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Sitting Down to Perform: Is It Holding Back Brass Musicians? Exploring the Science of Posture and Performance.

17 January 2024

"Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life. "This idiom resonates deeply when discussing the impact of posture changes, specifically sit-to-stand alternation, on brass players. This article delves into a fascinating study that examines how different postures, especially sitting versus standing, affect the breathing and performance of brass musicians. It's an exploration that blends the world of music with the science of ergonomics, offering valuable insights not only for musicians but for anyone intrigued by the interplay between posture and performance.

The Core of the Study: Understanding Posture's Impact

The main aim of this study was to carefully examine the effect of different body positions, especially standing and various sitting positions, on the breathing of brass instrument players. This study is particularly noteworthy because it delves into a subject that hasn't been explored much before. By focusing on brass musicians, the research provides valuable insights into this specific group, and more broadly, it helps us understand how posture can affect professionals whose work involves performance. This research might change how musicians and their teachers think about posture in both training and actual performance, leading to longer and better careers for musicians.

Innovative Methods for In-depth Analysis

To get precise and thorough results, the researchers used a combination of techniques: spirometry, electromyography, and inductive plethysmography. These modern methods are a step away from the usual ways of studying these things. They allow for an exact measurement of how well the lungs are working and a detailed observation of muscle activity and the way the body moves during different music-playing tasks. This careful approach to research highlights the study's goal of providing useful and trustworthy information. It also shows a comprehensive effort to understand how the way we hold our bodies can directly impact our breathing, especially in the context of playing music.

Revelations from the Research: Key Findings

The study revealed important insights about how body position affects musicians. One key discovery was that sitting back in a reclined position can greatly reduce lung functions such as VC, FVC, FEV1, and PEF compared to standing. This shows a clear link between how we sit or stand and how well we breathe.

This important finding could change the way musicians think about how they sit when they play. It also suggests that the design of chairs used in music performances might need to be reconsidered. Another interesting point is that sitting on a downward-sloping seat makes the notes played shorter by 11% compared to standing. This not only shows that the way musicians sit can affect how long they can play a note, but it also opens up new areas for research, like how small changes in the angle of sitting can change the music produced.

The study also found a complex situation where sitting increases the movement of the stomach area but decreases the maximum activity of the abdominal muscles by 32-44%. This complexity adds valuable knowledge for musicians, their trainers, and health experts about how posture affects muscle use.

Standing Desks and Height Adjustable Desks: A Potential Game-Changer

In light of these findings, the role of standing desks and height-adjustable desks, such as those found at Flexispot, becomes crucial in reimagining practice and performance spaces. These ergonomic solutions, traditionally used in office environments, could transcend their usual domains to significantly benefit music studios or practice rooms. For instance, a gaming desk designed for prolonged comfort could be an ideal choice for musicians seeking a blend of stability and flexibility in their posture during practice or performance. These findings could potentially herald a new era in how musicians interact with their environment, leading to improved health and performance outcomes.

Sitting Versus Standing: A Detailed Comparison

The study's detailed comparison between sitting and standing postures not only brings to light the nuanced ways in which our body responds to different positions but also invites a broader discussion on health and ergonomics in the arts. For brass players, and, by extension, other professionals who spend long hours in a seated position, these insights are invaluable. They open up a critical conversation about how to optimise performance through ergonomic awareness and posture management, potentially leading to groundbreaking changes in practice routines, performance techniques, and even instrument design.

Ergonomic Seating: More Than Just Comfort

The common practice among orchestral musicians of using downward-sloping seats for comfort, as highlighted in the study, points to a larger trend in ergonomic seating. However, the study's results suggest a need to reassess these seating choices. While made for comfort, they could lead to unintended consequences on performance. This realisation could lead to a significant reevaluation of seating choices in professional settings, emphasising the need for a more holistic approach that balances comfort with performance efficiency. This shift in perspective could have far-reaching implications not just for musicians but for anyone in a profession that demands prolong

ed periods of sitting, potentially changing the way we view workplace ergonomics in various fields.

Gender, Physiology, and Performance

Another compelling aspect of the study is its consideration of gender and physiological differences in respiratory function and muscle activity. This perspective is crucial in a field like music, where physical demands can vary widely among individuals. Recognizing these differences is not just about improving performance but also about ensuring the health and longevity of the performers.

Final Thoughts: Implications and Future Directions

In conclusion, this study is not just an exploration of how posture affects brass players. It's a window into the broader implications of ergonomic practices in performance-based professions. The findings underscore the importance of being mindful of our postural habits, whether we're musicians, gamers, or office workers. It's a reminder that sometimes, the key to unlocking our best performance could literally be in how we choose to stand or sit.

In our quest for excellence, whether it's hitting the perfect note or delivering a flawless presentation, let's not overlook the foundational role of our posture. After all, as this study shows, the way we stand or sit can make all the difference in how well we perform.