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A quantitative three-dimensional analysis of arm kinematics in violin performance

Gongbing Shan, Peter Visentin
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 18 Number 1: Page 3 (March 2003)

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Abstract: Overuse syndrome (OS) resulting from repetitive motion affects a significant percentage of performing musicians. Particularly susceptible to OS, violinists use different kinds of muscle control patterns in the right and left limbs and must assume a complex asymmetrical posture to hold and play the instrument. There is a clear need for developing efficient and effective strategies to prevent OS in violinists, keeping biological loads under physiological limits and focusing on physical economy during training. The first step in developing such strategies requires quantitative kinematic description of the motions involved in violin performance. This study supplies such information for the arms and violin bow. The motions of eight professional violinists and three advanced university music students were captured using a nine-camera VICON V8i motion capture system. Each performed a fundamental control skill employing all four strings of the violin. The data were analyzed using quantitative model comparison and statistical analysis. The results of this study show parameters such as elbow height normalized by body height and shoulder and elbow joint motion to have highly consistent patterns between the subjects. Wrist control patterns varied widely. Playing on different strings influences right arm patterns significantly, but not left. This is the first study providing quantitative 3-D kinematic data on shoulders, elbows, wrists, and bow. It provides a foundation for further exploration of the kinematic characteristics of violin performance, for the examination of the potential causes of OS, and for an evaluation of practices that might minimize injuries.

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