Teaching Basic Technic
I remember when “natural” foods first became popular. It was the 1970s, when we went “back to nature” with macrobiotic diets and tie-dying. Those were my own “salad” days and actually, I had a lot of fun. Luckily for me, few photos survive…
But I don’t remember the term “natural” being applied to piano technic, at least by my teachers back then. It was lots of “lift the fingers” “hammer the keys” or, perhaps worse, no technical instruction at all. “Who cares about technic?” I recall one instructor saying. “If you get the sound I want, I don’t care how you do it.”
Lots of pianists in my generation have a similar story. And we paid the price for it. In some cases, a dire one: discomfort, pain and career-ending injuries.
Is there such a thing as a “natural” piano technic? I would argue yes. It’s based on the physiological properties of the human body. If you learn even a little bit about healthy functioning, your piano playing technic will be better.
Here’s my definition of technic: the knowledge and ability to produce the sounds you want in a “natural”, pain-free way. If you’re tired of the word “natural”, substitute “innate” or “structural”, or any word you want that will help you find a way for your and your students to use your bodies in the most effective way to play beautifully and without discomfort.
Over the next few months I will be writing a series of blogs talking about the principles of healthy technique, giving some resources, and acknowledging the pioneers in the field. It will be unavoidable to use some physiological jargon and refer to some fairly creepy looking diagrams. I know some of this information is far away from the core knowledge of many piano teachers. In my view, that’s part of the problem: we all need to know more basics about how the body works.
If reading it hurts, remind yourself that this is an investment in adding beauty to the world.