“I wanted to thank you for your help last week.  I just finished playing a socially distanced outdoor concert.  At the end of two hours my back and shoulders are free of pain and my teacher tells me my hand technique remained consistently good the whole time. You are a life saver!”  –  Olivia Whiddon, harpist


Every musician can benefit from ergonomics instruction to prevent and correct discomfort, pain, and/or injury related to playing an instrument, and learn to increase your musical energy and vitality. All musicians need instruction on how to hold and use their instrument in ways that will never cause pain or discomfort! The “correct” postures and techniques we’ve been taught in lessons (or that we use as self-taught musicians) are often not truly ergonomic, and can lead to much unnecessary physical distress.

What does “ergonomics” mean and why is it important?

The term “ergonomics” used to refer only to equipment usage  –  how the physical body and its movements interface with various kinds of tools and furniture. Now, it also refers to body movement and postures, and also how the body interfaces with musical instruments.

A majority of musicians develop some kind of discomfort related to playing an instrument; it may be as simple as back pain or a stiff neck, or as complex as tenosynovitis or thoracic outlet syndrome. (And the “complex” concerns are quite common!)  When the body is not comfortable, the music cannot flow.

For a workshop or individual session in your area, contact one of these Certified Music Ergonomists:

Northwest Washington State or by Zoom or Skype: Laurie Riley:

Southwestern Washington State and Northwest Oregon, or by Zoom or Skype: Susan Vaughan (Harmony Ergonomics for Musicians   –


East Coast: Pat Bair: 


                            Become a Certified Instructor of Ergonomics Teachers!

The Music Ergonomics Certification Program offers an in-depth training to become a Certified Music Ergonomist or Certified Transformational Music Ergonomist.  The trainings provide a complete set of skills to fully integrate ergonomics into conscious, purposeful, compassionate assessment and alleviation of musicians’ instrument-related discomfort.

The interfacing of the individual body with an individual musical instrument is a key factor in musicians’ ergonomics, as are  issues of the hands such as the effects of specific playing techniques or the various hand injuries that can result from repetitive motion under stress. Additionally, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, back, and hip concerns are common among musicians; each has a specific origin for each individual, and it is essential to correct these issues. A Music Ergonomist is trained to recognize these factors.  As a Music Ergonomist you can profoundly change the experience of music-playing for your students or clients.

Transformational Ergonomics™ is a comprehensive and compassionate approach to assessment and healing of pain, discomfort and injury related to playing a musical instrument, and also to enhancement of musical energy and vitality. When musicians cannot use their whole being to nurture and play their music, they suffer. In addition to being firmly grounded in solid ergonomic sciences, Transformational Ergonomics™ addresses and utilizes the mind-body connection.

Ergonomic concerns cannot be assessed, advised, or utilized merely by rote; this is NOT a generalized set of rules, a specific playing technique, or a “correct” posture, nor is it a stricter version of whatever one has already been taught. Everyone is different; there are infinite body shapes and sizes, and many shapes and sizes of instruments; therefore no single set of rules can apply.  A Music Ergonomist uses knowledge of how an individual’s body responds to various positions and movements, based on the person’s unique physical concerns, and how to produce the best tone and smoothness of playing while also being relaxed, focused, comfortable and tension-free. To that we add specific arts of subtle energy to help assess ergonomic concerns and to help the musician to accept their partnership in their own healing.

What is included in the training?

  • Learn about musicians’ injuries and why they occur.
  • Learn how to recognize what has caused an individual’s discomfort, and how to advise them
  • Learn to use compassionate energy work to help clients begin the healing process.
  • Learn how to assist clients in becoming partners in their own healing.
  • Learn anatomy and physiology of integrated body systems.
  • Learn to teach healthy neutral posture vs. commoly taught posture –  how one heals and the other hurts!
  • Learn how to adjust the instrument to the player, not the player to the instrument!
  • Learn how individual body types interface with individual instruments.
  • Explore a variety of good playing techniques for specific hand and body types.
  • Explore ergonomic seating options.
  • Learn about the effects of tension vs. relaxation.
  • Learn to teach deep relaxation techniques.
  • …and much more

Program Format

The training is offered as a home-study course with one participatory in-person class module, as follows:

      Home Study:

Required reading:

  • Body, Mind and Music  by Laurie Riley-  Provided upon registration
  • Music Ergonomics LLC Textbook  –  Provided upon registration
  • Transformational Ergonomics  by Laurie Riley –  Provided upon registration
  • You Are Your Instrument  by Julie Lyon Lieberman  –  available through
  • Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain

     Class Module  –  can be offered in your area:

  • Developing Energy Awareness
  • Using Subtle Energies in assessment and healing
  • Compassion in Care
  • Experiencing Neutral Posture
  • Interfacing with Individual Instruments
  • Playing Techniques: Exploring What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why
  • Assessing and Advising the Individual Student’s Ergonomic Needs

Also included:

Mentoring – 6 hours included in price

Final Assessment

Who Developed This Porogram?

This certification program was delveoped by Laurie Riley, CMP, CCM, and is owned and administrated by Susan Vaughan, CME, RN, MBA/ HCA ( )

Laurie is the author of Body, Mind and Music and numerous other books for musicians, was a driving force in musicians’ ergonomics and the first to offer in-depth ergonomics classes for harpists (starting in 1988). Her classes were considered a breakthrough, and she later expanded to include all instruments.

Laurie studied and taught anatomy/physiology, and has extensive experience on a large number of musical instruments. She was also trained in dance and Yoga skills that require intimate knowledge of movement and balance. She trained and worked as a nurse’s aide. As a professional harpist she has toured for concert performances for over 25 years. She is a recording artist, author of numerous music instruction books, adjudicator, and a popular teacher. She was a founder of the Music for Healing and Transition Program and the Clinical Musicians Training Program (Harp for Healing).

Cost of Program: Contact Susan Vaughan

FAQ’s for the Certification Program:

Can I study online or at home?

Your reading will be done at home, and you will have access to your mentor by e-mail, Skype, or phone. The one module of class time is in-person.

Why not just study Alexander or Feldenkreis Technique? Or can I study this material in another program?

Alexander and Feldenkreis techniques are wonderful disciplines and the world is a better place because of them; they address movement and posture and their relationship to health. However,  the interfacing of the individual body with an individual musical instrument is a key factor in musicians‘ ergonomics, as are issues of the hands such as the effects of specific playing techniques or the various hand injuries that can result from repetitive motion under stress, and these are only offered in a Transformational Ergonomics training.

What does the certification mean?

The term certification means that a training program attests, vouches for, keeps records of, and offers proof that the trainee who has graduated in good standing is approved to practice the skills learned therein (and provides a certificate stating so).

People have played instruments for ages. Why all the fuss about ergonomics now?

Discomfort and injury have always been a concern for musicians, and those who experienced significant pain or dystonia often curtailed their careers. Lately certain aspects of lifestyle and diet have additionally affected larger numbers of musicians. Until recently, no one seemed to recognize that people can adjust how they hold and use their instruments for better comfort. Medical science has given us a better understanding of body mechanics as well.

Why include energy work?

The physical body is part of a whole which includes the energy fields that flow through and around it (for example, every time you use a smart phone you are using energy from your body to activate your touch-screen). How people relate to their instrument and to music-playing in general can have profound effects on the flow of their energy and therefore on how they use their bodies to play their music. In fact, it’s often impossible to affect positive change physically without addressing energy issues as well.


Contact Susan Vaughan:

Testimonial: “After three days of trying the techniques and playing position Laurie recommended, the pain in my thumb, wrist and shoulder were gone. I have been pain free now, and this is after two years of thinking playing the harp meant hurting! I practice 1-2 hours daily and, in the past, experienced pain in my shoulder, neck and arm after 20-30 minutes of playing. Since following Laurie’s instructions, I can play pain-free for the entire time, and have no residual pain.”  – June Caldwell


Good ergonomic practices can help prevent discomfort and injury, and can support the healing process when an instrument-playing-related injury is present, but the Transformational Ergonomist Training Program™, the practices taught therein, and the expertise of a Music Ergonomist™  or Transformational Ergonomist™ are not meant to be substitutes for medical advice and treatment when needed, and we make no medical claims or guarantees. Those who learn the techniques offered in the program and by its practitioners are responsible for using them appropriately, and are responsible for their own well-being.



These are just a few quick tips that can be very helpful. These are NOT in any way the entirety of ergonomic assessment or corrective advice. They are only the simplest things to try. If they don’t work for you, you need more detailed assessment and advice.

  1. Do your hands hurt?

Do you sleep with your hands under your pillow? If so, stop! Compressing your hands for hours at a time under the weight of your head on the pillow compromises circulation and can cause pain.

How many hours a day do you play? If more than three h ours at a time, stop! The hands are not meant to be used in repetitive ways for so many hours.

Is your technique comfortable? If not, find a good new technique that feels good, sounds good, and allows you to play better.

  1. Do your hips or back hurt?

Are you sitting with the knees higher than the hips? If so, stop! Sit with the hips a bit higher than the knees and adjust the height of the instrument instead.

Are you sitting up straight? If so, what kind of “straight’? The stiff, military-like posture most people are taught is ”correct”…. isn’t.  If there is a curve in your lower back, roll the hips backward to straighten and relax it. You may feel like you’re slouching, but you’re not. It may feel strange and different  –  that’s because your postural habit is being changed. Yes, the spine is supposed to be curved, but not as curved as that over-done posture makes it! Relax for goodness sake!

  1. Do your shoulders hurt?

Are you leaning the harp on your shoulder? If so, stop! Lean the harp on your right knee or thigh. Harps are too heavy to lean on the shoulder. (If it’s a pedal harp, find its balance point instead of leaning it on your body.)

Are you raising your elbows? If so, stop! Let them relax. “Elbows high” is an unnecessary affectation.

  1. Does your neck hurt?

Do you tilt your head to the side to see the strings? If so, stop! Angle the harp to face 45 degrees left, and you will be able to see all the strings easily without tilting your head.

  1. Does you back hurt between the shoulder blades?

Do you tilt your head forward to play? If so, stop! Look down with just your eyes, but keep your head upright. If you wear glasses, get lenses that are large and round so you can see through them when your eyes are looking down.

  1. Do your wrists hurt?

Are you bending your wrists to play? If so, stop! Play with straight wrists.

  1. Do you have trouble breathing when you play?

Are you leaning back, even slightly? If so, stop! Lean forward instead.

Is there any weight on your feet? There should be. Lean forward just enough to put weight on your feet. You’ll be amazed that how this helps being able to breathe. It takes the stress of the abdominal muscles.

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