Professional players vs. amateurs - a scientific approach to the secret of a beautiful sound

Introduction by Takeshi Hirano

hiranoMy name is Takeshi Hirano and I have a PhD in Medicine. I teach motor control to classical musicians as an assistant professor at Oberlin University, Japan. I am also an amateur horn player and have practiced the horn every day for more than 20 years. However, my horn skills are not as good as I would like them to be. I have always wanted to play much better, like the world-famous players. So there is a mystery that I want to solve; that is "Why can professional players create such beautiful sounds?" 

Even if a professional player and an amateur use the same instrument, the sound is different.

  • What is the difference between an amateur and a professional?
  • How can we practice to make our sounds better?

We have defined professional as a self-professed individual and amateur as all others for the purpose of this study.

Using a science-based approach, our team has deciphered a motor control mechanism for horn players. We investigated (1) facial muscle activity based on embouchure-related muscles with surface electromyogram (EMG), (2) mouthpiece force on a player’s lips while playing the horn with pressure measuring equipment we developed, and (3) the relationship between music performance anxiety and some physiological states; heart rate, EMG activity of embouchure and upper extremity muscles, and mouthpiece force.

I would like to introduce these studies briefly and share the results with IHS members over the course of our research. If you want to know the scientific truth, you haven't seen nothing yet.

By the way I have my own website which introduces some topics related to motor control for horn players. Please check the URL if you want: