The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: The Olympic Games in London should remind us of the athletic aspects of practicing, playing and performing music.

July 28, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday was the official opening of the Olympic Games in London, according to official website.

For the next couple of weeks, we will constantly be reminded about the physical prowess of the participating athletes, with mention of injuries, recoveries and how they try to protect themselves.

Such athletes are an investment, after all, so they need to be kept healthy.

But musicians too are athletes – “small muscle athletes,” as the saying goes, versus the large muscle athletes competing at the games. And they too have careers to protect.

So it seems a good time to consider the various injuries that musicians suffer and the methods, especially the Taubman method and Feldenkrais – that musicians can use to relax, to avoid injuries and to improve their playing, to remain physically and mentally healthy.

An excellent account was recently published when New York Times music critic Vivien Schweitzer attended an annual workshops on the piano and on strings featuring  the Dorothy Taubman method of playing that are given every July by Edna Golandsky (below in a photo by Laura Pedrick for The New York Times) at Princeton University. Golandsky herself studied piano with more tradition training at the Juilliard School with famed teacher Rosina Lhevine and Adele Marcus.

Here is a link:

Perhaps you will agree with me that not enough details are given as advice. But then I expect that was part of the deal. People don’t pay big money to attend these seminars, master classes and workshops if they can get the same information simply by buying a newspaper or visiting a website.

I know a few of the basic guidelines – especially avoiding awkward stretches for octaves and using wrist rotation. But I would love to know more about fingering and about how and when to use or to avoid specific fingers, especially the fourth finger and the pinkie. (Some of this can be found, at leads partially, in the many videos that The Golandsky Institute has posted on YouTube, like the one at the bottom. Check them out.)

Can anyone else out there share some of the specifics of the Taubman and other important methodologies and techniques for fostering healthy music-making with this devoted amateur player?

Happy practicing, playing and performing!

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