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The Use of Multimodal Feedback in Retraining Complex Technical Skills of Piano Performance

Kathleen Riley, Edgar E. Coons, and David Marcarian
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 20 Number 2: Page 82 (June 2005)

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Abstract: Piano students working to improve technique often practice the same passage over and over to achieve accuracy, increase speed, or perfect interpretive nuance. However, without proper skeletal alignment of hands, arms, and shoulders and balance between the muscles involved, such repetition may lead to difficulties with, rather than mastery of, technique and stylistic interpretation and even physical injury. A variety of technologies have been developed to monitor skeletal alignment and muscle balance that serve to help students and teachers make needed corrections during performance by providing immediate biofeedback. This paper describes and illustrates a multimodal use of these biofeedback technologies and the powerful advantages of such a multimodal approach in making the student and teacher not only aware of improper alignments and balances in real time (or for later review) but also aware of approaches to correct them and improve musical outcome. The modalities consist of hearing playback through a Disklavier piano; simultaneous visual feedback displayed as a piano roll screen of what was played; video recording synchronized with the Disklavier and piano roll feedback; motion analysis of the arms, hands, and fingers; and electromyographic recordings of the muscle actions involved.

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