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Enhancing and Validating Pedagogical Practice: The Use of Electromyography during Trumpet Instruction

Frank Heuser, Jill L. McNitt-Gray
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 13 Number 4: Page 155 (December 1998)

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Abstract: Music teachers use a variety of pedagogical tools to help students develop the motor skills central to fluent musical performance. Electromyography (EMG) has the potential to provide empirical evidence validating relationships between pedagogical information and improvements in performance-related motor skills. This study explored how EMG might enhance the instructional process 1) by allowing visual demonstration of how changes in performance strategies relate to changes in muscle activation patterns, and 2) by allowing visual confirmation of the contribution specific instructions make toward restructuring muscle activation patterns. In this case study, a trumpet student experiencing several playing difficulties and pain in the upper lip received lessons from a teacher specializing in fundamental trumpet pedagogy. Embouchure muscle EMG patterns were monitored prior to the first lesson and after subsequent lessons. Initial data differed from activation patterns demonstrated by elite players. Printouts of EMG data allowed comparison of student data with patterns from elite performers. Real-time EMG monitoring provided the instructor with visual evidence relating improved performance strategies to observable changes in muscle activation patterns. Following the third lesson, subject data were similar to those seen in professional players, playing improved, and embouchure muscle pain was reduced. The study demonstrated that EMG data can effectively supplement pedagogical information, facilitate skill acquisition, and validate pedagogical practice. Implications for music instruction and guidelines for responsible use of EMG in the teaching process are discussed.

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