RESEARCH

BODY MAPPING STUDIES

Buchanan, H. J., & Hays, T. (2014). The influence of body mapping on student musician’s performance experiences. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 15 (7).

In this qualitative study, the researcher-instructor gathered video, interviews, notes, and other documents from 12 student participants in her Body Mapping class, and 10 of their applied teachers, in order to examine how students perceived the effect of this instruction on their music-making. According to the authors, the majority of the students reported a positive experience, stating that BMG enhanced their ability for musical expression (e.g. dynamics, phrasing, conveying emotional information), the ability to focus more easily on elements contributing to expressive outcomes, and facilitated greater personal confidence in being more musically expressive.

Carpinteyro-Lara, G. (2014). The application of the kinesthetic sense: An introduction of body awareness in cello pedagogy and performance. DMA thesis. Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati.

This research presents a kinaesthetic approach to cello playing, incorporating the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, and Body Mapping. The development of the kinesthetic sense facilitated improved conscious body awareness, with skills to sense muscular effort, tension, relaxation, balance and spatial orientation, so that cello playing became an integrated musical, physical, aerobic and intellectual activity. Poor habits had often occurred when there was a learned insensitivity to kinesthetic feedback in that the musician had grown accustomed to muscular tension and imbalance. Many pedagogical sources focus on external body position, overlooking the value of utilising “the body’s natural ability to organize itself and the psychophysical preparation before a movement takes place” (Carpinteyro-Lara 2014:2).
 

Chan, C; Driscoll, T & Ackermann, B. (2013). Can experienced observers detect postural changes in professional musicians after interventions? Conference paper, International Symposium on Performance Science.

In this study, the authors photographed individual musicians before and after a 10-week program in either exercise or the Alexander Technique. Experienced observers, either Alexander and/or Body Mapping teachers, or health professionals, observed the photos in a random order, each for a short amount of time. Results demonstrated that the Alexander/Body Mapping teacher group and the physical therapist group were significantly (i.e., not by chance) able to distinguish the before and after photos as pre and post intervention for either the exercise or Alexander intervention. The observer groups were also statistically equally able to do this. They observed no differences between the Alexander and the exercise group.

Grossman, D.T. 2005. The effects of Body Mapping lessons on the musical performance of elementary students. MMus thesis. Portland: University of Portland.

The effects of six Body Mapping lessons on the playing of 22 elementary string pupils were documented in this mixed methods study. The qualitative and quantitative data were obtained through analysis and scoring of pre- and post-test videos, with observations quantified by a scoring rubric. There were measurable, statistically significant improvements in aspects such as students’ balance whilst sitting, ease of movement and tone quality.

Klein, S.D., Bayard, C., and Wolf, U. (2014). The Alexander Technique and musicians: a systematic review of controlled trials. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 14, 414.
 

The researchers looked at 237 article citations and selected 12 high-quality studies to analyze in detail. They concluded that:
 

Evidence from RCTs and CTs suggests that AT sessions may improve performance anxiety in musicians. Effects on music performance, respiratory function and posture yet remain inconclusive. Future trials with well-established study designs are warranted to further and more reliably explore the potential of AT in the interest of musicians.

 

Knaub, M.J.H. (1999). Body Mapping: An instructional strategy for teaching the Alexander Technique to music students. EdD thesis. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

This qualitative study explored student musicians’ perceptions of their training in the Alexander Technique, including Body Mapping principles, which they applied in both musical and non-musical situations. The data was taken from 500 journals and reports written over 25 years. The changes noted included less tension and pain, particularly in the back and arms, a calmer attitude in stressful environments, improved arm mobility and sound production, and improved body awareness.
 

Little, P. et al. (2008). Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain. British Medical Journal 337:a884.
 

In this study, 579 patients were divided into 8 treatment groups: a control (normal care), 6 massage sessions, 6 massage sessions followed by exercise prescription and counseling, 6 Alexander lessons, 6 Alexander lessons followed by exercise and counseling, and 24 Alexander lessons with exercise and counseling starting at 6 weeks. They were subsequently tested for pain and discomfort at different intervals of time. Researchers concluded that:
 

A series of 24 lessons in the Alexander technique taught by registered teachers provides long-term benefits for patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain. Both six lessons in the Alexander technique and general practitioner prescription for aerobic exercise with structured behavioural counselling by a practice nurse were helpful in the long term; classic massage provided short term benefit. Six lessons in the Alexander technique followed by exercise prescription was almost as effective as 24 lessons.

 

Salonen, B.L. (2018). Tertiary music students’ experiences of an occupational health course incorporating the Body Mapping approach. PhD thesis. Bloemfontein: University of the Free State, South Africa. [Online]. Available:  http://hdl.handle.net/11660/9652
 

This study explored the experiences of tertiary music students participating in a comprehensive occupational health course, in which Body Mapping (BMg) was incorporated as the somatic component. The findings emphasise the reciprocal interactions of the physiological, psychological, behavioural and musical aspects of music-making, and suggest that BMg was effective for the integrated teaching of musicians’ biopsychosocial and artistic requirements. The study underscores the need for musicians’ health courses in higher music education, the benefits of comprehensive musicians’ occupational health training, the value of somatic learning, and particularly the value of BMg as a somatic approach for musicians. The results also provide information on aspects such as essential course content, the advantages of interdisciplinary collaboration, the need for practical and experiential activities, the importance of cooperation with music teachers, and the consideration of students’ motivation to attend and their readiness for change. 

Slade, T., Comeau, G., Russell, D. (2020). Measurable changes in piano performance of scales and arpeggios following a Body Mapping workshop. Journal of New Music Research. In press.
 

Many participants and observers of Body Mapping workshops report immediate audible improvements to performance. In this study, we chose to study specific quantitative aspects of piano scales and arpeggios one day before and one day after a “What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body” workshop. We used MIDI data to capture aspects of note accuracy, evenness of loudness, articulation, and timing. While there were subtle changes in the MIDI data, these changes were generally neither statistically significant, nor a magnitude that would be audible. These findings suggest that reports of immediate improvements to piano performance are not related to these specific technical aspects. We theorize that participants and observers of Body Mapping workshops report immediate audible improvements in part because of the perceptual theory of visual dominance: audience members observe changes in bodily movement and audiences perceive this as improved sound quality.

 

Wong, G. (2015). The immediate effects of somatic approach workshops on the body usage and musical quality of pianists. DMA thesis. Ottawa: University of Ottawa.

This research evaluated the immediate effects on pianists’ body usage and musical quality after a single 50-minute somatic session in either the Alexander Technique (AT), the Feldenkrais Method (FM), or Body Mapping (BMg). There were objectively measured and consistent improvements in almost all rating parameters, with significant improvements in two parameters: head and neck, and tone. The results demonstrated changes in both body usage and musical quality. Findings suggest that the post-somatic playing clip was more easily identified through body usage than musical quality. Despite limitations, such as discrepancies in delivery of somatic teaching (AT and FM lessons were given in person; BMg lesson was taught online), the small sample size (10 participants), and only one measurement point, the study yielded objectively verifiable data showing the value of somatic learning. It paves the way for future larger studies with longer interventions and more than one measurement point.

Woodard, K. (2009). Recovering disembodied spirits: Teaching movement to musicians. British Journal of Music Education, 26(02):153.

This paper examined the teaching of movement to musicians, using Body Mapping, to develop musicians’ integrated kinesthetic and musical embodiment. It provides a methodology for music educators, supported by an interdisciplinary theoretical framework drawn from neuroscience, anthropology, phenomenology and ethnomusicology. Woodard illustrates musicians’ need for movement awareness and embodiment to address the complex performance demands and demonstrates that “training movement through the practice of body mapping enhances musical performance with fluidity and expressiveness” (Woodard 2009:170).

Woodman, J.P. and Moore, N.R. (2012). Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review. International Journal of Clinical Practice 66, 1, 98–112.

The authors reviewed 271 publications on the Alexander Technique, either in a private or group setting. Using rigorous criteria for the quality of the studies, they selected 18 to analyze. Their conclusion:

Strong evidence exists for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons for chronic back pain and moderate evidence in Parkinson’s-associated disability. Preliminary evidence suggests that Alexander Technique lessons may lead to improvements in balance skills in the elderly, in general chronic pain, posture, respiratory function and stuttering, but there is insufficient evidence to support recommendations in these areas.

GENERAL RESEARCH STUDIES

 

Seidler, R. D., & Carson, R. G. (2017). Sensorimotor learning: Neurocognitive mechanisms and individual differences. Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, 14(1), 1-7.

 

In this overview of findings and viewpoints on the mechanisms of sensorimotor learning presented at the 2016 Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement conference, this paper examines the current evidence on sensorimotor adaptation and learning. A greater understanding of the cognitive, neural, neurocomputational and/or genetic predictors of individual differences in adaptation rates is proposed to lead to improved individualization of sensorimotor learning and adaptation. The paper discusses evidence that supports declarative (knowing what to do) and procedural (knowing how to do) processes contribute to sensorimotor adaptation. Of note in this review is that once the state of motor learning reaches a procedural representation, engagement of declarative processes can impair more skilled learners. Additional research with increased sample sizes is needed to identify the individual factors that contribute to rates of motor learning.

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