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October 2021

[What demands does playing an instrument make on the hand?]

Journal/Book: Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir. 1987; 19: 23-32.

Abstract: The frequency of occupational diseases of the locomotor system in musicians, illustrated by an investigation of 160 orchestral string players, leads to the question of whether manual preconditions might play a role in this respect. At first, the special manual demands in instrumental playing are explained by means of an example of piano literature. They are different from any other manual task in daily life or profession, qualitatively and quantitatively: isolation of the fingers as far as possible instead of the normal "co-operation"; unequal fingers have to perform equivalent tasks in respect to complexity, speed, and force; simultaneous movements in contrary directions with any combination of fingers and joints instead of the regularly used simultaneous movements in the same direction; equivalence of flexion and extension with conscious control of either action; each activity of posture and movement is committed to the timing preset by the music; extremely high frequencies of movement in many cases; to compensate for organic defects may be difficult in a professional level of performance. A method is presented for the examination of manual preconditions with regard to specific instruments. It considers a series of biomechanical characteristics (hand-size and joint mobility) which are able in principle to influence the dexterity of the hand. Results of investigations with about 600 professional musicians are briefly summarized. According to the data available the characteristics investigated seem to be influenced rather by heredity than by training. Musicians who had serious difficulties with the instrument or who suffered from functional or organic disorders in the area of the upper extremities showed, as a rule, more disadvantageous manual prerequisites. The individual result of an examination can be displayed as a "Biomechanical Handprofile" showing deviations from the data of a corresponding reference group. Practical conclusions can be drawn, as with an aptitude test.

Keyword(s): Hand|PH. Motor Skills|PH. Music|

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