Arts Medicine journal N°87 Special Voice and wind instrument

Arts Medicine journal N°87 Special Voice and wind instrumentArtists' Health, musician's Health

Issue 87. Special issue on musicians' practices
Medical and scientific approach to artistic practices

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Edito Arts Médecine N°87

The Difference Between Standing and Sitting in 3 Different Seat Inclinations on Abdominal Muscle Activity and Chest and Abdominal Expansion in Woodwind and Brass Musicians

page 4-16

Wind instrumentalists require a sophisticated functioning of their respiratory system to control their air stream, which provides the power for optimal musical performance. The air supply must be delivered into the instrument in a steady and controlled manner and with enough power by the action of the expiratory musculature to produce the desired level of sound at the correct pitch. It is suggested that playing posture may have an impact on the abdominal muscle activity controlling this expired air, but there is no research on musicians to support this theory. This study evaluated chest and abdominal expansion, via respiratory inductive plethysmography, as well as activation patterns of lower and upper abdominal musculature, using surface electromyography, during performance of a range of typical orchestral repertoire by 113 woodwind and brass players. Each of the five orchestral excerpts was played in one of four randomly allocated postures: standing; sitting flat; sitting inclined forwards; and sitting inclined backwards. Musicians showed a clear preference for playing in standing rather than sitting. In standing, the chest expansion range and maximum values were greater (p < 0.01), while the abdominal expansion was less than in all sitting postures (p < 0.01). Chest expansion patterns did not vary between the three sitting postures, while abdominal expansion was reduced in the forward inclined posture compared to the other sitting postures (p < 0.05). There was no significant variation in abdominal muscle activation between the sitting postures, but the level of activation in sitting was only 2/3 of the significantly higher level observed in standing (p < 0.01). This study has demonstrated significant differences in respiratory mechanics between sitting and standing postures in wind musicians during playing of typical orchestral repertoire. Further research is needed to clarify the complex respiratory mechanisms supporting musical performance.

Keywords: wind musicians; surface electromyography; respiratory inductive plethysmography; posture; lung function.

Singing and the Perineum: A Dangerous Connection?

page 18-24

While urinary incontinence (UI) affects nearly 30% of all women, its prevalence among female opera singers has never been studied. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of UI in the population of female opera singers and to assess the impact of this disorder on their quality of life. The participants in this prospective, qualitative, and observational study were opera singers who performed 10 hours or more per week. Their IU severity and their quality of life were assessed via a validated self-report questionnaire (ICIQ-SF) and some additional questions about the population's characteristics.

The results showed that out of the 69 professional singers studied, who averaged 38 years of age, the UI rate was 48.5%. The results also showed that abdominal thrust during singing was associated with UI, whereas perineal contraction was a protecting factor: the UI rate was higher (62.5%) in the abdominal-thrust group than in the perineal-contraction group (40%). Among these professional singers, postnatal perineal rehabilitation exercises were not found to protect against UI (48% in the rehabilitation group vs. 45% in the control group). Lastly, child delivery by caesarian section did not protect against UI in this population (70% in the caesarian group, 47% in the nulliparous group, 73% in the vaginal-delivery group).

As in sports, singing at the professional level comes with a risk of UI. Management of this health problem requires informing and educating female opera singers and setting up effective preventive and therapeutic measures early in their careers.

Key words: urinary incontinence; singing; female opera singer; prevalence; risk factor; perineal contraction; abdominal thrust.

Primary Prevention of Voice Disorders Among Professional Singers of Popular Amplified Music

page 27-43

Register Shifts and Voice Classification: A Survey of Professional Opera Singers

page 44--55

Determining an opera singer's vocal category is based on various parameters, and the pitch of a singer’s shifts between registers (passaggi) should be taken into account during voice classification. The literature mentions pitches for register shifting that are specific to each vocal category, but no consensus exists among the authors.

The aim of this exploratory study was to test the following hypotheses: (1) the passaggi of all opera singers in the same vocal category occur around the same notes, (2) the pitch of one of the two shifts is correlated with the transition between mechanisms M1 and M2, and (3) the vocal categories of men and women do not have the same number of register shifts. The study was conducted using a self-report questionnaire in French, English, and Italian. The questionnaire was filled out by professional opera singers and contained items about their vocal category, as well as items about their passaggi. The participants were asked to sing a rising glissando in mezzo forte on the hold of an "a". In all, 183 responses were retained. The mean age of the sample was 37 years (standard deviation = 10.88), with 41.8% men and 58.2% women. Among the respondents, 80.8% were soloists and 19.2% were choristers.

The results of this study confirmed that singers belonging to the same vocal category do in fact shift registers around the same notes. However, the findings do not agree with the literature on the number of passages for male voices, nor on the pitch of the first passage for baritones.

The study showed that the term "passaggio" is not synonymous to a simple transition between two laryngeal mechanisms, and that there is an intrinsic link between the mixed register and the passaggi.

Key words: professional singer; opera singer; register; passaggio; voice classification; mixed register.

page 57-60

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