- Laurence Libin
Practice of design to optimize safety, comfort, and efficiency in the interaction between player and instrument. Many instruments are physically awkward to play and place unusual demands on the human body. Long periods of practising and performing under pressure exacerbate physical problems caused by unnatural postures, repetitive stresses on joints, extreme muscle tension, and displacement of fingers, shoulders, neck, and spine. As a result, especially when poorly trained, players of certain instruments can develop calluses, bruises, misaligned teeth, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more serious injuries that, over time, impair health and performance ability.
To address this risk, innovative designers strive to improve instruments by, among other ways, reshaping them to refine their balance, bring parts within easier reach, and reduce muscle strain. For example, the distance between the mouthpiece and bell of an orchestral horn, and the position of the bell in relation to the player, were optimized with the establishment of hand technique—the practice of inserting the right hand into the bell to correct intonation and manipulate pitch. Grouping the piano’s pedals under the centre of the keyboard rather than employing knee levers or long pedals hinged to the piano’s legs (as was common before ...