Biomechanical Modeling and Analysis of Violin Bowing Using Motion Capture and Electromyography

Guo Qian

Authors:  Guo Qian, Dr. Jennifer Nichols

Faculty Mentor:  Jennifer Nichols

College:  Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering


Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) due to recurrent movement and muscle overuse are common complaints among violinists, affecting performances and careers. This study utilized 3-D motion capture (MoCap) and surface electromyography (EMG) to identify bowing and muscle activation patterns which may predispose violinists to RSI. This IRB-approved study recorded upper-limb movement of the bowing arm and EMG of the upper/lower trapezius of 4 college-level violinist. Subjects bowed 8 strokes at 4 beats per stroke at 100 bpm on strings G, D, A, and E. Joint angles were calculated using scaled upper-body models and inverse kinematics in OpenSim. Muscle activity was processed in Matlab. Shoulder joint angles varied by string. For example, in Subject 1, the average shoulder elevation joint angles data in degrees were 64.2, 65.4, 50.7, and 43.6 and the average acromion-clavicular joint angles data in degrees were 25.4, 25.9, 20.1, and 17.2 across the G, D, A, and E strings, respectively. Results indicated larger joint angles in the lower strings (G, D) compared to the upper strings (A, E), perhaps because elbows must be lifted and laterally extended to reach lower strings. This study highlights the physical demand on violinists and could point towards emphasizing ergonomic pedagogical playing techniques.

Poster Pitch

Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.


Click the image to enlarge.
10 Responses
  1. Thanks Lauren, great question! Standard violins are made to be bowed with the right arm and played with the left hand. If the bowing arm and playing hand were switched, I would predict that the joint angle data would be flipped as well (assuming the strings stay in the same order).

  2. Dr. Murfee

    Guo – I liked the story in your video! Nice Job.

    Seems like you got a wonderful experience in Dr. Nichols lab.

  3. Hi Guo,

    I love the practicality of your research. Did you see a lot of variation between players in their angles? Was strain a regular issue for any of them?

    1. Thanks Camila! This was a case study focused on only one of the participants, but there may be some variation. Yes, they mentioned experiencing strain before. It would definitely be interesting to include a future survey asking participants how often they experience it.

  4. Chadwick Gaspard

    This is great research! As a former musician and a dancer, this really caught my eye. It would be cool to see something like this being used to improve upon the pedagogical approaches to teaching dance because RSI injuries are abundant.

    1. Thanks Chadwick! Absolutely, there’s an abundance of research potential at the intersection of biomechanics and dance. Maybe a software that provides precise feedback on correcting dance movements using the 3D motion capture markers. That’d be an interesting application.