Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Control of multi-joint arm movements for the manipulation of touch in keystroke by expert pianists

Shinichi Furuya1*, Eckart Altenmüller2, Haruhiro Katayose3 and Hiroshi Kinoshita4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Science and Technology, Kwansei Gakuin University, Sanda, Japan

2 Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians Medicine, Hanover University of Music and Drama, Hanover, Germany

3 School of Science and Technology, Kwansei Gakuin University, Sanda, Japan

4 Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Japan

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:82  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-82

Published: 14 July 2010



Production of a variety of finger-key touches in the piano is essential for expressive musical performance. However, it remains unknown how expert pianists control multi-joint finger and arm movements for manipulating the touch. The present study investigated differences in kinematics and kinetics of the upper-limb movements while expert pianists were depressing a key with two different touches: pressed and struck. The former starts key-depression with the finger-tip contacting the key, whereas the latter involves preparatory arm-lift before striking the key. To determine the effect of individual muscular torque (MUS) as well as non-muscular torques on joint acceleration, we performed a series of inverse and forward dynamics computations.


The pressed touch showed smaller elbow extension velocity, and larger shoulder and finger flexion velocities during key-depression compared with the struck touch. The former touch also showed smaller elbow extension acceleration directly attributed to the shoulder MUS. In contrast, the shoulder flexion acceleration induced by elbow and wrist MUS was greater for the pressed touch than the struck touch. Towards the goal of producing the target finger-key contact dynamics, the pressed and struck touches effectively took advantage of the distal-to-proximal and proximal-to-distal inter-segmental dynamics, respectively. Furthermore, a psychoacoustic experiment confirmed that a tone elicited by the pressed touch was perceived softer than that by the struck touch.


The present findings suggest that manipulation of tone timbre depends on control of inter-segmental dynamics in piano keystroke.