Ideally, awareness and respect for one’s body begins from the very first piano lesson (Watson, 2009, p. xii) through learning a technique that encompasses an understanding of the instrument’s mechanism and the body’s capabilities. As Golandsky advocates, training healthy physicality needs to be developed, in conjunction with habits of mental discipline, and active listening (2010).
Yet in many cases the focus is upon such competitive aspects as AMEB examinations and eisteddfods, with pressure to achieve high results. Additionally, primary and secondary school students are busier nowadays as scholastic commitments become increasingly demanding. This can be combined with a hectic extra-curricular program; some of my students engage in nine such activities weekly. In my experience, students as young as eight can exhibit chronic anxiety, stress and the sense of being overwhelmed, which can often inhibit concentration and progress.
Due to these pressures, the risk is focusing on the impending performance goal at the expense of learning goals (see Dweck, 1999, p. 16). This is an issue for most students, but particularly when undertaking the complex task of altering, let alone completely retraining one’s technique. In such cases, prominence needs to be given to embodied learning, the development of new skills and heightened kinaesthetic feedback, rather than striving for immediate results (see Gelb, 1994, p. 11).
Yet for many piano students and teachers, analysing kinaesthetic feedback is foreign. In my experience of studying piano and now working extensively with injured pianists, close examination and observation of such details as where the wrist feels best when playing a large chord, or to measure the exact distance one’s arm needs to move in a passage, are rarely considered in piano lessons. As Durso reports, Taubman was the first piano teacher he worked with who was interested in how playing felt (Stewart, 2011). Understandably, if this priority is not emphasised in individual tuition, it will not be reflected in the literature. However, if awareness and close analysis of healthy movement is not actively taught and cultivated during the primary and secondary years, young musicians can either become discouraged by technical limitations and PRMDs, or bring their unresolved problems with them to their tertiary music studies.
Extract from Learning and Teaching Healthy Piano Technique: Training as an Instructor in the Taubman Approach. Available through: http://www.theresemilanovic.com/phd-published/
Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
Gelb, M. (1994). Body learning: An introduction to the Alexander technique (2nd ed.). London: Aurum Press.
Stewart. W. (2011, August 21). Movement Matters. The Taubman Approach: Path to a healthy, fluent technique. [Interview with Robert Durso]. Podcast retrieved from http://www.blogtalkradio.com/3-d_optimal_performance/2011/08/22/the-taubman-approach-path-to-a-healthy-virtuosic-technique
Watson, A. H. (2009). The biology of musical performance and performance-related injury. Lanhan, MA: Scarecrow Press.