FAQ: How can I stop my student playing with a low wrist?

As many of you know, the fundamental principle of the Taubman Approach is that the fingers, hand and forearm operate together in synchronicity. One tenet that emerges from this underlying foundation is that if the wrist is low, this critical alignment of the fingers, hand and forearm is broken. To be clear: the wrist is not rigid, it is not held. The wrist DOES change in height according to the situation, (higher for intervals and chords, higher when playing across the body etc) but if alignment is to be preserved, the wrist can never be lower than level.  

Confusion still abounds regarding the association of a low wrist and a beautiful tone, and often playing softly with a low(er) wrist. Yet varying  the tone colour is about timing the speed of key descent, which has nothing to do with the wrist height. This is combined with skilful use of the pedal, and tools such as physical shaping (from the forearm) and musical timing. When one learns to match the tone produced, listening and the physical association of what it feels like to create that tonal colour, the process can become predicable and reliable. 

I’ve heard many colourful (and questionable) teaching instructions regarding the wrist. Some of these include that the wrist should be like a gentle jellyfish swimming, a “mouse house”, like a Hawaiian dancer, or to “play and roll up” on every note. I’m sure there are many more! Some teachers still preach playing with an eraser on the hand to keep the hand and wrist completely quiet, none of which I would recommend.  From a Taubman perspective, the wrist is moved by shaping initiated from the forearm.  

There are also many approaches to “fixing” a low wrist, including putting a sharp pencil or thumb tacks underneath the wrist as a spiky punishment should the wrist dare to drop. One concerning solution is using a brace to hold the hand, wrist and forearm in a straight line, as per the accessory below. From the Taubman perspective, this brace prevents the wrist height varying, which it can and must change according to the situation, and secondly prevents each person developing the necessary, internal feeling of connectedness between the hand and the forearm.

10413309_10153162490193899_5839472419293984927_nTo cultivate the student’s awareness of alignment, I would have her drop onto a single finger on the lid or  book to experience that after the finger makes contact with the surface, the hand, wrist forearm do not continue with an extra “down”. We can compare this sensation to walking. When  our foot makes contact with the floor we do not continue dropping our knees and legs, or rolling over our ankles.  You can have fun with helping a student develop this connection, play games, or use whatever images that are effective. 

To offer even the youngest student the sensation of the wrist being connected to the hand and forearm is a precious gift. 

2 thoughts on “FAQ: How can I stop my student playing with a low wrist?

  1. Thomas Hauck

    The student can avoid playing with a low wrist by making sure that the “wrist fulcrum” does not collapse while the fingers are balanced on the surface of the keys.

  2. Therese Milanovic Post author

    Absolutely. I find however that most of the problems with the wrist occur in the transition from the surface of the keys to resting on the keybed. You’re right to insist that the wrist fulcrum does not collapse while the person is resting on the key surface.

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