Handedness in Percussion Sight-Reading



John Sullivan

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Benjamin Bacon, Marcelo M. Wanderley, Fabrice Marandola

Publication or Conference Title:

Proceedings of 1st International Conference on Movement Computing (MOCO'14)


This paper presents the findings of a study investigating the effects of handedness on percussionists. Handedness, which is a subcategory of the field of laterality, has a number of wide-ranging effects on human movement. Previous research has shown that more attention is diverted to the preferred- hand when the level of difficulty is increased in a given task. Furthermore, the preferred hand is relied upon to initiate a timing schedule for bimanual tapping tasks. Given the strong connection between performance-based tapping tasks and percussion performance, this study sought to test the aforementioned findings in the context of instrumental performance. In the current literature, little to no research exists on the subject of handedness in percussive performance.
With the assistance of 7 right-handed and 2 left-handed participants, the effects of handedness were observed in a motion capture facility. The participants performed a single- page sight-reading exercise. Each participant had at least one year of undergraduate training in percussion performance. The tasks were performed on a 29-inch timpani drum.
The sight-reading exercise was written to specifically challenge the participants with regards to handedness. Here, the exercise gradually changed in rhythmic complexity, using irregular and syncopated rhythm structures to complicate the participant’s internal timing.
The findings of this study revealed a sharp shift in the use of the preferred and non-preferred hands in relation to beat structure. Larger beat structures, such as down-beats, commanded 84.1% usage of the preferred-hand while 16th-note subdivisions reported just 32.0%. Further observations and analysis show that the obfuscation of the down-beat with irregular rhythms disrupt the participant’s timing causing a series of multi-strokes with the preferred-hand.

Publication Details:

Conference Paper
Paris, France

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