Hitting the High Notes: The Effects of Expiratory Muscle Strength Training on Lung Function and Musical Performance in Collegiate Wind Instrumentalists

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Dr. Maureen Dunn

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Expiratory muscle strength training (EMST) has been associated with increased maximum expiratory pressure (MEP). Since wind instrumentalists depend on sufficient pressure production for optimal musical performance, it is possible that EMST might improve musical performance in this population. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if four weeks of EMST would improve instrumental performance in relation to MEP in college-level wind instrumentalists. All participants (9 females, 10 males) were pre-tested on lung capacity, including measures of MEP (inH2O), as well as musical performance measures related to loudness (dB) and duration (sec) of the play for the maximum pitch on their instrument. A performance score (dB*sec) was calculated by multiplying the longest duration trial (sec) by the corresponding loudness (dB). Following pre-testing, participants were divided into groups matched by gender, instrument and MEP. The experimental group (n=12) trained four times per week for four weeks at 75% MEP which was reassessed each week. After four weeks, all participants were post-tested. MEP increased significantly in the training group (pre: 49.50±14.41; post: 83.17±22.47 inH2O) compared to control (pre: 50.29±7.76 ; post: 53.14±11.89 inH2O, p< .001). There were no significant musical performance improvements following training, but the performance scores for the high-pitch/high-loudness note showed a slight trend for improvement in the experimental group (pre: 1618.17±270.5 dB*sec; post: 1824.75±294.82 dB*sec) compared to the control group (pre: 2304.43±354.17 dB*sec; post: 2103.86±386.01 dB*sec, p=.280). Although no performance results were statistically significant, improvements were practically significant, indicating that EMST may be a viable option for performance improvement. Future research is needed to determine how EMST might affect performance characteristics in specific instruments, as well as other ways for musicians to improve and measure performance.


This research was supported by a private grant from Drs. Paul and Kathleen Davenport.

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