New Book! PLAYING PAIN FREE available soon – watch for it!
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, contact a Certified Music Ergonomist – see the artice below :
Introducing the National Standards Board for Music Ergonomics
By now almost every harper and harp student has heard the term “ergonomics”. Because almost every harp player has experienced some physical discomfort related to playing, interest in avoiding discomfort, or finding relief when it happens, has become an important part of harping. We should all be able to play pain-free.
In the “old days” prior to the late 1980s, almost no one talked about ergonomics. We were taught a “correct” way to hold the harp and a “correct” way to use our hands and pluck the strings (actually there were two very different methods that were both claimed to be the only correct way). The general idea used to be that all harps must be held the same way regardless of size, and all hands and arms must be used the same way regardless of individual physiology. “No pain, no gain” was the harp player’s unfortunate motto.
Luckily, those outdated ideas are a thing of the past. Now we know that pain is not necessary, that one method does not fit all players, and that not all harps can be held the same way or even plucked the same way. It took thirty years of effort and teaching by those of us who were determined to provide relief to harp players, and now attention to ergonomics has become mainstream.
As with any field of interest, assumptions are often made by those who have not thoroughly studied the subject, and misunderstanding or misinformation has occurred. This is not a subject that one can teach without extensive study. Music Ergonomics is not rote rule-making, but a dynamic science and art that relies on knowledge of anatomy, physiology and body mechanics. It takes individual variations into consideration, and is a vital, ever-developing field.
How do you know what is truly ergonomic and what isn’t? A good rule is, “If it hurts, don’t do it.” There should be no pain or discomfort while you are playing or after you play. If you experience pain or discomfort, putting up with it will not make it go away, and long-term bad habits can cause long-term chronic injury. Every music student should be taught good ergonomic skills from the very first lesson.
To ensure that responsible learning and teaching of ergonomic skills is promoted and encouraged, a National Standard Board for Music Ergonomics has been created. Its Board of Directors consists of four of the top Music Ergonomists in the field:
Patricia Bair, MS OTR/L CHT CLT CME, is a licensed Occupational Therapist with over 30 years experience in upper extremity injuries. She has certifications in Hand Therapy, Lymphedema Treatment, and is a Certified Music Ergonomist. She has completed courses through the University of Western Michigan, MedBridge, and is certified by the Performing Arts Medicine Association. At Orlando Health’s Center for Advanced Rehabilitation, she was instrumental in establishing a program of education and screening for Orchestral musicians.
Dr. Jen Narkevicius
integrates an innovative mix of techniques based on over 30 years’ experience in Human Factors, Ergonomics, Cognitive Psychology, Education of the Gifted and Talented, and Systems Engineering. For nearly 15 years she has worked with harpers, fiddlers, bagpipers, guitarists, pianists, bass recorder players and others, to prevent injuries and to play efficiently and perform effectively. She blogs weekly on topics that range from traveling Scotland with a harp to helping musicians fulfill their promise on www.jeniuscreations.com.
Susan Vaughan, RN, MBA/HCA, CME, CEC, is owner of Susan Vaughan Consulting LLC, and Harmony Ergonomics for Musicians. She blends her 40-plus years as a healthcare professional and her love of music to help musicians prevent and/or relieve discomfort when playing their instrument. Susan is a Certified Music Ergonomist who now administers the unique Transformational Ergonomics program for those wishing to teach Music Ergonomics: http://www.susanvaughanconsultingllc.com/
Laurie Riley, CCM CMP, CME, an innovator in Music Ergonomics, has been helping musicians play pain-free since 1987. She founded the Transformational Ergonomics Certification Program. Recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for her accomplishments in the harp community, she has authored numerous books and has toured, adjudicated and taught for over 35 years. She was also a pioneer in the teaching and practice of therapeutic music.
Our work is to support the advancement of ergonomic learning with a goal of pain-free playing for all musicians
Our goals include seeing that all music teachers are educated in basic ergonomic knowledge and skills, and that trained and certified music ergonomists are available to every harp player (and all other musicians), so everyone can play their instruments pain-free.
What is the difference between certification and accreditation?
Certification is an official acknowledgment, awarded by a specific training program, of an individual’s achievement of a certain level of skills, and usually proffers the right to use a specific title after one’s name.
Accreditation is an official status granted by a Board to certification programs and/or to individual instructors who meet set of qualifying skill requirements. Training programs and individuals teaching music ergonomics may apply to the NSBME for accreditation.
The NSBME supports two levels of teacher accreditation and one level of program accreditation
Level 1: Instrument-Specific Individual Instructor (ISII)
- Teachers demonstrating excellence in ergonomic skills relating to a specific instrument may apply to obtain Level 1 accreditation. Those who have graduated from an NSBME-accredited certification course are accredited through that certification.
Level 2: All Instruments Individual Instructor (AIII)
Teachers who demonstrate familiarity with many instruments and excellence in ergonomic skills related to those instruments may apply for Level 2 accreditation.
Level 3: Training Program Accreditation (TPA)
Programs training teachers how to teach in-depth ergonomic principles, and which certify their graduates, may apply for Level 3 accreditation. This accreditation assures that a certification program has met the standards set forth by the NSBME.
NSBME’s Basic Standards for Accreditation:
- Recognition that ergonomics is not just rote instruction on posture and technique, but that individual anatomy and physiology also determine effective ergonomic consultation
- Knowledge of anatomy and physiology pertinent to ergonomic principles for playing a musical instrument
- Knowledge of commonly used techniques and accepted modes of usage for specific musical instruments, ability to compare them in an unbiased way to sound ergonomic principles, and ability to correct ergonomic problems found in individuals’ applications of those techniques
- Possession and dissemination of adequate teaching materials to accomplish effective instruction
- Ability to recognize when referral to a medical expert is necessary
- Knowledge of Neutral Posture, its purpose, and how to teach it
- Knowledge of the potential effects of poor positioning with a musical instrument, and how to correct it
- For training programs: legal status such as LLC, registered Sole Proprietorship, or 501c3 Nonprofit Organization
We Strengthen Training Programs by:
- Creating networks and partnerships within those programs
- Serving as a resource and supporting for programs and individual musicians
- Offering workshops or providing instructors for your program
- Promoting our accredited programs and individuals
- Consultants provided by the National Standards Board for Music Ergonomics are dedicated to ensuring that every training program and every teacher of music ergonomics receives complete and responsible information for creating a superior course of instruction for both new and existing teachers of music ergonomics.