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Using Respiratory Inductive Plethysmography for Monitoring Professional Reed Instrument Performance

Leonardo Fuks, Johan Sundberg
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 14 Number 1: Page 30 (March 1999)

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Abstract: Respiratory movements and lung volume variations during natural performance of wind instrument playing have been rarely documented in the literature, but could provide a deeper insight into performance techniques and what they demand from the players' respiratory systems as well as into the physics of the instruments. In this preliminary investigation, respiratory inductive plethysmography (RIP) was used to record respiratory movements of eight professional musicians (oboe, clarinet, altosaxophone, and bassoon) during playing of exercises and orchestral solos. Calibration of the relative contribution of abdominal wall and rib cage regions was achieved from isovolume maneuvers. A pneumotachograph was applied for absolute calibration of the RIP and for obtaining spirometric data. Flow through a standard aerodynamic resistance at constant pressure was used for assessing the method of measurement under dynamic conditions. Possible artifacts are described and discussed. The method yielded linear and accurate results, at least as long as the subjects avoided significant body movement. Furthermore, it appeared to be nondisturbing to the musicians and stable. Depending on instrument and piece, the players initiated and terminated breath groups at 55%-87% and 14%-52%, respectively, of their vital capacity. Unlike what has been found for singers, the players generally showed simultaneous and in many cases equally important contributions from rib cage and abdominal wall during playing. Timing parameters during inhalational activity were also analyzed. In extreme cases inhalations were achieved in approximately 300 ms. The results seem to indicate that the RIP method can be successfully applied to wind instrumentalists, and may have potential pedagogical applications.

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