Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Music

First Advisor

Dr. George Keck

Second Advisor

Dr. Ouida Keck

Third Advisor

Dr. Terry DeWitt

Abstract

Strength, flexibility, coordination, and determination are all words that come to mind when describing an athlete. Not only do these words apply to athletes, but also to musicians, especially pianists. Each of these characteristics must be found within a pianist in order to achieve success. Although musicians may not look like athletes with large, bulky muscles, they should be considered musician athletes as well.

Just as athletes can become injured during practice or performance, so can pianists. The difference is found in the methods of training each use. Athletes often undergo extensive training to prepare their bodies for intense performance. Before they engage themselves in their sport, athletes usually begin with exercises to warm up their muscles and get their blood flowing. Also, many are involved in strength training to help build up and sustain their muscle strength. While athletes take the time to condition their bodies, many musicians do not. For serious pianists, the reason may be that time is limited, due to the fact that they may practice five to eight hours a day. Others may not see the importance of conditioning the muscles related to playing the piano.

Another difference can be seen in the strategies used by athletes and pianists in the days leading up to a big performance or game day. Athletes tend to taper their training days before, while pianists increase their practice. Athletes do this to save energy, so they can perform their best when it counts the most. Pianists, on the other hand, tend to try to perfect everything possible in hopes to perform perfectly. When doing this, often injury occurs due to repetitious practice and an increase in practice time. Increasing practice is not always the best method to prepare for before a big performance.

Athletic trainers are usually available and nearby to watch over and instruct athletes when training. They are able to correct athletes and provide advice when needed. Musicians usually see their teachers once a week. Teachers help instruct their students on proper technique and poster in lessons, but if the student does not apply this to their everyday practice, bad habits could be learned and become almost impossible to break. This is why it is important for pianists learn about and understand their bodies, especially the upper extremity, since this is the part of the body used most in playing the piano. Knowing how and why certain injuries are caused can help make performers aware of how to practice and also help them avoid serious injury to their bodies.

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