In the late nineteenth-century, some quite curious mechanical inventions were created to deal with the body with relation to pianists and conductors.
The following is an account of a presentation by T. L. Southgate on The Physiology of Pianoforte Piano. The paper presented was written by W. Macdonald Smith. This account appeared in the Musical Times, February 1888.
Mr Southgate exhibited and showed in action the machines which Mr. Smith had invented. The first apparatus is termed the Wrist Strengthener. The hand is required to grasp a roll, the wrist resting on a fixed block; this roll has to be moved rapidly up and down. If the work is done with sufficient force and rapidity it causes a wheel to revolve and raises a small weight.
Number two is the Whistle Baton. This resembles a conductor's stick, but its top consists of a hollow cylinder in which works a little piston. The student, grasping the stick firmly, beats 4-4 time in the ordinary manner. If this is done with sufficient strength and rapidity the piston is driven violently up to the top of the cylinder and causes a whistle to sound.
Number three is a box from which projects a key of the usual type. if depressed with sufficient rapidity or lifted quickly enough a bell is sounded.
Number four is designated the Scissors Extender. This is a brass pillar supporting at the top a bell; on a projecting arm is pivoted an arrangement resembling a pair of scissors and consisting of two slender bent wires having grooves at the bottom in which to insert the tips of two fingers. If the fingers are suddenly parted with sufficient force it causes a small ball to fly up and strike the bell. All these exercises can be regulated in difficulty as desired by the student, and it was stated that as little as ten minutes a day practice with them would be of more use than hours of dreary scale and five-finger work.
Curiously, Smith would later disregard such apparatus in favour of other exercises.
Cited in: Scholes, Percy (1947) The Mirror of Music: 1844-1944. London: Novello, p. 332.