SUMIKO MIKIMOTO'S PIANO METHOD: A MODERN PHYSIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO PIANO TECHNIQUE IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
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The purpose of this dissertation is to introduce Sumiko Mikimoto's piano method, The Correct Piano Technique (2004), which represents a modern approach to piano technique based on physiological and neurological study. The author places Mikimoto's method within a historical context, and shows how it offers a unique approach to piano playing with its anatomical-based awareness of localized muscle structures. Mikimoto not only describes different hand types, along with their accompanying strengths and weaknesses, but also presents a comprehensive picture of the development of piano technique through numerous exercises that are arranged incrementally. In addition to her various exercises, Mikimoto patented a finger-board in 1980 that helps the pianist stretch tendons and trains the small muscles of the hand and fingers. The strength of this method lies in its ability to address a broad range of technical challenges faced at many different levels from the beginner up through the advanced level pianist, as well as to help prevent tension-related injury. Broadly speaking, the historical context of piano technique shows a gradually increasing awareness of the body. Since the turn of the twentieth century and continuing up to the present day, the fields of physiology, neurology, and wellness have informed the teachings of many pedagogues such as Tobias Matthay, Otto Ortmann, George Kochevitsky, Gyorgy Sandor, and Seymour Bernstein. In this stream of studies of piano techniques and methods, Mikimoto's method may be viewed as an extension of the work of Otto Ortmann (who conducted extensive scientific studies on physiological mechanics of piano technique) and George Kochevitsky (who incorporated an understanding of the neurology of motor skills into his teaching). With the growing obsession with technique, there has been an increase in injuries among pianists. Tension is at the root of many injuries, and injury prevention has been a growing topic since 1980s. Mikimoto's careful analysis of students' physical characteristics (including the different shapes of fingers, wrist, hands, arms, and their tendons) provides insight into some of the causes of weakness and tension. It possible to use her analysis to find the root of some injuries, aid in rehabilitation, and perhaps prevent them from happening to future students.