Complex hand dexterity: a review of biomechanical methods for measuring musical performance

Metcalf, Cheryl D., Irvine, Thomas A., Sims, Jennifer, Wang, Yu L., Su, Alvin W.Y. and Norris, David O. (2014) Complex hand dexterity: a review of biomechanical methods for measuring musical performance Frontiers in Psychology, 5, (414), pp. 1-12. (doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00414). (PMID:24860531).


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Complex hand dexterity is fundamental to our interactions with the physical, social, and cultural environment. Dexterity can be an expression of creativity and precision in a range of activities, including musical performance. Little is understood about complex hand dexterity or how virtuoso expertise is acquired, due to the versatility of movement combinations available to complete any given task. This has historically limited progress of the field because of difficulties in measuring movements of the hand. Recent developments in methods of motion capture and analysis mean it is now possible to explore the intricate movements of the hand and fingers. These methods allow us insights into the neurophysiological mechanisms underpinning complex hand dexterity and motor learning. They also allow investigation into the key factors that contribute to injury, recovery and functional compensation. The application of such analytical techniques within musical performance provides a multidisciplinary framework for purposeful investigation into the process of learning and skill acquisition in instrumental performance. These highly skilled manual and cognitive tasks present the ultimate achievement in complex hand dexterity. This paper will review methods of assessing instrumental performance in music, focusing specifically on biomechanical measurement and the associated technical challenges faced when measuring highly dexterous activities.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00414
ISSNs: 1664-1078 (print)
Organisations: Faculty of Health Sciences
ePrint ID: 400460
Date :
Date Event
21 April 2014Accepted/In Press
12 May 2014Published
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2016 14:18
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 01:37
Further Information:Google Scholar

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