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Movement and Touch in Piano Performance

Abstract

Pianists achieve extreme levels of virtuosity on their instrument, requiring a combination of talent and decade-long continuous and deliberate practice, training, and experience. As with all musical behaviors, body movements in piano performance are goal directed, aiming at producing intended sounds with utmost precision and accuracy in expressive parameters such as timing, dynamics, timbre, and articulation. Body movements in piano performance may also serve communicative purposes such as to express emotional states or to coordinate with co-performers. Pianists control the timing and velocities of the individual piano hammers by varying the forces applied to the piano key surfaces, as well as to the three pedals through their feet. The key forces are accomplished by coordinating the kinematic chain from their shoulders to the fingertips aligned with feet movements to manipulate the pedals. As kinematic properties such as finger velocity covary with performance parameters (tempo, dynamics, etc.), pianists have to stabilize several parameters of movement kinematics and musical expression simultaneously. The intrinsic way the fingers arrive at the piano key surface, referred to as piano touch (i.e., pressing versus striking a piano key), yields different tactile and other sensory percepts to the pianists themselves and the audiences alike, making this parameter an important one in accomplished piano performance.

Keywords

  • Piano performance
  • Motion capture
  • Piano technique
  • Piano touch
  • Movement efficiency

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Fig. 1

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Acknowledgements

I want to thank Laura Bishop and Manfred Nusseck for invaluable comments on an earlier version of this chapter. This work has been supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, projects P 24546, P 23248, and J 2526).

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Goebl, W. (2017). Movement and Touch in Piano Performance. In: , et al. Handbook of Human Motion. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-30808-1_109-1

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