Upper limb kinetic characteristics of violin bowing: application of an instrumented bow
Sarah Ward1, Jacqueline Alderson1, Joseph Hamill2
1The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. 2University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA


Biomechanical quantification of violin bowing is a relatively new and growing area of research that is attempting to shed light on the unacceptably high injury rates in professional violinists (Fishbein et al., 1988; Fry, 1986). Kinematic quantification of the movement required during bowing has posed no great challenge to researchers, however the non-invasive quantification of upper limb joint moments during this task poses a number of unique challenges. Thirteen pain-free, experienced violinists were recruited for this study. Analogue force data obtained from a custom novel light-weight instrumented bow, integrated with three-dimensional motion capture data, within an upper limb model that was further adapted to include violin and bow assessed joint moments during G-, D-, A-, and E-string bow cycles. Results showed that elbow flexor musculature under eccentric contraction acted to slow the bow translation across the strings in preparation for the down-up bow transition, while shoulder extension musculature, under concentric contraction acted to move the bow across the strings to continue producing sound, until such time as the elbow regained control of bow translation in the up-bow stroke. Concurrently, shoulder adduction and internal rotation, and elbow pronation musculature eccentrically acted to stabilise bow translation, enabling the elbow to control the bow’s direction change and eradicating jerky artefact that likely affects sound quality. Peak shoulder adduction (106.7Nmm/kg ±40.3) and internal rotation (38.4Nmm/kg ±13.4), elbow pronation (11.5Nmm/kg ±3.5), bow-hand posterior tilt (4.0Nmm/kg ±1.9), anterior rotation (10.8Nmm/kg ±4.7) and superior obliquity (6.7Nmm/kg ±3.5) moments all occurred during the down-up bow transition and were greatest during G-string bowing. These results indicated that the high level of pain experienced at the shoulder in violinists (Fishbein et al., 1988; Fry, 1986; Yeung et al., 1999) may solely be attributed to the down-up bow transition preparation due to the peak in shoulder eccentric adduction loads and their magnitude within this transition during G-string bowing (Figure 1). Through observing joint moment and power quantification throughout the bow cycle, the role of the upper limb joints throughout the bow cycle are now more evident, aiding pedagogical and remedial technique intervention practices.


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