Technological Investigation of the Physical Movements of Pianists

Latimer, Jesse
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An analysis of physical movements of pianists provides a unique application of biomechanical engineering to piano pedagogy. This research presents a method of analyzing and comparing joint-center movements when pianists are playing in each of two modes: “correct” and “enjoyment.” Each subject plays two pieces in the correct mode (i.e., he or she was invited to play them “as correctly as you can”) and then plays the same two pieces in the enjoyment mode (i.e., “this time, just think about enjoying yourself – whatever that means to you”). Three-dimensional motion capture was used to record the movement of the upper body (i.e., the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, head, vision, and spine) in the two modes. The difference in forward/backward, vertical up/vertical down, and lateral right/lateral left movement for each joint center, as well as the right- and left-hand arcs, was analyzed. T-tests were performed on the movement data and the jerk data (resulting from the third derivative of the position data with respect to time). Results suggest more movement in the enjoyment mode than in the correct mode, while the results for the jerk data are more uncertain. Future work will include more subjects and investigate the mode difference among genders.

Motion capture, Enjoyment mode, Correct mode, Joint center, Human model