Using Alexander Technique principles with beginning piano students: A collaborative “duet” between an Alexander Technique teacher and a piano teacher

MTNA e-Journal, February 2020 issue (peer review journal from the Music Teachers National Association)

Gabriella Minnes Brandes, Jennifer Condie, and Aleah Wielinga

Brief summary

This case study was designed to explore ways of applying principles of the Alexander Technique to increase whole-body awareness in young piano students, specifically by using activities to teach how to release shoulders, both standing at an adjustable surface away from the piano and while playing the piano. The study explored ways of developing vocabulary that could be used by both the piano teacher and a young student. The vocabulary was designed to allow them to express the unique and specific experience of learning to play the piano. The authors discuss the interplay between piano pedagogy and the application of Alexander Technique principles in the context of teaching piano. They analysed time-specific comments made about the piano lessons which came from four different perspectives: an Alexander Technique teacher, a piano teacher with many years of private Alexander lessons, a piano teacher with no Alexander Technique lessons, and a teacher of both piano and Alexander Technique. Similarities and differences are described that stem from the varied backgrounds of the four observers, as each one interpreted moments of teaching and learning in the piano lessons. The authors discuss teaching and learning in terms of choices made in real time, using questions, modelling, developing a shared language and using metaphors to express the new experiences of learning. Recommendations are made for ways in which the Alexander Technique could provide specific tools to enhance teachers’ repertoire of choices and approaches to the connections between the physical aspects of piano playing and the musical elements in the lessons. Limitations within the study are described and suggestions made for future studies to follow-up.

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