FAQ: Fingering for octaves?

Question: I was curious about whether the Taubman Approach would favour always using fingers 1 and 5 on unbroken octave passages and scales, whether on black or white keys -I’m guessing this would be the case? I was always taught to alternate 4 with 5, in the case of  2 or 3 blacks in a row, and if just one black key in a sequence, to use 4. I’ve generally taught this to my students as well.

 I assumed that the main purpose was to prevent repetition strain due to always having ones hand in the same stretched position. However if one followed Taubman principles, this would not be necessary? No doubt the hand size of the individual would play some part as well.

Answer: Yes, in the Taubman Approach using 1-4 for octave passages is discouraged, and particularly 1-3, which some people use to create a physical legato in the upper voice. In Dorothy Taubman’s experience, using 1-4 for octaves was one of the main causes of injury. Research also concurs that pianists identify octave playing as the highest risk factor for injury.

 Many pianists with average or small hands find taking 1-4 octaves stretched and / or twisted. However, even if someone has a large hand and can comfortably take 1-4, connecting octaves from 1-5 to 1-4 creates an insidious twist of the hand away from the arm. Apart from immediately tightening the forearm and limiting the freedom of tone production, twisting is strongly associated with tendinitis. In my work, I have found that even who can take an 11th found great relief in being given permission not to take 1-4 octaves, let alone those with smaller hands.

 If one follows Taubman principles, the hand is not stretched when playing an octave, there is no strain, and problems related to repetitive movement do not occur. Even in a smaller hand, playing octaves can feel free, easy, and comfortable, without incurring fatigue.

 

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