Investigating the physiological demands of musical performance

Clark, T. and Holmes, P. and Redding, E. (2011) Investigating the physiological demands of musical performance. In: International Symposium on Performance Science 2011, 24-27 August 2011, Canada.


An understanding of the physiological demands of music performance can be used to inform musicians’ training and help prevent performance-related health problems. While the psychology of performance has been relatively well researched, little is known about the physiological demands of music performance and the relevance of fitness to musicians. This study examined the oxygen uptake during performances of a series of pieces given by skilled pianists. Five undergraduate and postgraduate piano performance students were recruited at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance to give informal performances totaling approximately 20 minutes. Energy expenditure while playing was assessed via measurements of heart rate (HR) and oxygen uptake. Mean oxygen uptake was 8.65 while certain pieces peaked around Mean HR was 108.95 beats per minute (bpm) with certain pieces peaking at 173 bpm. Energy expenditure in piano playing appears to be intermittent in nature, with fluctuations in intensity within each piece and differences in intensity between pieces. From this study, it appears that mean oxygen uptake during piano playing is similar to that during brisk walking.

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