Wind & brass study

Ventilatory demands change according to musical requirements, and involve changes in the intraoral and intrathoracic pressure, mouthpiece pressure and flow rate to meet these demands (Iltis, 2003). It is likely that there are a number of different muscle recruitment strategies of both the breathing and the facial musculature that are necessary to fulfill the required complexity necessary to produce these sound changes (Sataloff, Cohn et al 1998). In normal subjects the effects of different postures on aspects of abdominal muscle function and respiratory mechanics have been observed (O’Sullivan, Grahamslaw et al 2002; Druz and Sharp 1981). It is important then that the relationship between posture and the muscle activity patterns of the sound producing apparatus be evaluated to ascertain potential injury risks in terms of altered movement patterns in brass instrumentalists.

Research on pulmonary function, sound production and physical aspects of performance in wind players is scarce and current practice remains based on opinion of the teacher or health practitioner. Previous research evaluating wind instrument musicians found respiratory inductive plethysmography to be an effective method of monitoring respiratory movements during music performance (Fuks and Sundberg, 1999). Poor posture is frequently cited as an intrinsic risk factor leading to injuries occurring in musicians (Brandfonbrener 2000;Tubiana, Chamagne and 1989, Ackermann and Adams 2003) and that posture is an integral part of the mechanics of breathing for optimal performance of wind players (Quarrier 2005; Gaunt 2004; Webster 2003, Fuks and Fadle 2002), but there is no scientific evidence to substantiate this claim.

The purpose of this proposal is to investigate a wider research design whereby several variables that may have an effect of the performance of brass instrumentalists are simultaneously evaluated. The aim of this study is to evaluate respiratory mechanics and facial muscle activity patterns in skilled wind and brass instrumentalists, and to further assess whether posture has an effect on the functional activity of breathing and embouchure. This will be done using readings of muscle activity (EMG of the face and some of the breathing muscles), a tension gauge system that measures expansion of the thoracic cage and abdomen (respiratory plethysmography), lung function tests (using spirometry) and some physical measures of TMJ mobility. A short questionnaire on any current or previous history of injury or embouchure/breathing dysfunction will be included to further improve understanding of the existing level of beliefs and education on these important topics.

Approval for this study has been received from the University of Sydney Human Ethics Committee. The musicians will play several standardised pieces of music in an order that is randomised between subjects to make sure that effects seen are not simply due to the order of the pieces played. The procedure will be repeated in three experimental chair postures and once in usual standing posture.


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