Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 186, Issue 3, pp 471–479 | Cite as

Tactile feedback and timing accuracy in piano performance

  • Werner GoeblEmail author
  • Caroline Palmer
Research Article


Sequential actions such as playing a piano or tapping in synchrony to an external signal put high cognitive and motor demands on producers, including the generation of precise timing at a wide variety of rates. Tactile information from the fingertips has been shown to contribute to the control of timing in finger tapping tasks. We addressed the hypothesis that reduction of timing errors is related to tactile afferent information in pianists’ finger movements during performance. Twelve pianists performed melodies at four rates in a synchronization-continuation paradigm. The pianists’ finger motion trajectories toward the piano keys, recorded with a motion capture system, contained different types and amounts of kinematic landmarks at different performance rates. One landmark, a finger–key (FK) landmark, can occur when the finger makes initial contact with the key surface and changes its acceleration abruptly. Overall, there were more FK landmarks in the pianists’ keystrokes, as the performance rate increased. The pianists were divided into two groups: those with low percentages of FK in the medium rates that increased with increasing performance rate and those with persistently high FK percentages. Low-FK pianists showed a positive relationship between increased tactile feedback from the current keystroke and increased temporal accuracy in the upcoming keystroke. These findings suggest that sensory information available at finger–key contact enhances the timing accuracy of finger movements in piano performance.


Tactile feedback Finger motion Timing accuracy Synchronization-continuation Piano performance 



This work was supported by an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship of the Austrian Science Fund (J2526) to the first author, and by the Canada Research Chairs program and NSERC Grant 298173 to the second author. We thank Marcelo Wanderley and Jim Ramsay for their assistance and fruitful discussions, as well as Erik Koopmans and Jad Salameh for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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