Unraveling mysteries of personal performance style; biomechanics of left-hand position changes (shifting) in violin performance

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Visentin, Peter
Li, Shiming
Tardif, Guillaume
Shan, Gongbing
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Instrumental music performance ranks among the most complex of learned human behaviors, requiring development of highly nuanced powers of sensory and neural discrimination, intricate motor skills, and adaptive abilities in a temporal activity. Teaching, learning and performing on the violin generally occur within musico-cultural parameters most often transmitted through aural traditions that include both verbal instruction and performance modeling. In most parts of the world, violin is taught in a manner virtually indistinguishable from that used 200 years ago. The current study uses methods from movement science to examine the “how” and “what” of left-hand position changes (shifting), a movement skill essential during violin performance. In doing so, it begins a discussion of artistic individualization in terms of anthropometry, the performer-instrument interface, and the strategic use of motor behaviors. Results based on 540 shifting samples, a case series of 6 professional-level violinists, showed that some elements of the skill were individualized in surprising ways while others were explainable by anthropometry, ergonomics and entrainment. Remarkably, results demonstrated each violinist to have developed an individualized pacing for shifts, a feature that should influence timing effects and prove foundational to aesthetic outcomes during performance. Such results underpin the potential for scientific methodologies to unravel mysteries of performance that are associated with a performer’s personal artistic style.
Sherpa Romeo green journal. Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) applies
3D motion capture , Biomechanical modeling , Fine and complex human motor control , Anthropometry , Entrainable , Personal artistic style , Violin performance , Biomechanical aspects of violin playing , Left-hand position changes , Shifting
Visentin, P., Li, S., Tardif, G., & Shan, G. (2015). Unraveling mysteries of personal performance style; biomechanics of left-hand position changes (shifting) in violin performance. PeerJ, 3, e1299. doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1299