that even after graduation, I struggled with tension and fatigue. Some types of musical passages were technically insecure, and I abandoned some pieces because I just couldn’t master them well enough to perform them. My ability to play musically was limited by my physical abilities.
When I began studying the Taubman approach (in about 2003), I started to see changes in my playing and the way I moved generally. Just from watching the DVDs, I learned things I could do in my old pieces that made them easier to play (because, apparently, other people had the SAME problems, so Ms. Golandsky used them as examples on her videos). Soon, I started to believe that I could overcome my limitations. I decided to pursue more training.
My technique training has included attending the week-long Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium at Princeton, workshops in Berkeley and Portland, many weekends of private lessons/coaching with master Taubman teachers over the last 10+ years, plus extensive observations of other pianists being trained, which has helped me learn to recognize problems and what to do about them.
What happens at a technique lesson?
That depends on what you need help with :-)
I can help you identify areas of tension, collapse, and misalignment in your playing.
I can teach you better ways to use your fingers, hands, and arms at the piano.
I can teach you how to avoid tension and fatigue, in general, and in problem spots in your pieces.
I can give you suggestions for fingerings and techniques to use when beginning a new piece.
I can teach you movements that can help you get across the keys more easily, or in a more controlled way.
I can help apply your knowledge and skills to fix passages that aren’t working, and refine a piece for performance.
Interpretation is important, too! This focus on technique isn’t going to make my playing mechanical, is it?
Nope. Being free from technical struggle will only open up the possibility for greater expression.
Your new technical abilities will instill greater confidence and ease, open up greater dynamic and voicing possibilities, and it will spur your musicianship and imagination even more.