Alumni

Alumni

PhD

Josée Vaillancourt (2010)Supervisor: Denis Simard
Éducation, Université LavalCo-supervisor: Gilles Comeau
Dissertation: Les critères de sélection d’un répertoire de chansons utilisées en contexte pédagogique d’éducation musicale à l’école primaire contribution à l’élaboration d’un cadre de référence



Abstract: Considering the importance that voice and singing are given in the music programs at the elementary level, the specialist in music education must have access to a repertoire of songs that he can choose from according to certain criteria. Now, the abundance of vocal pieces for children, and the absence of tool for critical analysis and judicious selection of these pieces for relevant use in a teaching context is a major problem when it comes to the selection of vocal repertoire. Which criteria can one rely on to select a repertoire of songs intended for the teaching of music in elementary schools? The goal of this research is to develop a frame of reference in order to clarify and examine the criteria relative to the choice of vocal repertoire. The methodology I have chosen to answer that question comprises three stages: (1) the collection of data coming from two distinct sources: a literary corpus (scientific, didactic and pedagogic works), and nine semi-structured research interviews with nine experienced music teachers in primary schools (2) a qualitative data processing using content analysis, and (3) elaborating a frame of reference, in which data taken from both sources are conjugated and compared. The process of qualitative research and the data sources I have chosen in carrying out this study have contributed to specifying the criteria, as well as to describe and explain these criteria, and the concepts, foundations, and practises attached to them, by placing them in context throughout readings both theoretical and practical. The framework reveals two major families of criteria for the selection of repertoire: aesthetico-musical criteria which address the quality of the songs, and psychopedagogical criteria which relate to the development of the singing voice, the musical development of the child, and the relevance of the literary text, with the song and singing as compass. The criteria, non-prescriptive, are presented in charts after an in-depth examination, in order to draw out avenues of reflection and action for music educators and researchers.


Christophe Herry (2008)Supervisor: Monique Frize
Electrical Engineering, Carleton University
Dissertation: Segmentation and extraction of regions of interest for automated detection of anomalies in clinical thermal infrared images



Abstract: This doctoral thesis presents a complete framework for automated detection of anomalies in clinical thermal IR images. Within that framework, it addresses two fundamental problems: the automated extraction of relevant, potentially abnormal Regions of Interest. A first segmentation approach approach called cued morphological processing of edge maps (CMpEM) is introduced, that uses a minimum amount of a priori information about a region to constrain the morphological processing of edge components. It is shown to outperform existing segmentation methods, especially when dealing with faint regions in challenging conditions. A second segmentation approach based on the classification of edge components is presented that is able to recover missing contours when other methods fail. A third segmentation strategy based on a rule-based fusion and morphological post-processing of segmented contours from different techniques is proposed and shown to improve significantly the performance of the global segmentation task. Furthermore, a new approach for automated extraction of anatomical Regions of Interest in clinical IR images is introduced. It is based on robust landmark identification algorithm that produces more accurate landmark locations on smooth contours than state-of-the-art algorithms. Various aspects of the anomaly detection framework, including blind extraction of potentially abnormal Regions of Interest, are tested on a collection of thermal IR databases acquired in the course of this thesis, in order to demonstrate the key advantages of the framework.


Master of Arts (with Thesis in Piano Pedagogy)

Susan Mielke (2017)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Mental practice in music performance: A literature-based glossary and taxonomy


Abstract: Mental practice is a strategy that can be used to acquire the necessary skills for piano and other music performance. This type of practice strategy involves the use of imagery as opposed to the motor skills used in physical practice. In a preliminary review of piano pedagogy material and recent scientific literature, the benefits of mental practice were established. However, this review also revealed a lack of clarity in the use of terminology which sometimes interfered with readability. In order to better understand this problem of terminology, 33 current studies on mental practice in music performance were collected and examined for both the quantity and quality of term usage. Terms were identified and recorded using existing terminology and classification methods. Terminological records were created for each term appearing more than twice in the literature. In total, 83 records were created. Issues related to frequency of use (repetition), use of multiple terms (synonymy), lack of term definitions, and the need for clarity in term usage (semantic vagueness and ambiguity) were then analyzed using these records. This term analysis process resulted in the creation of a glossary and taxonomy. The glossary of 21 terms and corresponding hierarchical taxonomy (tree diagram) are proposed as an aid to help clarify the terminology of mental practice in music performance. Given the value of mental practice in learning to play music it is important to develop and maintain terminology that will facilitate both the understanding of existing literature and the design of future studies.


Mary Claire Jensen (2016)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Measuring music reading: A guide to assessment methods


Abstract: Music reading is a complex skill. In order to better understand the reading process and evaluate the effects of teaching intervention, it is essential to measure this skill. Research in the field of music pedagogy has provided a number of studies concerned with the measurement of music reading, using varying methods of assessment. However, the corpus of literature is lacking in organization and clarity, in part due to the fact that the assessment methods come from diverse disciplines and the studies themselves may present a number of inconsistencies. Using a research model based on systematic review, the objective of the thesis is to provide an organized synopsis of music reading assessment methods. The thesis has identified and compiled a corpus of 88 relevant studies, with an emphasis on experimental keyboard research in the Western, classical, tonal tradition, though studies with woodwind, brass, percussion, and vocal instrumentation are included as necessary. The assessment methods employed in the studies are classified according to one of three broad categories: test measurements, eye-­‐tracking measurements, and neurological measurements. The purpose of this guide is to be a reference for researchers and educational practitioners, and includes comparison and summary charts and a concluding index.


Karen King (2016)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Parting ways with piano lessons: Predictors, invoked reasons, and motivation related to piano student dropouts



Abstract: Piano teachers believe that dropping out before reaching a moderate mastery of the piano is a common problem among students. This study uses Self-Determination Theory to examine three issues related to the high dropout rate from private piano lessons: whether there are predictors associated with dropout, whether low levels of motivation correlate with dropping out, and the primary reasons invoked for stopping lessons. Using the Survey of Musical Interests, 55 former piano students who quit lessons completed a questionnaire with Likert-scale, multiple choice, and open-ended questions, and their parents also filled out a complementary questionnaire. These participants were compared to 153 students and parents who were still involved with piano lessons. Results showed important predictor differences in parental backgrounds, musical ability, and practice habits, and significant differences between the groups’ autonomous motivation. The main reasons invoked for stopping lessons included lack of practice, preferring other instruments, and loss of interest.


Meganne Woronchak (2016)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Reflective journaling: Preparing undergraduate piano students for professions in music


Abstract: Benefits to using a reflective journal include developing critical awareness and new perspective, problem-solving skills, and independent learning skills. The training of advanced piano students could be enhanced by the addition of journals to assist with their piano practice, specifically when learning new repertoire. Using the model by Plack and colleagues (2005) for developing and assessing reflection in reflective journal entries, we examined the journal entries of 18 advanced piano students to explore the development of reflection over a period of four weeks. Results suggest that reflectively trained piano students develop more critical reflection compared to a control group. Reflectively trained students perceive the same benefits to journaling as their counterparts in other disciplines. The most frequently referenced reflective elements include listing practice strategies and expressing feelings about the learning process. The reflective training model used in this study can be implemented by piano teachers and piano students.


Grace Wong (2015)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: The immediate effects of somatic approach workshops on the body usage and musical quality of pianists



Abstract: There is a growing popularity among musicians to turn to somatic approaches such as the Alexander Technique, Body Mapping and Feldenkrais Method to improve posture and movement at the instrument and to produce better tone quality. There is little scientific and objective data to support the changes that are apparently seen and heard after such training. This study examines if a single somatic session has an immediate, perceivable effect on pianists’ body usage and musical quality. In the first mode of evaluation, judges rated specific aspects of body usage and musical quality. In the second mode of evaluation, judges were asked to identify post-somatic performances. Results indicated that there are perceivable changes in body usage and musical quality although those differences are not as apparent or easily detectable as is often believed. The findings also suggest that it is easier to identify post-somatic performances through body usage than musical quality.


Erin Dempsey (2015)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Music performance anxiety in children and teenagers: Effects of perfectionism, self-efficacy and gender



Abstract: Music Performance Anxiety is something that has affected a number of musicians and numerous studies have been conducted on performance anxiety in adult musicians. However, research on performance anxiety in children and adolescence is still lacking when compared to literature on adult and music performance anxiety. This study examined the signs and symptoms that children (ages 8-12) and teenagers (ages 13-17) feel and the levels of performance anxiety they perceive. In addition, this study also examined levels of perfectionism, self-efficacy and gender as predictors of anxiety and compared these with levels of anxiety. Sixty-five participants completed three questionnaires and a demographic survey. Results suggest a tentative increasing relationship between music performance anxiety and age while no relationship between gender and anxiety was found. Strong relationships between perfectionism and self-efficacy with anxiety indicate that students with high levels of perfectionism and low levels of self-efficacy are more likely to have high levels of performance anxiety. Just as previous studies with adults have found, our findings in children and adolescents suggest that perfectionism may render people vulnerable to performance anxiety while self-efficacy may be an important buffer against this anxiety.


Jillian Beacon (2015)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Assessing 2D and 3D motion tracking technologies for measure the immediate impact of Feldenkrais training on the playing postures of pianists



Abstract: The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education has become popular with pianists forimproving ease of motion and musculoskeletal health. This thesis contains three studies investigating motion-tracking technologies as means to objectively assess the impact of Feldenkrais training on pianist posture. The first study investigates the accuracy and reliability of Dartfish 2D motion tracking software. Results indicate that Dartfish tracking error is within +/- 0.25 centimeters. The second study uses Dartfish to track head, shoulder, and spine positions of 15 pianists during performance before and after receiving a Feldenkrais Functional Integration Lesson. Comparisons of pre- and post-test measurements indicate no group trends in posture change. However, intriguing changes to movement quality in the head and torso were observable for two participants. The third study compares tracking quality of Dartfish and the Microsoft Kinect for the head, shoulders, and arms off our pianists attending a weeklong Feldenkrais workshop. Results reveal frequent tracking errors with the Kinect sensor, making it unsuitable to measure the impact of somatic training on pianist posture.


Kimberley Sundell (2012)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Comprehensive musicianship and beginner piano method books: A content analysis


Abstract: Comprehensive Musicianship (CM) is a philosophy that developed in the 1960s to encourage the study of contemporary music and student creativity. It expanded in the 1970s to describe the interdisciplinary study of music. Its goal was to encourage teachers to go beyond technical and performance aspects of music and start integrating theory, history, composition, improvisation and aural skills instruction to their curriculums. However, while CM has had a strong influence on many music programs, it is not clear whether this trend has influenced the field of private piano instruction, and whether CM elements have been included and integrated in beginner piano method books. To address this question, categories that constitute the core elements of CM were selected to conduct a content analysis of 12 piano method series. Analysis showed that the focus tends to be on aural skills (as teacher duets), and theory, with a noticeable lack of the more creative activities of improvisation and composition.


Yuanyuan Lu (2012)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Survey of eighteen North-American piano method books: Repertoire selection and categories


Abstract: Many piano teachers agree that suitable repertoire motivates their students to learn and practice their instrument. Asking students to learn different categories of repertoire might be a good approach for piano teachers to motivate and maintain their students‟ musical interests. However, how do teachers evaluate what kinds of repertoire is presented in the teaching material that is available to them? The purpose of this study is to review the pieces found in North-American piano method books in order to provide an inventory of the different categories of repertoire found in each series and to calculate the proportion of piano repertoire belonging in each category. Consequently, this research will allow piano teachers to see more clearly which kinds of repertoire are in a method book and help select the most appropriate method books for their students.


Michèle Wheatley-Brown (2011)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: An analysis of terminology describing the physical aspect of piano technique


Abstract: Mastering the physical aspect of piano technique has long been a topic of great interest and importance to pianists. This is borne out in the numerous pedagogical approaches on the topic of piano technique. Despite the many contributions from pedagogues and scholars in developing an understanding of piano technique, many conflicting approaches often cause more confusion than clarity. After reviewing the literature on pedagogical approaches to piano technique, this study determined that problematic language might lie at the root of the confusion. Core concepts identified in the review of literature as recurring areas of misunderstanding were tension, relaxation, co-contraction, arm weight, and hand and finger shape.

The purpose of this study is to seek where issues of language exist in contemporary piano pedagogical approaches and to show how these problems may contribute to the systemic confusion in piano technique. To do this, the language that is used to describe and define the core concepts identified in the review of literature is analyzed in five modern pedagogical approaches. Five authors who have developed approaches that reflect current trends in piano technique have been selected for this study: Barbara Lister-Sink; Dorothy Taubman; Thomas Mark; Fred Karpoff; and Alan Fraser. The first step of this study entails collecting data from each of the five pedagogical approaches. The data is then analyzed for consistency and accuracy. Problems in language that contribute to the inconsistencies and inaccuracies are examined and illustrated with material from the data collection.

This study concludes by identifying the main sources of confusion in the use of language: inconsistent and inaccurate use of terms; wavering between scientific, common, and invented language; challenges in describing opposing qualities that come from tension and relaxation; and failing to discern between the individual subjective experience and the mechanics of movement. By recognizing where the problems in language exist, this study represents an important first step in for the pedagogical community to reach a common understanding of the language used to describe the physical aspect of piano technique.


Catherine Lemay (2008)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Sight-reading for piano students: Comparing three methods of assessment


Abstract: One important component of music reading research is measurement, quantification, and evaluation of accuracy in sight-reading performance. Researchers have used various methods of assessment such as the sight-reading tests and scales, quantification of errors, and evaluation by expert examiners. These three methods of assessment have been used independently in research; however, they have never been tested to determine if they provide comparable analyses. This study, therefore, adapted the Watking-Farnum Performance Scale for the wind instrumentalists to be used in the context of piano performance and then compared it to the two other assessment methods, more specifically Gilman’s Scoring Algorithm and Expert Examiners. Each method of assessment was used to analyze the sight-reading performances of eight piano students on five newly composed exercises. The assessment procedures and subject assessment were then compared. It was found that these methods differed greatly in their assessment procedures as well as in their assessment of subjects.


Julia Brook (2007)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: An on-line digital video library of piano teaching: A case study with five teachers


Abstract: Professional development is an integral part of one’s career, providing opportunities for growth, reflection, and improving practices. In the field of piano pedagogy, most teachers work independently, often providing instruction from their home, therefore finding appropriate professional development opportunities may be limited by proximity (both in terms of time and physical distance) as well as financial constraints. To meet this need, an on-line digital video library of piano teaching (DVL) was developed and a multiple-case-study methodology was employed to examine the experiences of five piano teachers as they interacted with this tool for four weeks. Findings from this study indicated that viewing the DVL was a beneficial professional development activity, which facilitated teacher learning that could be immediately carried over into their teaching situation resulting in increased student success.


Nisreen Jardaneh (2007)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Exploring young piano students’ perceptions of effective practice strategies


Abstract: Playing the piano involves a variety of cognitive, auditory, visual and motor skills. Mastering the coordination for all these skills requires intensive effort, repetition and persistence through increased and sustained practice sessions over several years. These sessions allow the students to make continuous improvements and enhance their music development (Ericsson et al., 1993; Hallam, 1998; Sloboda, Davidson, How, and Moore, 1996). Nonetheless, a major concern in music education is the challenge of motivating students to continue learning the piano. In the Music Teachers National Association 2006 survey, the biggest challenge cited was to “maintain the student’s interest, keeping enthusiasm high and getting students to practice on their own” (p. 83).

A first step in learning any musical instrument is to believe in one’s own ability to achieve personal goals. This belief is called “self-efficacy” in the field of psychology. It involves a generative ability in which cognitive, social and behavioural subskills are incorporated into coherent courses of action to serve individual purposes (Bandura, 1986; Maddux, 2002).


Ann Babin (2005)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Music conservatories in Canada and the piano examination system for the preparatory student: A historical survey and comparative analysis



Abstract: For many 21st century Canadian music educators, students, and parents, the words conservatory and examination are inextricably linked. Generations of music students have participated in this examination process, the methods and results of which prompt ongoing debate. The lack of a comprehensive, comparative study of Canadian piano examination curriculum requirements is the problem this thesis undertakes to address. This is accomplished, first, by discussing the historical development of conservatories and their examination systems in Canada generally, and second, by analyzing nine different piano examination boards currently operating in various regions of the country. Syllabi, an important but often overlooked resource, have served as primary sources for details of past and present examination standards and practices. Details presented on charts and tables provide the basis for commentary on topics such as distribution of marks, repertoire, memory, ear, and sight-reading requirements, with emphasis on technique, a significant variable noted in each system.


Line Morais (2005)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: L’analogie comme stratégie d’enseignement en pédagogie du piano


Abstract: Mentionnée par de nombreux pédagogues et musiciens, l’analogie est aussi présentée dans plusieurs méthodes de piano. Cependant, aucune recherche ne traite spécifiquement de l’utilisation de l’analogie comme stratégie d’enseignement, ni en éducation musicale, ni en enseignement du piano. Il existe donc un besoin de mieux comprendre le concept de l’analogie et de mieux définir son rôle au sein de l’éducation musicale. Cette étude permettra de mieux saisir les aspects fondamentaux de l’analogie en réunissant des travaux de recherche en sciences cognitives, en éducation et en musique portant sur le raisonnement par analogie, le processus d’apprentissage et les contextes d’enseignement musical. La synthèse de l’ensemble de ces recherches conduira 1) à l’élaboration d’un système de classification fondé sur le lien analogique retrouvé dans les nombreux exemples identifiés en enseignement du piano, 2) à la formulation d’étapes pour la présentation d’une analogie et 3) à une discussion des principes de son intégration.


Master of Arts (with Major Research Paper)

Joanna Phua (2016)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: Piano sight-playing: How the brain process music, key variables that influences sight-playing proficiency and recommendations for a smoother and enjoyable path to sight-playing excellence



Audrey Mo (2015)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: Pedagogical implications for piano teachers and students: Addressing negative cognition in MPA with sports psychology principles




Master of Music with Major Research Paper in Piano Pedagogy

Jason Ray (2007)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: The use of technology for the measurement and analysis of piano performance with a discussion of the implications for piano pedagogy



YiFei Liu (2007)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: Cross-cultural analysis of motivation levels of piano students in China and in North America



Grace Bruno (2004)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: Behind the scenes of musical expertise: Genes, environment, personality, motivation and cognition



Karine Larochelle (2003)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Research Paper: L’impact de la musique dans le développement géneral de l’enfant de 0 à 6 ans



Master of Applied Science (Engineering)

Safaa Mohamed (2011)Supervisor: Monique Frize
Carleton University
Thesis: Evaluation of piano-related injuries using infrared imaging


Abstract: Playing the piano is a repetitive task that involves the use of the hand and the arms. Pain related to piano-playing is the result of extending the tissues and ligaments of the hands and arms beyond their mechanical tolerance. Infrared imaging records the skin temperature and produces a thermal map of the imaged body part; small vibrations in the skin temperature could be the sign of inflammation or stress on the tissues. In this thesis we correlated heat to pain related to piano-playing; we used statistical analysis to examine the difference in heat temperature between pianists with pain related to piano-playing and pianists without pain related to piano-playing. We found that there is a statistically significant difference in hand temperature between the two populations. In addition, pianists with pain have higher hand temperatures relative to their arms. These findings may lead to earlier detection and easier diagnosis of repetitive stress injuries.


Silvain Bériault (2008)Supervisor: Pierre Payeur
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Multi-camera system design, calibration and 3D reconstruction for markerless motion capture


Abstract: Markerless motion capture, in contrast to marker-based gesture analysis. consists of extracting high-level human body kinematic information using passive vision only. The goal of markerless motion capture is to remove severe cumbersomeness issues regarding current commercial, and state-of-the-art, marker-based systems. In particular, marker-based solutions require the wearing of uncomfortable markets, which can interfere with natural gesture of performers. on the counter-part, markerless solutions lack robustness and tend to impose unacceptable constraints into the working environment for many applications. Currently, these limitations prevent markerless motion capture to replace marker-based systems in most real-world markets. Addressing these issues, the thesis presents a framework for markerless motion capture with specific interest on increasing the robustness of early topics within the chain of modules that compose such an application. In particular the topics of multi-camera system design, multi-camera calibration and volumetric reconstruction and coloring are studied.

The main goal of the project is to perform a complete system design analysis that will lead to the development of a reconfigurable synchronized multi-carnera system which is optimized for the specific application of motion capture. A solid high-level software framework for multi-view application is also developed and is effective to encapsulate low-level interactions with the camera hardware. The designed acquisition setup is calibrated using a convenient framework for multi-camera calibration that allows free camera positioning. The proposed multi-camera calibration approach is able to reach precision up to an average reprojection error below 1/2 pixel. The use of a novel and reconfigurable dual-marker target is proposed to achieve complete calibration with no scale factor ambiguity (i.e. metric calibration). The full registration of all cameras composing the network enables shape-from-silhouette volumetric reconstruction using voxel data. The proposed implementation is effective at computing the binary voxel occupancy information even in the presence of imperfect silhouette data. Beyond voxel occupancy computation, foreground voxels are also augmented with color texture. The color information contained in the multiple streams of video is effectively mapped onto the voxel data with proper visibility test to detect situations of occlusion. Experimental results presented at the end of this thesis demonstrate successful 3D human body reconstruction with adequate accuracy for motion capture. The example of motion capture for piano-playing performance evaluation is used to show the capability of the proposed framework to effectively reconstruct complex, self-occlusive, human postures


Martin Côté (2007)Supervisor: Pierre Payeur
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Video segmentation for markerless motion capture in unconstrained environments


Abstract: Segmentation is an important first step in many computer vision applications. The identification of key regions within an image or video allows for a higher level analysis of the media content. This thesis explores the application of the low level process to the monitoring of human performance. In such context, a proposed segmentation algorithm would be required to impose a minimum of constraints in order to assure thee integrity of the performance and the proper transfer of key data to higher level analysis components.

Classical approaches to the segmentation problem either make assumptions on the content of the media or impose unreasonable constraints on their targets and environments. In doing so, the integrity of performance measurements cannot be assured and semantic interpretation therefore becomes skewed. The method presented within this thesis allows for unconstrained environments by using a spatiotemporal colour-texture segmentation routine that represents the media content as a set of homogenous texture regions. The routine is assisted by a non-parametric clustering algorithm in order to produce an initial colour-texture representation. The regions obtained from this algorithm undergo a merging and tracking process in order to produce a final segmented representation of a target. Experimental results reveal that the system is robust for complex environments and provides several advantages over current segmentation processes.


Caroline Andison (2011)Supervisor: Donald Russell
Carleton University
Thèse: EMG-based assessment of co-contraction in forearm muscles while playing the piano


Abstract: Prominent piano pedagogues present co-contradictions as being potentially injurious while playing the instrument. However, maintaining proper arm posture requires co-contradiction. The goal of this study is to quantify changes in active muscles stiffness and co-contradiction in university-level pianists who played a scale, two triad exercises and a composition by Ann Southam. Co-contradiction was calculated from EMG measurements of the FCU, ECU, FDS and EDC muscles.

In the scale task significant but steady levels of co-contradiction were measured. Co-contradiction in the triad exercises was not directly related to feelings of discomfort. During the performance of a piece composed by Ann Southam for this research subjects showed significant variations in co-contradiction that corresponded to faster note rates and increased loudness. Additional experiments to further clarify relationships between note rate, dynamic level, posture and co-contradiction are proposed.
Results from this study indicate the presence of co-contradiction is fundamental to piano playing.


Christy Vant (2007)Supervisor: Donald Russell
Carleton University
Thesis: Driving point impedance measurements during piano playing


Abstract: Evidence indicates that 30-60% of professional piano players suffer from pain and playing-related injuries at some point in their career. Most piano teachers emphasizes the need for a relaxed wrist during playing to avoid these injuries. Existing information regarding actions that might trigger a stiffness change during playing is experiential. Many studies are conducted with a limited knowledge of either biomechanical principles of technical piano skills. The disciples are integrated through a review of pedagogical approaches to piano technique, the clarification of terminology common to both disciplines and the application of biomechanical analyses to scientific data.

A review of pedagogical approaches showed that much of the information available regarding piano technique relies on metaphor to convey information from teacher to student on the feeling and actions required. Interpreting the biomechanical requirements of these techniques identified similarities and inconsistencies among them. Many imply specific biomechanical constraints on limb stiffness when describing a relaxed wrist.

Four specific concepts integral to the study of piano biomechanics are explained. Stiffness and co-contradiction are represented as injurious in piano pedagogy, even though they are in fact necessary to the proper functioning of joint movements. Relaxation is touted as the solution to injury when in fact complete relaxation would not allow the limb to be held in the proper position for playing. Concepts are often approached from a single-joint point of the view when in reality motions of the human body are interconnected. The change in position of a finger can affect all the joints in the arm.

A new approach is developed to give an indication of changes in impedance at the wrist during piano playing. Experiments are conducted using a haptic device to apply force perturbations to the wrist during playing and to record the position of the wrist in three-dimensional space. The displacement of the wrist due to the applied perturbations is quantified and analyzed as a measure of impedance at the wrist.

These experiments are unique because they are the first to regard changes in impedance at the wrist during piano playing and because the point of measurement is not at the endpoint but at a second point on the limb. The study is designed to create changes in impedance by increasing the dynamics (sound level), tempo and duration of playing. Subjects play music by Toronto composer Ann Southam written according to specifications of this study.

Statistical analysis of the data demonstrates the success of the force perturbations for the study of stiffness at the wrist. Data analysis was limited to one-dimensional motion in the vertical direction. The work demonstrates the practicality of measuring impedance during piano playing, however the music did not induce impedance changes in the two experienced piano players who underwent testing.


Master of Health Sciences in Audiology

Marie Jehu (2015)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: L’efficacité des microphones directionnels: une revue de la littérature



Master of Science in Human Kinetics

Flora Nassrallah (2010)Supervisor: Gilles Comeau
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Breathing patterns of pianists while executing four performing tasks


Abstract: Over the fifty years, researchers have taken an interest in the breathing of different musicians. Little is known on the breathing patterns of pianists, however. Two main studies on the subject determined that a variation in meter affects breathing rhythms and that breathing rate might be linked to tempo and musical gestures, but we do not know whether a relationship exists between pianists’ respiratory cycles and the movements they make when playing, or between breathing and specific musical elements such as rhythm, meter, tempo or phrasing. Eight pianists played the C major scale, the C major arpeggio, a Hanon five-finger exercise, the Minuet in G major by Petzold, and Für Eliseby Beethoven on a Yamaha Disklavier. During their performances, respiration was monitored by an inductive plethysmography system (RIPmate Respiratory Effort System). Although the results were not consistent across participants, it was clear that for some pianists breathing and performing were related.


Master of Computer Science

Javier Mora (2008)Supervisor: WonSook Lee
University of Ottawa
Thesis: Hapto-visual representation of three dimensional incomprehensible flows


Abstract: Imagine a videogame in which you impersonate a wizard who needs to create a potion by stirring substances in a cauldron. Through a desktop haptic probe, you are able to stir and feel how the fluid changes its viscosity, velocity and other properties. So far solid or deformable objects have been experimented for haptic-tactile feedback. In this thesis we innovate by devising techniques that enable the haptical rendering of shape-less objects, such as fluids. We achieved the real-time 3D fluid simulation of multiple substances based on the Navier-Stokes equation and coupled it with a discreet mass-spring particle system representing its deformable surface. We overcame the challenges that arise during the integration of both haptics and graphics workspaces, the free-view visualization of 3D fluid volume, and the rendering of haptic forces. Our system is flexible to accommodate different kinds of fluids, such as liquid and smoke, to be co-simulated.


Graduate Diploma in Piano Pedagogy Research

  • Gloria Chu (2016)
  • Andrea Yau (2016)
  • Kelsey Ross (2016)
  • Joanna Phua (2015)
  • Elizabeth Szczepanski (2014)
  • Karen King (2014)
  • Jillian Beacon (2013)
  • Grace Wong (2013)
  • Lindsay Hamilton (2013)
  • Meir Sung (2013)
  • Vanessa Rektor (2012)
  • Shannon Maertens (2012)
  • Yuanyuan Lu (2010)
  • Ivea Mark (2010)
  • Michèle Wheatley-Brown (2010)
  • Shirley Ho (2009)
  • Marie-Claire Lazure (2008)
  • Mélina Dalaire (2007)
  • Erin Parkes (2007)
  • Julia Brook (2006)
  • Hoaden Brown (2006)
  • Leana Azerral (2006)
  • Nisreen Jardaneh (2006)

Undergraduate Certificate in Piano Pedagogy

  • Susan Mielke (2014)
  • Sandra Markovic (2013)
  • Paula Croucher (2013)
  • Émilie Bertrand-Plouffe (2011)
  • Esther Jean-Charles (2010)

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