2010 International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research in Music Pedagogy
May 26, 27, 28, and 29, 2010
Perez Hall, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Performance Gesture (2)

(Motor Control, Sound Quality)

Flora Nassrallah (University of Ottawa)
Breathing Pattern Changes Observed While Pianists Performed Technical Exercises and Repertoire Pieces 
As research has accumulated on the various physiological demands of being a musician, the breathing of pianists has emerged as a point of interest.  Although breathing is discussed in some piano pedagogy material (Bernstein, 1981; Mark, 2003; Sandor, 1981), little is known on how pianists use breathing for expressive purposes.  A few studies have directly investigated the respiration of pianists during the execution of different pianistic tasks such as scales, arpeggios, Hanon exercises and repertoire pieces (Ebert, Hefter, Binkofski, & Freund, 2002; King, 2006; Nassrallah, Comeau, Cossette, Russell, in preparation A; Nassrallah, Comeau, Cossette, Russell, in preparation B) but no study has compared the breathing of pianists across the performance of different tasks.  Based on passed research, the general purpose of the current project was to examine changes between the breathing patterns of pianists at rest and during various performing tasks in order to determine if respiratory patterns vary according to different musical features such as melodic complexity, meter, tempo, and phrasing.  Does respiratory behaviour differ as melodic complexity or tempo increase? Is breathing affected by specific musical elements such as metric changes and phrasing? In this study, the respiration of pianists was monitored by an inductive plethysmography system (RIPmate Respiratory Effort System) during their performance of a C major scale, a C major arpeggio, the Hanon #10 five-finger exercise, the Minuet in G major by C. Petzold and Für Elise by L. van Beethoven.  Qualitative analyses of the participants’ breathing curves for each performance task were conducted.  Results will be presented.    

Lauren Deutsch & Frank Heuser (University of California Los Angeles) 
Motion Study of Violin Bow Technique: A Study Comparing the Patterns of Professional and Student Violinists 
In 1958 Percival Hodgson completed a motion study of violin bowing, tracking the screw of the bow during various basic bow strokes. Although many players and teachers of the time described bowing as linear motions, he found that the actual motions of the bow at the screw consisted of curves, figure eights, and waves. This study will aim to confirm the accuracy of Hodgson’s study by using modern video-analysis software. In this study, we will examine five different bow strokes (spiccato, hooked bow patterns, slurred string crossings, detache strokes with string crossings, and up bow staccato) as they occur in the Kreisler arrangement of the G Major Mozart Rondo across six different subjects (three elite professional level violinists and three students that are university violin majors). Therefore, this first phase of research will aim to map out the bow trajectory of the different bow strokes in the Mozart Rondo, as well as compare the differences in bow trajectory and sound quality between violinists of different experience levels and physical make-ups. This study is a logical first step in eventually understanding the motor control patterns involved in violin bowing.  Because the resulting sound of the violin is directly dependent on how the bow interacts with the string, it would be useful to understand the path of the bow as it approaches and leaves the string in players of differing ability levels.  

Michel Bernays & Caroline Traube (Université de Montréal) 
Expression of Piano Timbre: Gestural Control, Perception and Verbalization 
Musical expressivity in pianistic performance relies heavily on timbre, yet its ways of expression and control remain essentially understudied from a scientific, quantification angle. During the learning process, timbre is empirically transmitted from master to student through subjective verbal descriptions whose imagery fits the sonic nuances. Do this vocabulary and its perceptual meaning stand as consensual among all pianists? Since timbre control cannot be limited to a single, isolated note depression, as the articulation between several notes is involved for creating aggregate timbres (called emerging “sound molecules” by Heinrich Neuhaus, The Art of Piano Playing, 1973), can we identify timbre correlates in a performer’s gesture on the keyboard? A pilot test was designed. A professional pianist performed custom-made pieces with several timbres, designated by adjectives such as bright, distant, shimmering. The audio recordings of these performances were used as stimuli for a timbre identification task, in which 17 pianists had to label the timbre of the excerpts they heard with the descriptor they deemed most fitting. The results were indicative of a semantic consistency between the answers and the performance-set timbres, which concurs with a common ability among pianists to identify and label timbre. Then, from the key position and hammer velocity data collected with the computer-controlled grand piano Bösendorfer CEUS, gesture features of articulation, overlap, dynamics, synchronism were calculated, and significant correlations were found between timbre and pedal use, hammer delay on key depression, keyoverlap duration and frequency, key depression rate and profile.



In collaboration with:

Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory

University of Ottawa


Université Laval


Université du Québec à Montréal

Round Table