Contacting from Piano Technique: The Taubman Approach

A brief introduction to Dorothy Taubman’s approach to piano technique.
— Read on

Assuming that the whole playing-arm is in the balanced-armature position (like the old record player needle arm) contacting is a tiny amount of flexion. The force becomes an “biomechanical action” when it has to overcome the friction of the key surface.

Of course, the friction is tiny and this means that the flexion amount can be tiny. As every action has a reaction there has to be a compensating movement in a lever – or two-lever binding -earlier in the linkage chain. In this case, there is compensating stretch of the opposite extensor tendon, most obviously visible as a tiny depression of the metacarpal bridge.

With key up, there are two actions ongoing, and their two parallel reactions. The first pair is maintaining the balanced armature. The second pair is contacting.

With key down there are the same two actions and reactions ongoing. However the first balanced armature pair has been reweighted to overcome the tiny upward force exerted by the depressed key.

As a five year old boy learning piano I recall even now the friction-feel of my teachers (old world) piano which had ivory keys. I would contrast this with my Piano at home – with its plastic keys. Since one of keys had a tiny imperfection in the moulding (which feels large to the finger pad of a five year old) i remember running my finger over this tactile-imperfection – located towards the front of the black b-flat key, where my right hand index finger would normal lie at rest.

So why was that my resting position? Because my 15-year-old sister taught me only one piece. To use Taubman language it was a series of single rotations from d-flat to other black notes (only) above and below d-flat.

Being self taught I had a pinky centric orientation to my hands.I would jump to the thumb rather than jump away from the thumb. Probably here where I learned to do backwards rotations, between fingers one and two in particular – as they jumped and then struck d-flat, e-flat d-flat sequences.

Even with that simple piece, one learns to internalize different fingers as distinct pivot points ( for single rotations) , Especially after a lateral adjusting motion to change resting hand position.

It was not long before I also learned to distinguish hand touch from forearm touch. As I would swing my elbow in and out from my torso it would activate the forearm touch as the elbow swing changed direction. I learned that elbow swings and pivot points related in an irregular fashion, fitting the pending direction of the consonancy, raised/lowered nature of keyboard keys, and the desire to tie rotations to desired rhythmic accents.

I’m pretty sure Chopin taught himself the same material. He was just fortunate enough not to go to a professional piano teacher! He got to stay away from the C major all white note scale! He Never lost the naturally coordinate movement of elbow-swinging forearm touch distunct from hand touch, combing with rotations (and this taubman-evil backwards rotations)

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