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Glitch In Your Golf Swing? Listen To It Sing


Those of you working on your golf swing may hear this.


SIMON: But Jonathan Berger hears this.



SIMON: The composer and Stanford professor puts data to music. And there's a lot of data in a good golf swing. Shoulders, hips, ball and club all have to line up correctly. Professor Berger, thanks for being with us.

JONATHAN BERGER: Oh, it's a pleasure Scott.

SIMON: How does this sound wind up being for a golf swing?

BERGER: The typical approach to setting data to sound is usually to use pitch to turn things into melody. I decided to explore the use of the human voice - the sound of the human voice and particularly a singing voice because you need no instruction to say wait until this sounds like a beautiful singing voice.

SIMON: Now, I understand I think we have a recording of a bad swing.


VOICE: La...

SIMON: (Laughter).

BERGER: That needs improvement.

SIMON: (Laughter) That one - that one, I think I get. And is this really being used to teach or to scold?

BERGER: Maybe I'll take a step back and give little bit of history to this. So my daughter Ailau (ph) is a young cellist. And I was observing her learning to play the cello, which is - for any parent who has a string player, it's incredibly painful and frustrating to hear the scratches.

And you can't really teach how to hold the bow. I mean, you could try to. But there's this moment where all of this complex interaction of muscles pull together, and she was able to make a good sound. And what I observed was once she did it once, she did it and locked into it. So that was the inspiration for this idea of auditory feedback, where one sound that was the right sound locked in.

SIMON: I must say, I don't understand, just listening to that nice sound, how that would encourage you to put the hips and the shoulders and the forearms all into the same concerted, easy, fluid movement.

BERGER: What you do is you swing. You hear the result of the swing, and then you try again. And interactively, you find that - that it sort of gets you into the ballpark. And I think we've shown that it's pretty effective in teaching people how to, you know, how to retain muscle memory in the right places.

SIMON: Could you use music to help me hit home runs?

BERGER: Oh, yeah. I think so. You know, it remains to be done. But I've had students put sensors in tennis rackets and archery bows. We've done rowing - a rowing team. That's a really good one because it's so time-critical. And there's an Olympic gold medalist Koji Murofushi, who sonifies the hammer for the hammer throw and uses that to teach himself how to get the perfect throw.

SIMON: Jonathan Berger's a composer and professor of music at Stanford University. May all your fairways be green.

BERGER: Oh, thank you (laughter). I don't play golf.

SIMON: You don't play golf?

BERGER: No, I never was on a golf field.

SIMON: You've never been on a golf course?

BERGER: No. No, no.

SIMON: What on earth interested you in this, then?

BERGER: Well, it was the perfect setup for a case study. What we did was we brought a professional golfer into - and amateur golfers into motion and gait lab. We wired them up with sensors. We were able to record them - to video them. And I was able to boil that data down into a manageable set that was able to control these voices.

SIMON: Can you tell us who has the most musical swing on the professional golf circuit?

BERGER: No, I really can't (laughter). I can't. We would have to get them into the lab and have them get naked and wired up and film them. And then, two days later, I could tell you.

SIMON: Careful, careful, John (ph).


SIMON: Jonathan Berger, thanks so much.

BERGER: Very pleased to talk to you. Take care, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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