THE WELL-BALANCED PIANIST
The Integrated Approach Dr. Teresa Dybvig, Director

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Links and other resources for The Well-Balanced Pianist



Healthy technique
Mindset
Musicianship
Bodywork
Teaching, learning and changing

Healthy Technique: The Taubman Approach

  • There are quite a few places to get Taubman training. We at The Well-Balanced Pianist are (unsurprisingly) most comfortable recommending The Well-Balanced Pianist. We feel that our integrated approach puts technique in its proper perspective, at the service of the music. We also know that it's easier to improve your piano technique with a healthy mindset in practice and performance, and with the kind of healthy posture you get from excellent bodywork.

    There are other options as well. These include The Taubman Seminars run by The Taubman Institute, Sheila Paige's Piano Wellness Seminar, the Golandsky Institute, and Tom Marks' Piano Map workshops. If one place doesn't give you what you need, try another. While you search, pay attention to your body, and to how empowered you feel from your lessons. A good Taubman teacher should help you take a practical route to playing that feels better and sounds better, and your lessons should make you feel knowledgeable and capable.
  • Read discussions on piano technique that took place on The Well-Balanced Pianist Forum.

Upcoming Events
Colorado
July 2018


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Mindset in Practice and Performance

  • Dr. Bill Moore's Playing Your Best When It Counts is the newest performance psychology book around, and it's wonderful. It includes surveys, exercises, and journals, and they are true tools for improvement. Occasional grammatical errors resulting from self-publishing (no editor) can be disconcerting, but please ignore them and keep reading.
  • At Dr. Don Greene's website, you can read about his books Performance Success, Audition Success, and Fight Your Fear and Win. You can also take his Artist's Survey to get a profile of your tendencies under pressure. In Performance Success, Don Greene categorizes the elements of successful performance, and has exercises for practicing those elements. We use excerpts as starting points for discussion at The Well-Balanced Pianist, and some participants make amazing leaps in learning and performance as a result.
  • Start Where you Are, by Pema Chödrön, presents the basic practices of Tibetan Buddhism, which can help musicians to learn to stay in the moment and let go of things (even really embarrassing things that just happened). The basic meditation practice is especially helpful in performance, if you practice it rather consistently. This book is much richer than this, a guide to living, but the basic mediation helps directly with performance anxiety. One of my students once referred to this as a "massage for the mind." Later she wrote and said that she didn't realize at first how much it was a "massage for the heart."
  • Dr. Susan Jeffers is the author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which helps with mindset at any time of the day -- sleeping, waking, practicing, teaching, performing, even changing directions or facing tragedy. We used this book in our 2007 programs, and as a result, a lot of pianists are now saying, "I can handle it!" At her website, you can read her affirmation of the day and purchase books she recommends and publishes, as well subscribe to her newsletter and other free goodies.
  • Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, by jazz pianist Kenny Werner, has helped some of my students and friends, especially those who tend to be paralyzed by perfectionism. He complains a lot about school, which I have a hard time relating to (I liked and flourished in school!), but he makes many good and helpful points. And I love his definition of mastery -- when it has become effortless -- and the idea that effortless mastery is the goal of practice.
  • Using Your Brain--for a Change, by Richard Bandler, Steve Andreas (Editor), and Connirae Andreas (Editor), shows you how to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to change aspects of your internal imagery to create different experiences. Solutions are refreshingly simple and effective, and the text often amusingly iconoclastic.
  • The Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green with Timothy Gallwey, is the musician's version of Gallwey's The Inner Game of Tennis, which helped many sports competitors and musicians in the 70's. It is still making a difference today. Green and Gallwey present a method for teaching oneself and then getting out of one's way.
  • Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who, instead of researching the roots of dysfunction and unhappiness, spent his career researching those things that bring us joy in life: among them, creativity, happiness, and fulfillment. In Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience, he names the optimal life experience "flow," and lays out the ways people achieve it. He has many important things to say about creating meaning in life. In The Evolving Self, he discusses how humans must develop in order to avoid ceding our planet to the cockroach. Unfortunately, in the opening chapters, he takes some unseemly jabs at a few disciplines, such that people in those disciplines would probably close the book and walk away. I suggest you chalk it up to humanity and keep reading this rich text.
  • Read discussions on performance and practice mindset that took place on The Well-Balanced Pianist Forum.

Musicianship: Music and Interpretation

  • Images: The Piano Music of Claude Debussy by Paul Roberts, is at once the most comprehensive book on the subject, and the most beautifully written book on music I have encountered in a long while. Roberts explores the music of Debussy in the context of the art and literature of his time. This book, full of poetry and art reproductions, fuels the imagination, and also gives excellent practical advice on the performance of Debussy's works. It is hard to imagine any more that can be said about these works.
  • The Romantic Generation, by Charles Rosen, contains the dense and intense writing we have come to expect from the brilliant, prize-winning author of The Classical Style and Sonata Forms (fabulous books in themselves). His judgment of Mendelssohn is awfully harsh, but he makes many valuable points about other subjects -- the mazurka, pedaling in Chopin, rhythmic qualities in the music of Schumann. Just bear in mind that even though he is a powerful writer, much of what he says is his opinion.
  • NewMusicJukebox, produced by the American Music Center, is an online library and listening room that provides immediate access to scores, streaming audio, and vital information about music by American composers. A great place to find new music -- you can search by title, composer, or ensemble.
  • Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music: Their Principles and Applications by Sandra P. Rosenblum is an indispensable guide to ornamentation, articulation, and all other kinds of expression in the music of the 18th century. She starts by showing us how the piano was created gradually, with the input of the greatest composers and performers of the age. The book is also loaded with examples of interpretations of various markings from the literature, so if you or your student is wondering about a marking in a piece by Haydn, chances are she has it. Be careful, though! Once you open the book to ask one simple question, it's hard to put it down.
  • Music by Women: The International Alliance for Women in Music website has fabulous resources for those interested in music by women: bibliographies, discographies, course syllabi, interviews, profiles, online sources for music, discussion lists, links to other women-in-music organizations, and much more. The Musica delle donne website, dedicated to a concert series featuring music by women, is designed to assist those interested in programming music by women by providing an archive of works programmed and a list of composers performed, with links to composer's biographies. The works are for a wide variety of instrumentation -- solo, chamber, and larger ensembles. The website of Eine Kleine Frauenmusik, a radio program which has ceased broadcasting, has over 500 program program scripts. Most scripts are listed with program contents. You can play the broadcast, and read short biographies of each composer.
  • If you or your students have trouble with sightreading, I can't recommend the Four Star Sight Reading series enough. It is published by Frederick Harris. This series builds skills gradually, painlessly, and surely, by teaching pianists to simply pay attention. Upon returning from a desultory summer of work with this series, one of my high school students said, "It felt so easy I thought it couldn't be helping, but somehow, everything is easier now!"
  • Read discussions that took place on Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary, and Jazz musicianship on The Well-Balanced Pianist Forum.

Bodywork: Ways to improve posture and movement of the body

Websites for finding a bodywork practitioner

  • Practitioners of Iyengar Yoga are exhaustively trained in helping avoid and treat injury. Yoga was in the news in January 2012 for its dangers, but you should flourish in the right class. When you are looking for a yoga class, bear in mind that a good yoga teacher will keep track of everyone's aches and injuries, thoughtfully present few postures per meeting, modifying them as necessary for individuals, and spend a lot of time correcting people.
  • The Feldenkrais Method is an extraordinary method for gaining awareness of one's movement, and removing blocks in our bodies. The "Awareness Through Movement" classes are aptly named - you really do gain awareness through movement. Private "Functional Integration" sessions are less aptly named, but brilliant if the practitioner is skilled and experienced. Private sessions involve both manipulation on a table and work on movement. You can find Feldenkrais practitioners for adults through the Feldenkrais Institute, and for adults and children here.
  • Aston-Patterning is an amazing discipline that also involves manipulation on a table and movement training, but also has a fitness arm. Training to become a practitioner takes place in the western US, so if you've never heard of Aston-Patterning it may be because most practitioners live close to where they can get the training.
  • Most people have heard of the Alexander Technique, which musicians and actors have been using for a long time to improve their movement. A gifted Alexander Technique teacher can do wonders.

Bodywork practitioners we recommend from personal experience

Other bodywork resources

  • Yoga: the Iyengar Way, by Silva Mehta, Mira Mehta, and Shyam Mehta, contains detailed text and photographs of many important asanas, or Yoga positions, as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar. The Iyengar system of Yoga is to commonly taught Yoga as the Taubman Approach to piano technique is to traditional piano technique: it gives us precise tools to improve our alignment as opposed to letting us find it (or not) on our own. I did Yoga for twenty years before I met an Iyengar practitioner, upon which I realized that I was doing Yoga every morning and night to undo the aches and pains I had from the previous day's Yoga. With Iyengar Yoga, I feel the same purity of sensation in my body that I feel in my hands and arms from Taubman work. A note of caution: just as with Taubman work, it's a miracle if you can teach yourself from a book or tape. It's even possible to do yourself harm. Use the book as an adjunct, but if you want to pursue it, find a teacher who makes you feel good from the first lesson. Iyengar Yoga websites: www.bksiyengar.com and www.iyengar-Yoga.com
  • Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique, by Pedro de Alcantara, deals with the application of the Alexander Technique to playing musical instruments. I have little experience with the Alexander Technique, but people whom I greatly respect credit it with helping them in many arenas of music-making and performance. One of my students in Chicago asked me to read this book, and lent it to me before I took a flight back home. I was interested to read many ideas which overlap with Taubman work, and fascinated with Alexander's systematization of the teaching of the self. By the time I got off the plane, my shoulders and neck felt better than when I got on it, which I took to be a good sign! One thing troubles me about Alexander work: many traditional practitioners accept pain as part of the process -- one of my students was bedridden for three days with back spasms after her first Alexander class, and when she phoned the teacher to talk about it, the teacher said that my student's muscles "must not be used to holding her in alignment." The teacher wasn't alarmed that my student was in such pain following the class. The Taubman Approach to Piano Technique and Iyengar Yoga, two systems which have helped me a great deal, never accept pain, and consider it a sign that something is wrong. Now, a friend whom I respect who is a certified Alexander teacher says she finds no difference between the Taubman and Alexander responses to pain -- so my student's experience may just reflect some teachers' attitudes (especially if they are less than effective or their egos can't allow them to take responsibility for problems), or may possibly reflect differences between some disciplines within Alexander. If you're interested in trying Alexander, don't let this thought stop you, just be on the lookout. And as with Taubman work and Yoga, if you decide to try Alexander, find a teacher you have reason to trust.
  • For more information on Alexander Technique, see Robert and Anne Rickover's packed web page, The Complete Guide to Alexander Technique.
  • Renee Jackson has a fabulous essay on Alexander and Taubman, which you can read on The Complete Guide to Alexander Technique.
  • You can find information about Aston-Patterning on the training and a link to Aston products at the Aston Kinetics website.
  • The Posture Page contains information about several methods that have a history of helping people improve their posture.
  • Read discussions that took place on wellbeing and posture for pianists on The Balanced Pianist Forum.

Teaching, learning and changing

  • Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham is one of our favorites. Happily, you don't have to wait for his articles to appear anymore - you can read his blog.
  • The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, explores just how skill is developed, drawing from mastery studies and cognitive neuroscience. You can also read Daniel Coyle's blog, in which he continues to explore achievement and mastery. The Talent Code's message is indispensable for teachers and parents of children in today's overscheduled USA.
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance is the first book to survey the burgeoning knowledge of the relatively new field of Mastery Studies.
  • Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself explores our relatively new knowledge about plasticity in the brain. Read the first chapter and you will never again say, "I can't."
  • The International Learning Styles Network website has interesting information, especially if you join their network. If you join, you have access to updates, training, and articles.
  • Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion is designed for classroom teachers, but many of his tips work even in the private studio.
  • Here is a web page with stories by teachers (and students) that are heartwarming and inspiring, on a site devoted to encouraging people to get higher degrees in education.

Copyright © 2004-2012 Teresa Dybvig