About the Lister-Sink Institute
The Lister-Sink Institute is an educational organization dedicated to promoting a healthful, well-coordinated keyboard technique to maximize musical artistry and help prevent potential injury at any point in the career.
The Lister-Sink Method is a sequenced, step-by-step program for training the motor coordinations of piano technique from simplest to complex with application to musical requirements. It is an interdisciplinary method. The technical model it espouses draws on knowledge from biomechanics, anatomy, neuroscience, sports and arts medicine, and the Alexander Technique. The pedagogical approach is corroborated in neuropedagogy, sports pedagogy, somatic education, and even transformative learning theory. It also has it roots in several late 19th century pedagogical approaches, including the late 19th century Russian School.
I developed the as-yet-unnamed Method over many years, beginning in 1986. And in an effort to ensure that it works, I have refined and modified it to this day. However, in an effort to discover whether it actually worked with my students over the past 25 years—as well as to further my own knowledge of pedagogy, movement science and neuropedagogy—I went back to school to earn a doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and delved into the world of rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. Surprisingly, the Columbia faculty allowed me to research my own Method, but only after adhering to the strictest requirements of the Institutional Review Board (IRB): The study would be anonymous, the student subjects would not be harmed in any way professionally, psychologically or personally, and that their rights would be protected. Also, research assistants certified in Human Subjects’ Rights were employed to eliminate as much as possible any “researcher’s bias.”
This mixed-methods study systematically investigated the Lister-Sink Method to ascertain its efficacy in recovering from and preventing recurrence of playing-related neuromusculoskeletal disorders (PRNDs), as well as its effects on technique, musicality, and extra-musical factors. Students who had studied the Method for the equivalent of at least two academic semesters between 1990 and 2015 participated. 103 pianists and organists (who had studied the Method for the equivalent of at least two academic semester between 1990 and 2015) received an anonymous survey to which 74 (N=74) responded, and 26 pianists and organists were interviewed in-depth. Quantitative data from the surveys and qualitative data from the interviews were analyzed by a team of statisticians with NVivo software to generate codes and themes related to five specific investigation questions regarding the students’ perceptions of the Method’s effectiveness.
The research results, as shown below, were statistically positive with high power. Students who had studied the Lister-Sink Method from 1990 to 2015 reported a high rate of success both in returning to playing after injury, and in preventing recurring injury. Statistically high positive musical and extra-musical results were also demonstrated.
However, it is important to add that the Lister-Sink Method is only one of any number of methods or approaches that could be used to train healthful technique. However, as of 2017, it is the only anecdotally successful approach to teaching injury-preventive technique that has been studied systematically and in-depth to more fully ascertain its efficacy and long-term impact.
Interdisciplinary Roots of the Lister-Sink Method
Debilitating playing-related injury at 16
Technical History – 19th Centry Russian School influence Mindfulness & Awareness training Movement Science – Efficient muscle use
Holistic Approach – Piano-playing as whole body activity
Embodied Cognition – Alexander Technique Sports Pedagogy
Neuroscientific & Neuropedagogy – SyberVision
Creation of Interdisciplinary Method
Context of the Lister-Sink Method
- “Advanced piano playing is one of the most demanding activities known to humankind–a complex interaction of musculoskeletal, neuromuscular and sensorimotor systems.”
(Altenmueller & McPherson, 2008; Pascual-Leone, 2001)
- “Advanced pianists are like dancers and “artistic” athletes, combining subtle, complex motor skills with high artistic demands.”
- “Pianists who play advanced music repertory must practice at least 10,000 hours over 10 years to achieve a high professional level.”
(Gruber, 2004; Sloboda, 2005)
- “Risk of injury and presence of pain do not diminish musicians’ motivation to practice and perform.”
(Guptill, Park & Sumsion, 2007)
- “Rate of playing-related neuromusculoskeletal disorders in pianists remains high worldwide, limiting or halting study and playing careers.”
(Ackland & Allsop, 2010; Aoki, Furuya, Kinoshita & Nakahara, 2006; Bialocerkowski, Bragge & McMeeken, 2005)
Core Principles of the Method
- Piano technique is a trainable neuromusculoskeletal activity of whole body, directed by the brain.
- Technique is based on rational, biomechanical principles explained in accurate terminology and accessible language
- Technique is most easily acquired through step-by-step neuromuscular programming
- Mindfulness training is necessary to enhance auditory, tactile and kinesthetic awareness
- Technique is taught hands-on with professional tactile guidance.
- Concurrent training in somatic discipline (e.g. Alexander Technique) enhances learning
- Modeling, mental practice, video and audio recording & self-reflection are tools of learning
- Injured students need qualified healthcare team, coordinated by teacher
- Teacher creates a positive learning environment and adapts to student’s individual learning style, history, and health– potentially leading to psycho-physical transformation
- Technique must always serve the music
“An anonymous survey was administered to 103 pianists and organists aged 22 to 82, with 74 (N=74) pianists responding (71.8%), and 26 pianists and organists were interviewed in-depth. Survey and interview results established that participants perceived the [Lister-Sink] Method as significantly helpful in facilitating recovery from PRNDs. …Additionally, both the survey and interview participants reported improvement of technique and musicality with many also reporting enhancement of their extra-musical lives.” Improvement in technique and musicality, as well as audience response, was statistically significant at 92% of interviewees.
(“A Study of Students’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness of an Interdisciplinary Method for Teaching Injury-Preventive Piano Technique.” Lister-Sink Dissertation, Columbia University 2015.)
Click on any of these dissertations written about the Lister-Sink Method to read, download, or print a PDF copy, using our Firebird™ Viewer.
- Osada, M. (2009). The Lister-Sink method: A holistic approach to injury-preventive piano technique (Doctoral dissertation, University of Morth Carolina-Greensboro). Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses database. (Umi No.3368802)
- Lister-Sink, B. (2015). A study of students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary method for teaching injury-preventive piano technique (Doctoral dissertation, Columbia University). Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses database. (Umi No.3707098)