Beyond tension and relaxation: optimizing muscle use for healthy, skilled pianism

Lead Research Organisation: Royal College of Music
Department Name: Research


Up to 93% of pianists experience playing-related injuries over their lifetimes, which imperil careers, wellbeing, and music-making. Poor playing technique is often a cause of injury, and impairs overall musical skill. Patterns of muscle use are a basic part of technique, but existing pedagogy is unscientific and contradictory about muscle use. Pedagogues claim that using opposing muscles together (called 'co-contraction') is harmful and counterproductive. Contrastingly, neurophysiology research finds that co-contraction can be healthy, and is needed for complex movements. This study will observe co-contraction in skilled, healthy pianists, investigating its possible functions in reducing injury and aiding skill-acquisition.


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