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Cellists’ sound quality is shaped by their primary postural behavior

  • Rozé, Jocelyn1
  • Aramaki, Mitsuko1
  • Kronland-Martinet, Richard1
  • Ystad, Sølvi1
  • 1 Aix Marseille Univ., CNRS, PRISM (Perception, Representations, Image, Sound, Music), 31 Chemin J. Aiguier, CS 70071, Marseille Cedex 09, 13402, France , Marseille Cedex 09 (France)
Published Article
Scientific Reports
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Aug 17, 2020
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-70705-8
Springer Nature


During the last 20 years, the role of musicians’ body movements has emerged as a central question in instrument practice: Why do musicians make so many postural movements, for instance, with their torsos and heads, while playing musical instruments? The musical significance of such ancillary gestures is still an enigma and therefore remains a major pedagogical challenge, since one does not know if these movements should be considered essential embodied skills that improve musical expressivity. Although previous studies established clear connections between musicians’ body movements and musical structures (particularly for clarinet, piano or violin performances), no evidence of direct relationships between body movements and the quality of the produced timbre has ever been found. In this study, focusing on the area of bowed-string instruments, we address the problem by showing that cellists use a set of primary postural directions to develop fluid kinematic bow features (velocity, acceleration) that prevent the production of poor quality (i.e., harsh, shrill, whistling) sounds. By comparing the body-related angles between normal and posturally constrained playing situations, our results reveal that the chest rotation and vertical inclination made by cellists act as coordinative support for the kinematics of the bowing gesture. These findings support the experimental works of Alexander, especially those that showed the role of head movements with respect to the upper torso (the so-called primary control) in ensuring the smooth transmission of fine motor control in musicians all the way to the produced sound. More generally, our research highlights the importance of focusing on this fundamental postural sense to improve the quality of human activities across different domains (music, dance, sports, rehabilitation, working positions, etc.).

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