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Analysis of High-Density Surface EMG and Finger Pressure in the Left Forearm of Violin Players: A Feasibility Study

Paolo Cattarello, Roberto Merletti, Francesco Petracca
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 32 Number 3: Page 139 (September 2017)

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Abstract: Wrist and finger flexor muscles of the left hand were evaluated using high-density surface EMG (HDsEMG) in 17 violin players. Pressure sensors also were mounted below the second string of the violin to evaluate, simultaneously, finger pressure. Electrode grid size was 110x70 mm (12x8 electrodes with interelectrode distance=10 mm and Ø=3 mm). The study objective was to observe the activation patterns of these muscles while the violinists sequentially played four notes--SI (B), DO# (C#), RE (D), MI (E)--at 2 bows/s (one bow up in 0.5 s and one down in 0.5 s) and 4 bows/s on the second string, while producing a constant (CONST) or ramp (RAMP) sound volume. HDsEMG images obtained while playing the notes were compared with those obtained during isometric radial or ulnar flexion of the wrist or fingers. Two image descriptors provided information on image differences. Results showed that the technique was reliable and provided reliable signals, and that recognizably different sEMG images could be associated with the four notes tested, despite the variability within and between subjects playing the same note. sEMG activity of the left hand muscles and pressure on the string in the RAMP task were strongly affected in some individuals by the sound volume (controlled by the right hand) and much less in other individuals. These findings question whether there is an individual or generally optimal way of pressing violin strings with the left hand. The answer to this question might substantially modify the teaching of string instruments.

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