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Quantifying the Physical Demands of a Musical Performance and Their Effects on Performance Quality

Eric J. Drinkwater, Christopher J. Klopper
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 25 Number 2: Page 66 (June 2010)

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Abstract: This study investigated the effects of fatigue on performance quality induced by a prolonged musical performance. Ten participants prepared 10 min of repertoire for their chosen wind instrument that they played three times consecutively. Prior to the performance and within short breaks between performances, researchers collected heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, blood lactate concentration, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and rating of anxiety. All performances were audio recorded and later analysed for performance errors. Reliability in assessing performance errors was assessed by typical error of measure (TEM) of 15 repeat performances. Results indicate all markers of physical stress significantly increased by a moderate to large amount (4.6 to 62.2%; d = 0.50 to 1.54) once the performance began, while heart rate, respirations, and RPE continued to rise by a small to large amount (4.9 to 23.5%; d = 0.28 to 0.93) with each performance. Observed changes in performance between performances were well in excess of the TEM of 7.4%. There was a significant small (21%, d = 0.43) decrease in errors after the first performance; after the second performance, there was a significant large increase (70.4%, d = 1.14). The initial increase in physiological stress with corresponding decrease in errors after the first performance likely indicates "warming up," while the continued increase in markers of physical stress with dramatic decrement in performance quality likely indicates fatigue. Musicians may consider the relevance of physical fitness to maintaining performance quality over the duration of a performance.

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