Effective utilization of gravity during arm downswing in keystrokes by expert pianists

S. Furuya*, R. Osu, H. Kinoshita

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigated a skill-level-dependent interaction between gravity and muscular force when striking piano keys. Kinetic analysis of the arm during the downswing motion performed by expert and novice piano players was made using an inverse dynamic technique. The corresponding activities of the elbow agonist and antagonist muscles were simultaneously recorded using electromyography (EMG). Muscular torque at the elbow joint was computed while excluding the effects of gravitational and motion-dependent interaction torques. During descending the forearm to strike the keys, the experts kept the activation of the triceps (movement agonist) muscle close to the resting level, and decreased anti-gravity activity of the biceps muscle across all loudness levels. This suggested that elbow extension torque was produced by gravity without the contribution of agonist muscular work. For the novices, on the other hand, a distinct activity in the triceps muscle appeared during the middle of the downswing, and its amount and duration were increased with increasing loudness. Therefore, for the novices, agonist muscular force was the predominant contributor to the acceleration of elbow extension during the downswing. We concluded that a balance shift from muscular force dependency to gravity dependency for the generation of a target joint torque occurs with long-term piano training. This shift would support the notion of non-muscular force utilization for improving physiological efficiency of limb movement with respect to the effective use of gravity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-831
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes


  • motor control
  • musicians
  • non-muscular force
  • physiological efficiency
  • pianists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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