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Effect of the Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation, Movement Kinematics, and Performance Quality in Collegiate Violinists and Violists: A Pilot Feasibility Study

Rachelle C. Wolf, Harvey P. Thurmer, William P. Berg, Henry E. Cook, L. James Smart
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 32 Number 2: Page 78 (June 2017)

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Abstract: Musicians are trained to attend to aural and visual senses, to the detriment of kinesthetic awareness, which often results in unnecessary muscle tension and narrowed attentional focus. The Alexander technique (AT) addresses these concerns by approaching action using a process of whole-body consciousness. Incorporation of AT concepts into skill practice may reduce static tension in playing and result in both prevention of injury and improved quality of performance, but objective evidence of these effects is lacking. This pilot feasibility study was designed to determine if muscle activation, movement kinematics, musical performance, and qualitative self-assessment over the course of a 10- week AT intervention are viable means to assess the efficacy of AT in violinists/ violists. Two groups of collegiate violinists and violists participated: Group A (n=4) participated in weekly 1-hour group AT lessons and kept a personal journal of their progress. Group B (n=3) received no AT lessons. Pre- and post tests included muscle activation recorded using electromyography (EMG) and movement kinematics recorded via motion tracking as musicians played a scale and a Kreutzer étude. Performance was also video-recorded and evaluated by an expert for quality and kinesthetic awareness. The results suggest that the measures and intervention employed could, with some adaptation, be a viable means of determining the potential benefits of AT training.

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