Playing in Synch, Exploring the Effects of Expressive Styles on Motion Synchrony in String Quartets


This study explored how musicians use visual cues during ensemble performances. Specifically, we looked at how motion synchrony varied with different playing styles, with the first violin as the lead player. We used an excerpt from the finale of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 74 No. 1 and asked a quartet to repeatedly play it in three different ways: normal, deadpan, and with random pauses throughout the piece. These conditions were randomised with 10 repetitions in each condition. Using a cross correlation metric across motion velocities for head and bow movements of each player, we computed an overall synchrony score between all the players across the three playing styles. The results showed that motion synchrony scores were lowest in the random pause condition and best in the normal playing style. Furthermore, in the low synchrony condition, head movements were more prominent compared to the other two conditions. These findings provide insights into how musicians coordinate their motions during ensemble performances and how different playing styles affect motion synchrony in string quartets. The study’s results can inform future research on developing effective training methods and technologies to enhance ensemble playing skills.

Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop 2023