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#2105843 - 06/21/13 04:12 PM Rotation (Sources and Commentary)
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
I've been doing some research on the topic of rotation in playing the piano and I wanted to know other's opinions on the matter. As I've read on this forum, on their website, and youtube clips, Taubman makes rotation an important component of their method, so much so that it's easy to think that they invented the topic and that it's the only thing in the method! But I noticed rotation mentioned in other piano technique books and the discussion of the piano technique is worth mentioning.

Lesson 19 in Seymour Bernstein's 1991 manual "20 Lessons in Keyboard Choreography" discusses rotation as a means of playing legato. In addition to the "single" rotations and "double" rotations mentioned in Taubman and John Mortensen's Youtube video, he also mentions continuous rotation as well. Curious though, in his previous book "With Your Own Two Hands" written in 1981, he mentions rotation only once to play a "left-right" passage on pages 194-195.

For a video of Bernstein demonstrating rotation, see

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIFQUrhdT2k (10:48)

His example of rotationally is through using a tremolo. One quote though in the forearm discussion outlines his entire
"The forearm adapts to the needs of the fingers and not the other way around."

Let's also look to one of Bernstein's teachers the famous Isabelle Vengarova. According to Robert Schick in his book "The Vengarova System of Piano Playing" she describes a tilting (turning, leaning) of the hand towards the fifth finger that can be thought of as rotation (47.)

Another book, the "Pianist's Problems" by William Newman, while not advocating rotation in the book, says something curious about rotation on page 53:

"When the small muscles are used, any finger raising above the keys becomes a waste of time and energy. But this fact does not mean the fingers should not be worked with conscious pressure and effort. Very popular in recent years has been the opposite idea of "dripping" the fingers effortlessly into the keys from a hand suspended loosely at the wrist and undulated by arm rotation. This fluent method, easiest for players with long slim fingers, has its values in rapid,
velvety, legato, Chopinesque passages." (Emphasis Mine)

However, what he says next is even more important in qualifying this advice:

"But it is only one style of playing. It certainly does not answer for the neat articulation required in much other passagework. By all means, the use of the fingers must not become a lost art!"

And some technical manuals also mention rotation as well. Alberto Jonas's seven volume compendium "Master School of Modern Piano Playing & Virtuosity" from 1922 includes a direct reference to the use of forearm rotation. The following is
from page 8 in Volume 5 under the heading "Exercises for Developing the Side and Half-Rolling Motion of the Wrist and Forearm":

"Through the following exercises, which require a side motion and in some cases a half-rolling motion of the wrist and forearm, muscles will be made supple and streghened which are not affected by other exercises. The vertical motion of
fingers hands, wrists, and forearms is, of course, the most important and the most needed in piano playing; yet not only the octave technic, but the entire piano technic will become more ample, easier and more reliable if every part of the arms, wrist, hand, and fingers is developed from a pianistic standpoint. This will be accomplished by the many special exercises which are given in this work; through the "side motion" finger exercises, through the prepatory exercises in the chapter of "Trills" and through the following exercises. The greater strength and elasticity which are imparted to the wrists and to the whole arm by the following "side motion" exercises will be felt immediately, even if they be played through but once." (Available on archive.com)

Most other books I've found have used rotation (or a rotary motion) to play "left-right" figurations (i.e. Alberti basses.) The examples in Gyorgy Sandor's "On Piano Playing" Chapter 6 describe rotation being of the "left-right" figuration variety and the examples further on in the book all include references to that. He does not mention "double-rotation."

And of course there is the question about speed in rotation. I found a very good explanation in "Piano Technique Demystified" by Neil Stannard, a Taubman trained teacher. On page 8 he mentions two important and often overlooked (at least on the websites and forum posts I've seen about Taubman.) Keep in mind, Stannard is not affiliated with the Golansky Institute:

"In speed, the fingers are left with the sensation of walking, transferring weight from the bottom of one key to the bottom of the next, but the mechanisms become more general. That is, one no longer thinks of forearm rotation, but rather more general ways to feel the support of the arm behind the finger that is playing." (8)

And his next point:

"Rotation does not act alone, but rather in combination with a shaping movement and a walking arm." (8)

And finally, this video, in which rotation is explained in the context of a "left-right" figuration. He calls it a "rocking" movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMzdigll8jY

For the example of the Fantasie Impromptu, I could not imagine playing the Fantasie Impromptu with just the fingers. It makes no logical or pianistic sense (at least for me.)

So when I looked at my playing, it seems as though I am using these slight rotary movements of my forearm, I just never bothered to look until now.

I look forward to hearing other people's opinions.

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#2105945 - 06/21/13 07:59 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anonymous,

No, rotation in scales or other textures is not a new idea. However, Seymour Bernstein did not come up with this idea on his own. Dorothy was developing her idea of forearm rotation, In & Out, shaping, walking arm, and grouping in the 1930s-40s while her husband was away during WWII. It's entirely possible that Seymour might have got his ideas about rotation from her. She did, after all, come first.

Bernstein is not alone in considering forearm rotation as part of piano technique. I've heard John Perry refer to it in public master classes, and several friends of mine who studied with him at USC have shared with me that he shows his students something like what Dorothy does in scale textures.

I think the reason Dorothy's students think she invented it, is that none of these other teachers have turned forearm rotation et cetera into a complete technical model the way Dorothy did, one that successfully produced consistent results at a high level in their students. Dorothy was certainly the first teacher in this country to adopt scientific principles of experimentation and observation in her work. She also took the trouble to talk to doctors just to get the anatomy and physiology correct, and so have her students. Many other contemporary teachers who say they've developed a new "scientific" technique usually get the anatomy/physiology wrong.

Dorothy was very forthcoming in her teaching, writings, lectures and master classes that the idea for forearm rotation was not hers originally. She cited two antecedents for her technical approach, and those were Tobias Matthay in late 19th-century England, who taught forearm rotation as the basis for most movements at the piano, and Dr. Otto Ortmann here in the US, who observed the phenomenon using high-speed cameras capturing the movements of highly skilled pianists at Peabody Conservatory. He discussed it in his book, "The Physiological Mechanics of Piano Playing" that was published in 1929. If anything Isabella Vengarova was probably influenced by Matthay's writings and his more successful students, just as Dorothy was.

Here's a brief article I wrote about Dorothy's approach on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman

I hope this will explain cursorily how Dorothy conceived of all the basic elements of the technique, and how they fit together. While forearm rotation was an essential element in her technique, it did not work without In&Out, shaping, Walking Arm, and Grouping all working together simultaneously. Dorothy herself said so. All Dorothy's critics miss this point, which is something you infer in your post.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/21/13 08:00 PM)
Edit Reason: oops
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2105981 - 06/21/13 09:42 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
The main point I'm trying to make here and the confusion that I believe arises from this forum and other places is when pianists say they use rotation when they are playing a tremolo, trill, etc. and then rotation when it's applied to a scale passage. Almost all pianists would agree that it applies in the former case, the disagreement is with the latter.

In Keyboard Choreography, Bernstein does mention Tobias Matthay several times in the course of his discussion about forearm rotation. He does not mention Taubman at all. Bernstein also believes in the supremacy of the fingers over the forearm. Does Taubman ever mention Bernstein's concept of continuous rotation?

I don't think we can leap to the assumption that Vengarova was influenced by Matthay. Her conception of rotation and Matthay's are just too different. She never uses Matthay's term "rotation" and claims that it is not a "vibratory" movement." (One would assume vibratory means double rotation.) She is just transferring the weight from one point to another.

I've read your wikipedia article and I believe you do a great job with it. From what I know about Taubman, many of the ideas, at least to me, seem like common sense to me and things that I realized I was already doing. For instance, I have always used what she describes as "In and Out" when playing on the black keys. The way you describe the "Walking Hand and Arm" also seems like common sense as well at least to me.

At about 12:30 in this clip, Robert Shannon, the director of Keyboard Studies at Oberlin, explains this quite well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suwdLaYBaAs

My take-away from this is that many pianist's techniques have a lot of these elements already and it's a matter of getting the remainder. For this topic, perhaps the rotation is already working for a lot of people, so much so that I had to really examine myself to confirm that I was actually doing it.


Edited by Anonymous4 (06/21/13 09:49 PM)

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#2106062 - 06/22/13 02:15 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5352
Loc: Philadelphia
I read the entire thread, hoping to comment; but there was no real clarity of thought to me -- just a lot of anecdotes and casual references to what different schools of thought might be thinking/saying. Perhaps, if you ask a specific question, it might be easier to jump in. I, for one, would be happy to continue this long-standing discussion if we had somewhere specific and succinct that you wanted to start. smile
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2106148 - 06/22/13 10:38 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
I do not include any anecdotes in my post. It is a summary of the sources I've found that cite rotation or rotary movements and how the pianists go about using those movements. But your point is taken about not having a place to jump in to the conversation. Here are some questions that arise out of the sources I've found, but feel free to give your own opinion on how you use rotation in your playing or your own opinion on the concept.

To what extent does one use rotation? Only on tremolos and trills or far more extensively on scale passages? Several sources (i.e. Sandor) use rotation in the one specific way whereas Taubman seems to use it as the foundation of a technique. Jonas's "rotation" exercises (he never calls them specifically this rotation) are used for tremolos, trills, and negotiating larger leaps. Jonas's books are incredibly important in this discussion as he received exercises from many famous pianists and piano pedagogues.

What about continuous rotation that Bernstein mentions? Are these included in playing? In your playing?

Are most of us using rotation without knowing it? I doubt anyone plays with the clenched hand when Mortensen demonstrates the "finger isolated" method. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g-pgsSZCIY (4:02)

Even for the Taubman technique, it's possible that rotation builds on what the pianists already have. As far as I see it, the people who came to Taubman did so because they were injured pianists. Is it possible that their fingers were already sufficiently independent and that rotation (among other methods) built on what they already had?

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#2106157 - 06/22/13 11:12 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Anonymous4
As far as I see it, the people who came to Taubman did so because they were injured pianists.

That's just not true. Some people chose to study her technique by choice.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2106169 - 06/22/13 12:01 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anon,

Thanks so much for the kind words about my article!

"Almost all pianists would agree that it applies in the former case, the disagreement is with the latter."

That's absolutely right. Forearm rotation appears completely counter intuitive in scale textures. People were saying that to Matthay.

However, none of the skeptics have tried it in the way Dorothy says it must be done. So their opinions are not worth much. Then there is the fact that forearm rotation in scale playing can be observed in the finest pianists including Horowitz. You have to know what you are looking for, because it's practically invisible, a mere shimmer of the wrist Just like Dorothy and Edna both say it is. Ortmann also observed this in virtuoso pianists and documented it in his book.

"Bernstein also believes in the supremacy of the fingers over the forearm."

Of course he does. All orthodox teachers today do, being heavily influenced by the Russian or French Schools. Physiologically, however, it promotes incorrect function in the limb which has been documented many times in the research literature. Taubman just went further to say that if a movement pattern is incorrect physiologically, then it must promote technical dysfunction as well. Of course, none of them want to hear that, including Bernstein. By the way, it does not appear that Bernstein's method is therapeutic in any way. Taubman's is.

The problem with making the fingers the locomotive center of a movement pattern is that doing so ignores the great biomechanical disadvantages they operate within. Orthodox teachers either just don't know about these limitations, or they simply choose to ignore them because they are wedded to a particular philosophy about piano playing.

"She is just transferring the weight from one point to another."

Taubman would say that is a forearm movement, and therefore rotational. Since either the forearm pronators or suppinators are activated to achieve the movement, it could only be that. While Vengarova may or may not have been influenced by Matthay (I agree it's a long shot), he had a tremendous influence in Europe and the East through his pedagogical writings. It's a certainty that she came across them during her career. It's anybody's guess whether she thought it was bunk or not, and thus my speculative assertion.

"Does Taubman ever mention Bernstein's concept of continuous rotation?"

She doesn't think of it that way. Dorothy described single rotations as being "continuous" in that the completion of rotating in one direction creates the preparation for rotating in the other. Trills are an example of single rotations. Bernstein's description of "continuous" rotations is somewhat imprecise. The forearm, for example, cannot continue to rotate in the same direction continuously without stopping. You'd twist your arm off! The pronation of one direction must stop at some point so that suppination can pull the forearm back in the other direction, and vice versa. This is not a continuous movement, even though it looks and feels like it to the executant. Dorothy makes this distinction.

"For instance, I have always used what she describes as "In and Out" when playing on the black keys."

Yes, but do you also make that movement on white-key scales? Dorothy originally developed the idea of In&Out to avoid excessive curling of the fingers in white-key scales. Each finger and thumb has a very precise location on the outside of the key surface, and the arm has to move a precise distance in order bring the finger where it needs to go to play on that space. And that move must happen at a precise moment before playing the key. If the movement is too large or too small, it doesn't work. If the fingers is too curled, it doesn't work. And if it's not properly timed and coordinated with the other 4 elements, it'll throw everything off and make the passage crash and burn. The same thing goes for walking arm.

Do I need to explain why Dorothy thought curling the fingers was bad? grin

"For this topic, perhaps the rotation is already working for a lot of people..."

I'm not sure I agree with that. If it were true, we would not see the degree or prevalence of technical dysfunction one finds in most pianists everywhere.

You haven't tried this yet, have you? I mean, gone to work with a (really good) Taubman teacher and really got the feel of rotation in scale playing? I'll tell you, the very first thing I noticed when I got over my problems and actually "got" rotation was the absolute, machine-like, precise evenness in my scales in any tempo. The subjective feeling was so radically different from the way it used to feel in scales, and it gave me a level of control I had never had and was not likely to ever develop. Then there was the "effortlessness" that Dorothy and Edna are always raving about. I know it sounds like hype, but it's quite true.

"My take-away from this is that many pianist's techniques have a lot of these elements already and it's a matter of getting the remainder."

It's not just a matter of getting them. You also have to know how to put them together, or it won't work at all. Something Dorothy was fond of harping on in her teaching was that each of these elements must be present in the correct sequence, timing and amount, or the misapplication or absence of one would cause technical dysfunction. In Dorothy's model, the finger, hand and arm have a precise role at each instant of the playing. Every single moment is choreographed to relate to all the others. If this does not take place, then carnage and disaster ensue. Scale playing requires the most refinement in the movement pattern of all the skills one does at the piano. I can tell you that when I finally got my scales put together, it changed everything about everything else including my octaves.

Also, some of them are counter intuitive, like rotation in scales. Every teacher I've ever seen teaches under-shaping in arpeggiated textures. But nobody teaches over-shaping on them except Dorothy. Also, nobody teaches shaping in scales except Dorothy. Everybody else's (wrong-headed) ideas about tone production generally does not produce wonderful results the way Dorothy's does. Nobody except Dorothy teaches keystroke timing correctly, et cetera. It's a long list, and people are not likely to figure it out on their own.

Then there's the fact that many orthodox technical practices actually impede or negate the use of these other movements, excessive curling of the fingers being a prime example.

Let me know what you think!


Edited by laguna_greg (06/22/13 12:04 PM)
Edit Reason: clarity
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2106240 - 06/22/13 01:58 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
Forgive me if I misrepresent anything about the Taubman method as I have not studied it extensively. One idea is that I've read in Thomas Mark's book What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body is that the great prodigies and virtuosos must have the elements that Taubman advocates. Ok, if that is true and this is the most "natural" way to play the piano, then wouldn't it follow that many, or at least some pianists, even today, would naturally do much, if not all, of what she advocates? The pianists that Ortmann observed were not trained in the Taubman method. The difference according to Mark, is that Taubman didn't rely on what these pianists were saying, she was figuring out what they were doing.

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#2106265 - 06/22/13 02:37 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anon,

Please! No worries! Be assured you did not give any impression of any kind. at all!

Of course Marks says that. He was a long-time student of Robert Durso, Edna Golandsky's assistant, and was a practice assistant at the Taubman Institute like myself.

"Ok, if that is true and this is the most "natural" way to play the piano, then wouldn't it follow that many, or at least some pianists, even today, would naturally do much, if not all, of what she advocates?"

The vast majority don't because these movements are trained out of them from childhood by teachers who were trained in orthodox methods, those of the Russian or French schools, those that promote an entirely opposing technical model. also consider that Dorothy's method has been soundly rejected by school and conservatory faculties everywhere except for a few prominent teachers, like Nina Scolnik or Yoheved Kaplinsky. So there's almost no place the advanced student can go to learn this approach in an academic environment.

"The difference...is that Taubman didn't rely on what these pianists were saying, she was figuring out what they were doing."

That's right. Dorothy was trying to use the same investigative methods Ortmann was using. But you have to remember that the pianists Ortmann was observing were the top student in the country, most of them prodigy virtuosi who never had to be trained in technique. It gave Ortmannn a particular viewpoint about piano playing and technique. Dorothy not only tried to explain what they were doing, she was also trying to explain what the less-obviously gifted pianist was doing and understand the difference. Also, she was trying to reconcile some of Ortmann's obviously erroneous conclusions, e.g. it's impossible to play octaves fast because of the seemingly unavoidable antagonistic muscular contractions in the upper arm that become isometric in speed. Ortmann could not explain how someone like Horowitz or Hoffman could play octaves so fast or easily, since his model made that impossible.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/22/13 02:38 PM)
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2106356 - 06/22/13 05:09 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
I haven't studied the Taubman method (or any technique for that matter) so I really have no horse in this race. Even when I was younger I did much what came naturally. Even going over my notes from college (I have a B.M. in Piano Performance) none of the notes my teacher gave were about technique. I'm wondering now after a 10 year absence from the piano if I am playing correctly. Hence my interest in this subject now.

It seems that others are I'm far more optimistic on Taubman's methods getting much more traction in conservatories than you are. The teachers though are very prominent. Kaplinsky who is chair of piano at Juilliard and Robert Shannon who is the director of piano at Oberlin to name two. I really wonder what the reason pianists reject these methods.

Here's the abstract of a DMA dissertation completed in 2012 at Juilliard titled "Toward the definition of an American school of piano-playing." Of course, he probably did his dissertation under the direction of one of the Taubman followers at Juilliard. I'm probably going to end up reading it:

"Explores, identifies, and delineates a current school of thought in the field of piano-playing in America. Several important European approaches to piano-playing from the early 20th c. are briefly summarized and analyzed in order to provide context: the French School of Alfred Cortot, Marguerite Long, and Robert Casadesus; the method of the Polish-born Theodor Leschetizky, as well as the interpretations of his method by his pupils; the Russian School of Anton Rubinstein, Vassily Safonov, Maria Levinskaya, and Josef Lhevinne; and the physiological approaches of Britain’s Tobias Matthay and America’s Otto Ortmann. Following these historical accounts, the American school of piano-playing is explored through interviews with prominent American pianists and teachers, including Leon Fleisher, Edna Golandsky, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Jerome Lowenthal, Robert McDonald, Robert Shannon, Aliza Stewart, Nelita True, and Nancy Weems. These interviews were conducted by the author for the purpose of this study. The interviews are included in their entirety in Part II of this document. In addition, an appendix entitled “Seminal teacher-student relationships” outlines the musical genealogy of the interviewees by way of a diagram. The diagram serves to provide visual clarity for the reader with regard to the most important influences on current American pedagogues. The evidence obtained from the interviewees, as well as from careful examination of past methods, suggests that the American School of piano-playing is closely linked with the scientifically-derived ideas of Tobias Matthay, Otto Ortmann, and Dorothy Taubman. Furthermore, its primary concerns are physical wellness, injury prevention, and individuality of character—all directed toward the uninhibited pursuit of successful musical communication."

I don't know if I'd go so far and say this is the "standard" and thus the "American school" of piano playing.

One more point: If prodigy virtuoso use these methods because they are the most natural, then it does not make logical sense to me why these would be trained out at any level or why the teachers wouldn't be doing it themselves.

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#2106753 - 06/23/13 01:37 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anon,

" I'm wondering now after a 10 year absence from the piano if I am playing correctly. Hence my interest in this subject now."

If it works already, don't fix it!

" Leon Fleisher, Edna Golandsky, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Jerome Lowenthal, Robert McDonald, Robert Shannon, Aliza Stewart, Nelita True, and Nancy Weems."

If this is really a school, then it lacks a uniformity of opinion. For example, as much as Fleisher has taken lessons over the years with Dorothy and Edna in an effort to get his right hand back, he doesn't teach that way as I've heard. Jerome Lowenthal is not supportive of the approach, nor is John Perry. Perry actually goes out of his way to distance himself from Dorothy or Edna, and goes out of his way to denigrate the approach.

Kaplinsky, Shannon, and Nina Scolnik are now heads of music departments in this country. That's only three teachers, not a revolution. The only school that has incorporated an ergonomics approach to the problem of student injuries is the Manhattan School. That is run by Vera Wills and, as much as I like Vera and think she does good work, she is not a supporter of Taubman's approach. Most every other department in the country is not open to this kind of approach at all. Hence my skepticism.

As to why there would be some resistance to this method, that's easy to explain. Musicians are generally a conservative bunch, music teachers are the most conservative of all, and the more famous they are, the more chauvinistic they become. They are generally wedded to the sanctity of their pedagogical lineage and are not open to new ideas. They are insulted and outraged at the idea that their technical approaches actually cause injuries or technical dysfunction. They'd rather blame their student. Hence my skepticism.

"If prodigy virtuoso use these methods because they are the most natural, then it does not make logical sense to me why these would be trained out at any level or why the teachers wouldn't be doing it themselves."

That's very easy to explain. Young prodigies don't use any "methods" consciously. They just play. They have absolutely no idea how they do what they do. If Dorothy is right, the nature of their innate virtuosity is invisible even to them. since they require little or no technical training, they don't receive any. As they grow up, they adopt whatever ideas about technique their teachers tell them. These have nothing to do with what the prodigy is actually doing at the keyboard, but neither the teacher nor the student can see it.

For the less-than-prodigious talents in a studio, they do exactly what the teacher shows them. And the problem with that, if Dorothy is right, is that the French, Russian and hybrid schools that grew out of them promote a technique that promotes dysfunction, not virtuosity. For one thing, consider that all orthodox technique developed at a time in history when basic information about anatomy or physiology did not exist. Thus, orthodox approaches are filled with erroneous information about the upper extremity. They cannot possibly describe the most efficient way to move at the keyboard because their basic assumptions about the body are wrong. Yet most teachers today still teach these methods, and are very proud to do so.

Let me know what you think.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2107191 - 06/24/13 12:51 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anon,

This little girl is rotating on almost every note:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOTDfiEWKqg
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2107550 - 06/25/13 12:13 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Anonymous4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 6
What I do works in so far as I'm not injured, but my concern is as I get older if things that I'm able to physically do now might become impossible.

Right now, I'm reading everything I can find about piano technique to see what research has been done in the area. The head of piano at Juilliard and Oberlin supporting Taubman is nothing to scoff at and to be honest, it grants the approach a good deal more legitimacy.

I have been looking at these prodigy virtuosos recently and I'm fascinated by the approaches that they seem to use. She uses very visible rotation, but I don't see all of them do. They all seem to use a lot of motion from the upper arm and the video you sent seems to use a lot of motion from the wrist.

I do understand that rotation isn't universally accepted. This is from Madeleine Bruser's website:

http://artofpracticing.com/piano-lessons-new-york-city/

"When Melanie came to study with me, she had tendonitis from overpracticing for her recital at college. The pain ran from the little finger of her right hand up her forearm and had forced her to stop playing for a few months. Her posture was hunched over, and instead of flexing her fourth and fifth fingers to play she was extending them and using forearm rotation to push keys down."

I adjusted her posture upright and asked her to place her hand on the keys in a normal curved position, which at first took a great deal of concentration. She practiced a simple five-finger exercise: playing one key at a time, using finger movement only, no arm movement, and checking after each note to be sure that the other four fingers were relaxed and resting on the keys.

She then practiced two simple pieces in this way for two weeks. During that time her fourth and fifth fingers were too weak to produce sound without arm movement. But at her third lesson they suddenly began to produce sound.

When her new finger movements became habitual I taught her to use her arm in conjunction with her fingers to play. At first she tended to move her back along with her arm, but I showed her how to let her shoulder and wrist be flexible and to move her arm forward without changing her upright posture. This flexibility resulted in greater ease and power. Then she practiced singing the bass line of her pieces while playing the right hand, and playing without looking at her hands. These techniques refined her coordination.

She limited her practicing to one hour a day at first and later increased it to two hours. At the end of three months, she was playing comfortably and well. She returned to school and gave a successful recital."

It seems like this woman's problem, according to Bruser, was the use of rotation. Perhaps it's all in moderation.

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#2107570 - 06/25/13 12:53 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Anon,

Instead of looking at places where you will find no scientific research about RSIs, why don't you look where there is some?

Look up the Journal of Music Medicine for the last 20 years. Then look up their European equivalents. It's the only place you'll find any scientific research about piano technique. Piano teachers don't do meaningful research, otherwise there'd be a body of conference or peer-reviewed publications about them. There isn't. Dorothy's and Edna's published papers, her student's conference papers and my own as well, will never appear in pedagogy journals or books. They haven't yet after more than 10+ years.

I appreciate that posting from Madeleine Bruser's website. However, she is someone else who does not have the basic anatomy/physiology correct. When she has 500+ successful clinical returns-to-work (as they are called) documented in the literature, we can start discussing the merits of her approach, and her diagnostic skills. Until then, I say she just got lucky, and her methods won't work for everyone.

Re: disappearing rotation in growing prodigies. Re-read my Taubman article about "synergy". That's why you don't see it obviously in older prodigies. It gets smaller, until it becomes invisible.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2107593 - 06/25/13 01:43 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5352
Loc: Philadelphia
Really, Greg's post was sufficient, but I'm going to follow-up as well and offer a few thoughts.

Originally Posted By: Anonymous4
What I do works in so far as I'm not injured,[...]

I can name a thousand athletes who thought the same thing and were eventually forced into early retirement. Now, you might be thinking that piano playing isn't the same thing because it doesn't require quite the same stamina, particularly in terms of vo2 max. But pianists are even more prone to repetitive stress injuries. If you've never read Leon Fleisher's story, that's a good place to start. Repetitive stress injuries can show up right away, but very rarely do. In many cases, particularly when dealing with small muscle groups and minor overload, it can take years.

Quote:
I have been looking at these prodigy virtuosos recently and I'm fascinated by the approaches that they seem to use. She uses very visible rotation, but I don't see all of them do. They all seem to use a lot of motion from the upper arm and the video you sent seems to use a lot of motion from the wrist.

I have two instinctual questions, since we have no names to discuss or videos to look at:
1. Are you sure the people you're watching are using "correct" ("pain-free") technique?
1a. Are you sure that the solutions those people employ will work, considering your anatomy may be quite different from theirs?
2. Are you sure you can actually see the parts of the arm that are moving? (Many times, particularly with men, their arms are covered by shirt and jacket sleeves.)

Quote:
It seems like this woman's problem, according to Bruser, was the use of rotation.

This is the problem with written words -- to me, it sounded more like "twisting" even though she used the words "forearm rotation". From her description, I honestly have no idea what this student was doing, because I do understand the concept of forearm rotation, and it isn't even close to what Bruser stated in this article.

What I do know is that finger isolation, as Bruser described, "...playing one key at a time, using finger movement only, no arm movement...," is about as bad as it can get in terms of creating tension. The fingers/hand/arm is a playing mechanism -- and I use the singular verb tense intentionally, because without part of the mechanism, the rest of it has to work overtime to compensate. What is described here makes absolutely no sense to do. At the least damaging end of the spectrum, it would be like trying to teach a boxer to punch by encasing their lower body in cement. The power in your punch starts in your plant foot, not in your fist. Take the hips, legs, and balance away, and now you're punching wrong. Worse, if your plant foot is out even slightly, and you're not rotating your lower body, you will very likely twist your knee eventually. Similar concepts here.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2107646 - 06/25/13 05:54 AM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Derulux]
chopin_r_us Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 969
Loc: UK
I think it's worth clarifying where the concept of rotation came from. Yes indeed, it was Matthay who first discovered it as a tool for piano playing. By his time virtually all pianists played with fingers perpendicular to the keys but as far as I have discovered, no one had actually pointed that out. Matthay figured as the wrist (actually forearm) is 'wound' up anyway, its unwinding should be utilized. Personally, I don't believe in winding it up in the first place - as neither did Bach, Mozart or Chopin IMHO. I think that started with Clementi.

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#2108782 - 06/26/13 11:06 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: chopin_r_us]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Chopin,

If I understand you correctly...

The thing is, the forearm is unavoidably "wound up" in pronation so that the fingers can play with a vertical/perpendicular orientation to their flexion/extension with the key. The ideas of "unwinding" vs "winding" ignores this and other aspects of a healthy technique.

For instance, if the overall level of muscular tension is minimal, it is perfectly acceptable and healthy for the forearm to be in a state of complete pronation to the extreme ROM. This is actually necessary if all the fingers and thumb are to have equal access to the vertical play.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/26/13 11:07 PM)
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2109093 - 06/27/13 01:46 PM Re: Rotation (Sources and Commentary) [Re: Anonymous4]
chopin_r_us Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 969
Loc: UK
But if the default manoeuvre is an oblique one the pronators are mostly in a state of rest. I've studied their labours with SEMG - not such a pretty sight!

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