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Three-Dimensional Analysis of Hand and Finger Movements during Piano Playing

Virgilio F. Ferrario, Chiara Macrì, Emilia Biffi, Paolo Pollice, Chiarella Sforza
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 22 Number 1: Page 18 (March 2007)

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Abstract: The movements required for piano playing usually involve low impact loads that do not exceed physiologic limits of human body, but their repetition may provoke microtrauma leading to overuse injuries. Experience may allow a pianist to modify the motor patterns used for a performance, allowing the highest accuracy with minimum effort. In the present study, hand and finger movement patterns were analyzed in 19 pianists (8 concert players, 11 students and teachers) while they played 16 measures of a minuet. The three-dimensional coordinates of their right hand and fingers were obtained by a motion analyzer. Three-dimensional finger velocity was determined, unitary kinetic energy was computed, and movements were divided into useful (for sound production) and erratic (extraneous movements not used for sound production). The number of key presses for each pianist was counted, and single finger unitary kinetic energy computed. On average, the concert players used more total unitary kinetic energy than the students and teachers (p < 0.05, Wilcoxon test), while the useful unitary kinetic energy was similar. The number of key presses for each finger did not differ (p > 0.05, chi-squared test). The useful unitary kinetic energy per single key press differed between groups (p = 0.035, with concert players greater than students and teachers, analysis of variance) and among the five fingers (p = 0.008, with second and first fingers larger). In conclusion, the same piano exercise was performed with different movement patterns depending on the pianist¿s experience. The patterns of extraneous hand and finger movements during playing could be investigated to assess their relationship to overuse injuries.

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