Send to

Choose Destination
Front Psychol. 2014 May 12;5:414. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00414. eCollection 2014.

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

Author information

Rehabilitation and Health Technologies, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton Southampton, Hampshire, UK.
Music, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton Southampton, Hampshire, UK.
SCREAM Laboratory, Computer Science and Information Engineering, National Cheng Kung University Tainan, Taiwan.


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.


expertise; hand; health; kinematics; musical performance; novice; piano; virtuoso

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Frontiers Media SA Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center