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Hand Biomechanics in Skilled Pianists Playing a Scale in Thirds

Sang-Hie Lee
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 25 Number 4: Page 167 (December 2010)

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Abstract: Pianists, who attend to the integral relationship of their particular musculoskeletal characteristics to the piano technique at hand, discover an efficient path to technical advancement and, consequently, to injury prevention. Thus, a study of pianist's hand biomechanics in relation to different piano techniques is highly relevant, as hand features may influence various techniques in different ways. This study addressed relationships between pianists' hand biomechanics and the performance of a scale in thirds, as a part of an ongoing series of studies examining relationships between hand biomechanics and performance data of primary techniques. The biomechanics of hand length and width, finger length, hand span, hand and arm weights, and ulnar deviation at the wrist were compared with tempo, articulation, and dynamic voicing (tone balance between two notes of the thirds). Pearson correlation analysis showed a positive association between ulnar deviation and tempo; the other biomechanical features showed no relationships with any of the performance criteria. Qualitative cross-sectional observation of individual profiles showed that experienced pianists perform with a higher degree of synchrony in two-note descent while pianists with organ training background play with a lesser degree of synchrony. All biomechanical features were closely related among one another with one exception: wrist ulnar deviation was not associated with any other biomechanical features; rather, data suggest possible negative associations. This study underscores the importance of wrist mobility in piano skills development. Further research using a complete set of prototype piano techniques and multiple-level pianist-subjects could provide substantive biomechanical information that may be used to develop efficient pedagogy and prevention strategies for playing-related injuries as well as rehabilitation.

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