Coordination between breathing and mental grouping of pianistic finger movements

Percept Mot Skills. 2002 Oct;95(2):339-53. doi: 10.2466/pms.2002.95.2.339.


6 pianists (age 22 to 43 years) performed a simple finger exercise at a spontaneously chosen most comfortable tempo on a Yamaha-Disklavier piano. Five versions of the exercise, notated in quarter notes, were presented with different types of meters: (1) 3/4, (2) 4/4, (3) 5/4, (4) 6/4, and (5) 7/4. The onsets of finger strokes were measured while respiration was recorded in parallel by means of a thermistor placed at the front of the dominant nostril. The chosen tempo (finger-beat-rate) was about 3 Hz on all trials but not exactly constant. Correspondingly, the meter-rate chosen was faster for 3/4 and 4/4 meter (around 1 Hz), slower for 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4 meter (around 0.5 Hz). Mean breathing rate while playing the piano (0.38 Hz) was significantly higher than while resting (0.22 Hz, p<.05). Pooling the data of all subjects, the ratios of instantaneous meter and breathing rates clustered around different integer values, depending on the type of meter. Also the individual data indicated integer ratios between instantaneous meter and breathing rates. Even periods of constant phase relations between onsets of the meter and of inspiration could be observed. Thus, the mental process of grouping the same piece of music by various musical meters interacts with unconscious breathing rhythm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Music*
  • Respiration*
  • Time Perception*