September 2017 MTNA e-Journal

Assessing Injury Risk In Pianists: Using Objective Measures To Promote Self-Awareness
By Paola Savvidou, NCTM; Brad Willis; Mengyuan Li; and Marjorie Skubic

The purpose of this study was primarily to investigate if and how a depth camera could be used to identify potentially harmful hand positions at the keyboard. Three research questions were set forth: (1) How does a pianist’s self-reported hand position in a questionnaire compare to their actual hand position detected by a marker-less motion capture device? (2) Is there any correlation between the amount of time spent in neutral wrist and hand positions and previous or current injury? (3) Do advanced-level classical pianists exhibit certain characteristics in their hand and wrist playing postures that could be modeled by novice pianists? Data was collected from 14 participants. The results demonstrate promise in the use of the depth camera for assessing injury risk related to hand misalignment. Pianists’ self-perception of their hand position often mismatched with the objective analysis. Although most pianists indicated that they experience discomfort or pain when practicing, the relationship between the amount of time spent in neutral position and the discomfort rate varied. More experienced pianists spend more time in neutral position than less experienced pianists. [Read More]


The Pedagogical Value Of “Enjoyment” In The Classical Piano Studio—A Research Report On A Transdisciplinary Study
By William Westney, Cynthia M. Grund, James Yang, Aimee Cloutier, Jesse Latimer, Michael O’Boyle, Dan Fang and Jiancheng Hou

Four pianists prepared and memorized (independently) the same two brief classical selections. They reported individually to a motion-capture laboratory (passive optical camera system), where 46 reflective markers were affixed to their bodies so three-dimensional location profile recordings could be created. At that time they were asked to perform each of the two pieces in two different performance modes: “enjoyment” and “correct.” These two terms had not been mentioned to them until that moment. The resulting motion-capture data was analyzed to see if these two different modes, or mindsets, would engender distinct and comprehensive neuromuscular responses in the players. In a follow-up study, eight individuals (four trained musicians, four non-musicians) were placed in an fMRI scanner so that their brains could be monitored while they viewed the aforementioned motion-capture audio/videos. In addition, these eight subjects answered a battery of questions gauging their aesthetic responses to the two performance “modes,” without being told anything about the experimental hypothesis. All results were analyzed for identifiable patterns of response. Preliminary findings indicate that trained musicians are quick to discern positive qualities in, and to empathize with, the “enjoyment mode” performances. The brains of the trained musicians also showed heightened response and different patterns of activation than those of non-musicians. [Read More]