Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Piano fingers: How players strike keys depends on how muscles are used for keystrokes that occur before and after

Date:
August 10, 2013
Source:
American Physiological Society (APS)
Summary:
Researchers have long been aware of a phenomenon in speech called coarticulation, in which certain sounds are produced differently depending on the sounds that come before or after them. A new study suggests that piano paying also involves coarticulation, with hand muscle contractions differing depending on the sequence of notes played.

Researchers have long been aware of a phenomenon in speech called coarticulation, in which certain sounds are produced differently depending on the sounds that come before or after them. For example, though the letter n is usually pronounced with the tongue pressed near the middle of the mouth's roof (as in the word "ten"), it's pronounced with the tongue farther forward when it's followed by -th (as in "tenth"). A decade ago, researchers discovered that this phenomenon extends to a different kind of communication, American Sign Language. Knowing that hand movements could be affected according to where they fit in during sign language, researchers wondered if there was a similar effect on hands when they were used to produce sound, such as playing the piano.

Related Articles


To help answer this question, Martha Flanders and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota collected detailed data on the muscle movements of piano players, both amateurs and professionals. Their findings suggest that piano playing indeed involves coarticulation, with hand muscle contractions differing depending on the sequence of notes played.

The article is entitled "Patterns of Muscle Activity for Digital Coarticulation." It appears in the Journal of Neurophysiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

Methodology

The researchers recruited 10 healthy piano players, four of whom played professionally and the rest amateurs with a range of experience on this instrument. These volunteers were all asked to play only the right-handed notes of 14 different excepts from 11 different musical pieces from composers including Chopin and Bach. These pieces were chosen specifically because of their use of the right hand and the large number of notes in which the preceding and subsequent keystrokes were performed by other fingers.

While these subjects played, the researchers collected a variety of data, including the force of keystrokes, how closely the subjects adhered to the timing set by a metronome, as well as muscle activity recorded from electrodes placed on the skin of subjects' right hands. The researchers collected activity readings from muscles that both extend and flex the thumb and all four fingers.

Results

When the researchers analyzed their data, they found evidence suggesting that piano players indeed exhibit coarticulation in their finger movements while playing. The muscle activity they recorded showed that the way players strike keys depended on the nature of keystrokes that occurred before and after.

Importance of the Findings

These findings suggest that, like practitioners of American Sign Language, piano players' hand movements depend on other movements in a sequence. Still unknown, the authors say, is how closely the muscle activation commands in the spinal cord are dicated by activity in the cerebral cortex.

"This phenomenon may or may not be accompanied by coarticulation at the level of the motor cortex," they write.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physiological Society (APS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. A. Winges, S. Furuya, N. J. Faber, M. Flanders. Patterns of muscle activity for digital coarticulation. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2013; 110 (1): 230 DOI: 10.1152/jn.00973.2012

Cite This Page:

American Physiological Society (APS). "Piano fingers: How players strike keys depends on how muscles are used for keystrokes that occur before and after." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130810063313.htm>.
American Physiological Society (APS). (2013, August 10). Piano fingers: How players strike keys depends on how muscles are used for keystrokes that occur before and after. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130810063313.htm
American Physiological Society (APS). "Piano fingers: How players strike keys depends on how muscles are used for keystrokes that occur before and after." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130810063313.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Inspectors Found Faulty Work Before NYC Blast

Inspectors Found Faulty Work Before NYC Blast

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) An hour before an apparent gas explosion sent flames soaring and debris flying at a Manhattan apartment building, injuring 19 people, utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Facebook Building Plane-Sized Drones For Global Internet

Facebook Building Plane-Sized Drones For Global Internet

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) Facebook on Thursday revealed more details about its Internet-connected drone project. The drone is bigger than a 737, but lighter than a car. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 27, 2015) The companion robot "Kirobo" returns to earth from the International Space Station and sets two Guinness World Records. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Residents Witness Building Explosion, Collapse

Residents Witness Building Explosion, Collapse

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) Witnesses recount the sites and sounds of a massive explosion and subsequent building collapse in the heart of Manhattan&apos;s trendy East Village on Thursday. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins