Scientific research is changing how we teach piano. And the field of how to teach music is rapidly expanding. Playing the piano is a complex skill – players have to master motor, cognitive, auditory, and expressive skills. There is much to still understand.

By advancing the study of how piano skills develop, the Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa is helping to enhance the art, the comfort, and the enjoyment of piano playing and performance. The facility is the only one of its kind in Canada.

The lab has state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Their projects include distance piano teaching, tracking eye movements during sight reading, and measuring pianists’ breathing patterns. I was one of the test subjects in a study using thermal imaging to assess if practice routines could be ordered to prevent repetitive strain injuries. Infra-red images were taken of my hands, arms, and shoulders at various times during a two-hour practice session. It was fascinating to see the heat changes after I played a warmup, an easy piece, a challenging piece, and my technique.

This kind of research is really exciting to be me. I can start young students on their musical journey – going in the right direction.