Research Summary: Rate Effects on Timing, Key Velocity, and Finger Kinematics in Piano Performance

ABSTRACT

We examined the effect of rate on finger kinematics in goal-directed actions of pianists. In addition, we evaluated whether movement kinematics can be treated as an indicator of personal identity. Pianists’ finger movements were recorded with a motion capture system while they performed melodies from memory at different rates. Pianists’ peak finger heights above the keys preceding keystrokes increased as tempo increased, and were attained about one tone before keypress. These rate effects were not simply due to a strategy to increase key velocity (associated with tone intensity) of the corresponding keystroke. Greater finger heights may compensate via greater tactile feedback for a speed-accuracy tradeoff that underlies the tendency toward larger temporal variability at faster tempi. This would allow pianists to maintain high temporal accuracy when playing at fast rates. In addition, finger velocity and accelerations as pianists’ fingers approached keys were sufficiently unique to allow pianists’ identification with a neural-network classifier. Classification success was higher in pianists with more extensive musical training. Pianists’ movement “signatures” may reflect unique goal-directed movement kinematic patterns, leading to individualistic sound.

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Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 23-June-2011

Author(s): Dalla Bella S., Palmer C.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0020518

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