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Exp Brain Res. 2008 Apr;186(3):471-9. doi: 10.1007/s00221-007-1252-1. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

Tactile feedback and timing accuracy in piano performance.

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Department of Psychology, McGill University, 1205 Dr Penfield Avenue, Montreal, QC, H3A 1B1, Canada.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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