Edna Golandsky is a consummate expert of piano technique and musical artistry. The depth of her analytical ability surpasses anything I have encountered. Her work frees performers, enabling them to realize their full potential.
Before I studied with Edna Golandsky I had tremendous shoulder pain and my sound was weak. I felt that my technique had gone as far as it could go and that there was no hope for improvement. As a result of working with Edna, my pain is gone.
In addition, my tone and my ability to express music are far better than I ever thought they could be. I was able to make these changes in spite of the fact that I had to continue playing all the while to earn a living. Edna’s brilliant teaching is so understandable that when you come in with a problem you’re always going to leave with a solution other than “just practice it more.” She pushes you to go further with your talent and inspires you to be a complete musician. In short, Edna’s teaching has opened more doors in my playing than I knew were there.
In December of 1996, my hands closed into fists as result of an injury called dystonia. Dystonia is considered by the medical profession to have no cure. At the time of the injury I was in my second year of college and practicing five to eight hours a day despite a lot of pain. Being under the assumption that pain was a part of becoming a musician, I never thought I was headed for any real trouble. As the symptoms of dystonia began to show, I felt that the more I practiced the worse my playing seemed to get. I felt as though my hands were moving in slow motion. It was like being in a dream and trying to run. My fingers felt sluggish and the harder I tried to make them move the more heavy and slow they felt. Eventually it got to a point where I would play a descending scale passage and my fingers would curl up under my hand after playing.
After a particularly frustrating day of practice, I was on my way home when I felt the third and fourth fingers of my right hand pull together in a sort of cramp or spasm. I tried to massage it away, but I couldn’t. I stuck my hand deep into my pocket and continued walking when I felt a sensation that seemed to be creeping through my right hand. All of my fingers were curling into a fist. There was no pain, only a light squeezing of muscles. Three hours after my right hand closed up I felt my left hand third and fourth fingers pull together, just as my right hand had done. I felt like I was living my own private horror movie, knowing what was going to happen to my hand, being unable to stop it, and only being able to watch and feel this odd sensation take over.
I started to take lessons with Robert Durso, an expert Taubman teacher, and began to learn how to replace my old movements with healthy new ones. My body responded favorably and my dystonia was gone within a year’s time. The Taubman technique unifies fingers, hand and forearm, so that they all move together in a coordinate way. Many other piano techniques are based on, among other things, developing strong fingers by isolating them, stretching them and making them play down hard into the keys.
The amazing thing to me is that Dorothy Taubman never set out to develop a method to cure injured pianists. Her main intention was to teach people to play as virtuosos, but, in doing, so, she realized that the motions that were involved in virtuoso playing also cured injuries.
Every so often I run across an article or website about dystonia stating that there is no cure. It brings me much sadness to think of the negative impact this information has on people. After eight months the worst of my dystonia was over. After two years of retraining my technique I returned to school and finished my Bachelor’s. I have now complete my Master’s degree in piano performance. Not only am I free from dystonia, but I am playing difficult pieces with more precision and artistic statement than I ever did before my injury. I cannot imagine what it is like for people who struggle with the injury for years, and are told they will never be healed. I hope my story will offer insight and inspiration.
I worked with Edna Golandsky for 10-15 minutes each day for two weeks. We started retraining from the beginning, dropping on one finger at a time, then learning the 5-finger pattern and finally starting the C major scale. For the first time in over a year, I could play without pain. While at the Institute, I also heard some of the faculty perform and was impressed with the quality of sound they got at the piano. I decided that I wanted that sound, and that fall I started taking lessons with Edna, flying to New York about once a month. Two years later, in fall of 1993, I gave a solo recital that included the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
I have continued to study with Edna ever since, flying to New York as often as I can. During the 1990’s I held an administrative position at the university, so I couldn’t always practice and take lessons as regularly as I should have. Nonetheless, I continued to make progress and perform regularly, both solo and chamber music. In the last three years, piano has again become my top priority, and I have been taking lessons more consistently, working to refine the technique and explore its full potential for musical expression. I now play repertoire that I had never considered doing before I worked with Edna. I love playing Mozart, Haydn and Schubert, which I avoided in the past — they’re no fun to play if scales don’t feel good. The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody is another work that I never would have dared to play before I retrained.
I am currently pursuing a PhD research degree on issues of piano technique. This will be materialised through comparative analysis of various methods that have dealt with piano technique with consideration of the laws of anatomy, physiology, physics and to the existing norms and myths on piano playing.
I reached at this stage through my own search for a pianistic truth, believing there was one. I also had to believe that I would recover from a severe injury that occurred to me in 1998 right at the end of a very successful student career and at the beginning of a very promising professional career.
I focused my learning interests on learning as much about the body as I could. Therefore, once my rolfing treatments were over I could use my hands more or less normally and started re-educating my body movements through a plethora of methods including Tai Chi, Yoga, Tensegrity, Pilates, Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique. All these helped to take off tensions in the body in general and also in the hands and arms. They also contributed to my thinking of the actual relationship between fingers and keys to be as economical as possible and they managed to rid me of the unnecessary need for confirmation of secure playing through ‘muscle-ing’.
The comparative examination of various techniques lead to a substantial collection of material which lead me to personal realisations. In their turn these realisations somehow fell naturally into my piano playing rendering it effortless and effective, alas in a longer time scale then if I had been exposed to the Taubman approach from the very start. Upon receipt of the 10 DVDs, I was ecstatic to see that ALL of the principles of good piano playing (that were apparent from all this bibliography collectively) were compacted in a series of talks and demonstrations by Edna Gollandsky and Dorothy Taubman in the most conveying, eloquent, inspiring and clear way. The reason why I have indulged into writing this long description of my marathon through “piano truths” is that I believe this is the beginning of the end of a long list of traumatised pianists and that it is a shame not to disseminate it internationally.
As part of my PhD research, I have started a series of lectures on the biomechanics of piano playing and also present workshops for musicians and their habitual muscle patterns. I strongly feel that my search would be complete by pursuing the steps to becoming a certified Taubman instructor.
When I received the [Taubman Techniques] videos I was badly injured. Playing the piano has always been very painful for me. Years of traditional training destroyed completely my coordination, but it took me only a few weeks of ‘rotational’ training to completely eliminate the pain from my forearm and from my hands.
Linette A. Popoff-Parks
Edna has taught me to play without fatigue, pain, and tension, but . . . with an ease and proficiency that is a delight to my hands and heart. I have also discovered my tone growing in strength and color. I now see that the Taubman approach is not just a technique for healing the body – it is a proven pedagogical method that has something for every pianist: increased facility, ease at the keyboard, an infinite variety of tone, and more.
By the time I was 19 I was ready to give up and burn the piano because of the ever increasing pain to me forearms and mental burden it brought on. All of the master classes I played at to top visiting pianists from around the world could not help, they all said my technique was impressive and that I should loosen the arms more.
More than 23 years have passed and I have made a great living from playing the smokey clubs and bars but there was always that something cursing my playing. Also, playing improvised lines can virtually destroy a coordinated technique if one is not careful.
After studying your lectures especially the in out and forward movement my thumb has almost cured itself overnight. I can not begin to express the elation I felt in fact I shouted the words I love you Edna. You have given me renewed hope and peace of mind…I believe you are the greatest teacher on the planet or the messiah of the 21st century for pianists.
John Patrick Connolly, Jr.
I finished watching all of the Taubman videos today, and I continue to be utterly enthralled by the revolutionary body of knowledge they represent. The videos have been an invaluble asset in clarifying and enhancing my understanding of the Taubman approach, and they have already made a world of difference for my playing. Every pianist, piano student, and piano teacher should own them and watch them regularly. The videos are truly indispensible.
Dearest Edna, I just finished watching the DVD where you gave a master class on the Chopin Ballade G Minor. I loved everything you showed us. I am trying to incorporate some of the same ideas in the A flat Ballade. Op 47 has a lot of leaps and unique ideas in it.
The 10 Taubman Approach DVDs provide an incredible insight into the elements that combine to create effortless music-making. They are a must-see series for anyone interested in breaking the chains of injury, unlocking their innate musical potential, and gaining a secure command of virtuoso technique. Edna Golandsky is a true genius of piano pedagogy. Her unique gifts range from the ability to cure injuries to helping students infuse poetry as well as unlimited virtuosity into their playing.
The clear and convicing physical truths about the Taubman approach presented in the 10 videos have all been confirmed in my experience at the keyboard – it feels so great to play the piano now.
When you properly begin to understand how tone production works, how to time your movements so the result is a tone that will say what you want to say, you start listening to the music in a completely different way. Edna’s teaching has guided me down a path that has often been emotional as I have began to understand and unravel so much of what makes the body work in terms of coordinate movement. The moment when you experience a sense of fluidity and ease at the instrument as a result of her intelligent teaching can be so liberating as to overwhelm you at that instant. It is a wonderful experience that liberates more than your technique, it liberates your soul. I now look forward to learn and play pieces I never thought I would ever play. I look forward almost in amazement as I see myself doing things at the instrument with an ease I never thought possible, unless you were born a prodigy. And a prodigy I was not. I had to work as hard as anyone else to achieve a level of playing that would allow me to stay in the business. I now realize you don’t need have been born a prodigy to experience truly virtuoso playing, you only need to be properly trained.
Edna is a wonderful, insightful teacher and a warm human being. I look forward to many more years of continued study with her, as there is still much more for me to discover at the piano.
I was profoundly impressed by Edna Golandsky’s deep understanding of piano technique. She is the only person I have ever met who was actually able to explain to me what I was doing naturally at the keyboard.
The info is unrivaled…Yesterday, I went to an EPTA [European Piano Teachers Association] meeting…I took the Taubman Techniques videos and Choreography of the Hands, those piano teachers were astounded!!! Edna, you would have cracked up laughing inside, they couldn’t get over your explanations of why finger 4 should not be used on octaves (to avoid twisting), yet again, professionals are under a strange illusion that connecting octaves should be physically connected with the fingers alone.
As Golandsky lectures, she demonstrates each motion at the keyboard. Her fluency in simultaneously lecturing and demonstrating is truly virtuosic.
Father Sean Duggan
Edna Golandsky is the most wonderful piano teacher I have ever worked with. Her patience and persistence clearly communicate to the student through words and demonstrations what the student most needs to hear and understand. Her amazing insight and her master classes go directly to the musical and, if necessary, technical issues at hand and enable the student to play a piece better than he/she ever thought possible. She is particularly brilliant at dealing with sound production, rhythm and musical structure.
Successful jazz musicians require a sophisticated musical outlook underpinned by a healthy and advanced technique that allows them to play effortlessly. This requirement is equally true when playing riffs that include the technically difficult flourishes that give many jazz musicians their signature sound, such as large chords, fast tempos, and leaps to distant sections of the piano keyboard.
The even tone that results when the forearm, hand, and fingers are connected allows for accents and idiomatic jazz articulations but frees me from the strong finger vs. weak finger problem…The physical freedom offered by the Taubman approach is the perfect companion to the creative freedom pursued by improvising jazz pianists.
The Golandsky Institute is an important pedagogical institution not just for the thoroughness with which it deals with technical concerns at the piano but also for the emphasis it places on the music first.
The movements are designed to put you in the optimum position for every note…you have more control over the sound of every note.
I find more and more that the only way a performing musician can cope with this level of stress is to have a solid technique background that he/she can depend on consistently.
What those in the medical field are saying
Karin Boisvert, MD
Attending the Golandsky Institute’s Summer Symposium, I discovered that a lot of people came because they were injured. I hadn’t realized that the Taubman approach could be used to cure playing-related injuries. As a doctor, this was very interesting to me. Many musicians’ injuries are caused by repetitive movements in uncomfortable positions. The traditional medical approach is to relieve the pain with painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy and rest. Often stopping the problematic movement is enough to take care of the pain. But you can’t tell a musician to stop playing without destroying his life. Some other approach must be found, to ensure that the musician can continue to play, but without the physical problem. I don’t know of any other approach that addresses the problem of pianists’ pain and injuries like the Taubman approach does. This is an approach that goes to the root of the matter: the problem movements that cause the injury. I have sent a lot of construction workers, and other laborers to occupational therapists to try to root out the problem movements when they do masonry work, for example. But until discovering the Taubman approach, I had never come across a physical therapist or occupational therapist for pianists. This work is a kind of physical therapy, because the focus is on correct alignment and healthy, coordinate movements that will not hurt you.
H. Franklin Bunn, MD
I [have] talked to many individuals who had incapacitating use injuries and had not received any benefit from consultations with neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and those dealing in alternative approaches such as acupuncture. It is remarkable how many of these individuals had crushingly disappointing experiences with medical and para-medical specialists of various types but were cured of their injuries once they were trained in the technique. In some cases the responses were very rapid. In others a prolonged period of time was needed. The underpinnings of the technique rest on remarkably simple but, to my mind, highly sound and rational applications of a thorough understanding of anatomy and neuromuscular physiology. Mrs. Taubman, with the remarkably able input of Edna Golandsky, has developed principles based on maximizing physiologically sound arm and hand position with a technical approach based on forearm rotation and arm movements that takes advantage of muscle tension. Any tension, even minimal, is incoordinate and causes fatigue which may progress to injury.
Cynthia A. Rose, R.N.
Though there is the need for supervision at the beginning of retraining, the skills Mr. [John] Bloomfield (Golandsky Institute teacher) teaches are relatively easy to learn and retain. In addition, this program is much less costly and time-consuming than the current medical treatments available. As opposed to surgical remediation or steroid injections, technical retraining is also completely non-invasive.
Leo Gorelkin, MD
Impressive results with the Taubman approach in relieving and preventing inuries and also facilitating greater accomplishment at the piano appears to me to be a gross understatement.
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