Getting Started Conducting

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Thirteen Ball, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Hi All.

    I've fancied trying my hand at conducting for a while now - and am anxious to do thing properly.

    Being a writer and arranger myself I'm fairly familiar with scores already, and though I've had lots of advice about standing and waving at mirrors and that sort of thing, it's been difficult to work out where is best to start. Obviously borrowing some rehearsal time and working with a band is only of limited use unless I've done the groundwork first!

    It's also very obvious from watching several live performances and youtube videos that there is no such thing as 'conducting.' Because Orchestral, Choir, Military and Brass all have very different styles and methods.

    I'm primarily interested in brass band conducting, so what I'd really like to know is:

    1) Are there any tutor books, handbooks or similar literature I can read up on things in?

    2) Anyone know of a conductors course in the yorkshire area for enthusiastic novices, specifically aimed at brass bands?

    Cheers Y'all.

  2. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Down beat??? ;)
  3. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    YHBBA run a course i'm sure have a look at

    I ended up conducting as I was banging a bass drunm for a marching rehearsal for our then 2nd band in the organisation (Gawthorpe) and their conductor didn't show, so after marching round the playground for 45 mins, starting and stopping etc, we went in and I took the baton and we worked through a few marches, nice easy start even I dont' get lost in 2! Then sadly their conductor was ill and I was drafted in for cover, the band and I got on and off I went from there.

    I dont' know Andi - you've sat under enough good and bad conductors to know what works for you, the straight forward answer is if you liked as a player then the band you're conducting will like it too. The hardest thing is the man management and no-one runs courses on that. . .
  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

  5. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member

    Hi Andi,

    The YHBBA Conductors Course is on Sunday 6th December at the Friendly Bandroom in Sowerby Bridge.

    Info here.

    I've already signed up, it'll be good to see a familiar face! :D

  6. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

    There's a book called The Art of Conducting which was given to me, but I'm unsure of the author. Will post it and its ISBN here ASAP.
  7. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member


    Selecting proper music is not easy, either.

    Actually, waving your arms around is the easiest part.

    Best advice I received when I first started - keep it simple!

    Good luck!
  8. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    I second the Ray Farr DVD / book suggestion. The biggest challenge I had (have) is the feedback loop between what I expect to hear, what I'm actually hearing, and how to change things in real time. For me the difference between playing and conducting is like the difference between riding a bike and riding a horse; sometimes the horse has a mind of its own..
  9. Kjata

    Kjata Member

    I don't bother with expensive books, but look closely at conductors who have taken me (must be a first I know to actually look at a conductor) and emulate the basic ideas and then develop that style, and eventually you get an amalgamation of lots of styles!
  10. Mr Guinness

    Mr Guinness Member

    I believe Ray Steadman Allen may have written a book about it. It was either that or sausages - I can't remember....... :tongue:
  11. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    There are a few books from the brass band perspective. There are a lot of books from the orchestral end of things too by the old masters but they are more focussed on score dissection and stick technique than effective rehearsing.

    I got about half way through a book before getting bored after discovering:

    a) half of it was ****** obvious (the first beat is the strong beat? Blimey...)

    b) the other half I disagreed with (the conductor should stay out of the pub?!?)

    Ploughboy has it right, you've seen enough (good and bad) and you're more than intelligent enough to know what's likely to work well and what isn't.

    Start simple - practise a clear, controlled beat with your right hand and think about the most effective way to improve the playing of the band in front of you. Resist the urge to jump around and try not to play their instruments with your hands.

    Jump in! You'll make mistakes, but you're bright enough and humble enough to learn from them! I reckon you could be good at it.

    Be prepared to go back to the bottom of the ladder... I remember getting started and getting grilled by a 4th section band about my musical ability and experience :)

    This thread is probably more useful than a book

    And finally, you know enough experienced conductors at all levels who will be happy to offer advice and criticism if you get stuck!
  12. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Just an update to this thread to bring it all into the present. Thanks for all the advice everyone. I've been standing in front of mirors conducting along to my Ipod when no-one's looking, and trying to work my way through the odd score I've never seen before for a couple of weeks now. I'm going on the YHBBA conductors course this weekend (thanks for the tip-off, Darryl!) so will see where I go from there.

    You never know, I might be good at it. I might just as likely be rubbish at it, but at least I'll soon have an idea either way - plus an an opportunity to learn from Dick the Stick is not to be sneezed at!

    Thanks again for your advice everyone.
  13. Columbo

    Columbo Member

    This is very true indeed. In some cases it can be easier to take rehearsals for a higher section band for example, however going back to grass roots and training 3rd/4th Section bands can be extremely challenging as I have experienced. That said I agree with nethers, 'jump in' and make the mistakes. It is a great learning experience and can result in extreme character building. It can be quite a wake up call and humbling at the same time. There is more to conducting than wagging the stick and playing music. Its also a people game. Be prepared to learn from these mistakes and you'll also find that if you are honest enough to admit them, you shall gain great respect also. No one is an expert to start with and as quite rightly stated by ploughboy and brasscrest, no amount of reading books can fully prepare you for the physical experience. You definitely learn to look at yourself and acknowledge your shortfalls. Take all the advice you can get from those who are more experienced. There is no such things a a silly question. Just what you do and don't know. Good luck with your endeavours! ;)
  14. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    I agree with a lot of the above.
    It's very easy to get bogged down reading all the theory about conducting but sooner or later you've just got to take that big breath and do it.
    Just make sure your beat technique is clear and as near to second nature as can be, so you don't have to be thinking about it all the time. That's where your practice comes in.
    Then, just be yourself and trust your own judgement. Do some auditions, be prepared to take the knock-backs but don't be afraid to ask for feed-back afterwards. It can be painful but necessary.
  15. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member

    I certainly agree with the "Get out and try it" school of learning to conduct. I've been conducting the University of York Brass Band for about 6 weeks now and it's going quite well! :D
    I must admit to being a little apprehensive at first (in truth, I was cr**ing myself!!) :eek: but I'm now getting the hang of things like time signature and tempo changes. The band have been quite patient as well!! :clap: (I guess it helps with the band being a new band)

    Andi, I'll see you there on Sunday - at the moment, I need all the help I can get and this is an ideal opportunity to learn from one of the best!

  16. Lucy V

    Lucy V New Member

    I truly admire all of you for having a go. I would absolutely love to conduct a band, it's something I've wanted to do for ages but just haven't got the nerve to do it. I'm so afraid of making a total idiot of myself.

    Starting with the basics, I just don't know if I've got the coordination to conduct, follow the score and give my full attention to what's going on in the band all at the same time (each individually is fine but all together.....?).

    Sunday sounds like a superb opportunity to learn from the best.

  17. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Andi I have no doubt that you will be a good conductor. Seen enough of your posts to know that you have a great deal of knowledge and musical understanding plus you seem a really nice guy. Go for it, take all the opportunities offered and I`ll look out for your name as famous MD very soon.

    Lucy - same advice - go for it girl - what have you got to lose by trying?
  18. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Gosh.... Thanks!! :) :oops:

    I shouldn't expect it to be soon that I take on a band full-time though, I still have a massive amount to learn. We'll see what happens tomorow....

    Thanks for the vote of confidence though!
  19. i started conducting Rogerstone age 19 not havin taken a band rehersal ever before, first of all it was so worrying but, just went with it and im in still ther now! its great fun!
  20. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Just back from the YHBBA conductor's course in sowerby bridge, and what a brilliant experience it was too!

    Mr Evans was very approachable and extremely helpful, enthusiastic but patient and I've got about five pages of notes from his advice to refer back to. He was also hilarious and made everyone feel right at home, and has the sort of stories I could listen to all day! I feel like I learned more today about music than I have in any single day in the past five years, and I've come home absolutely buzzing. Thanks Mr Evans!! :)

    I also have to offer up a massive thankyou to the YHBBA for putting the course on, and for making it as good as it is. The venue was great, the food was fantastic, (sunday roast, worth the fee on it's own!) the course tutor couldn't have been better, and it was all round a great day. And all that for twenty-five quid! I'd have happily paid twice that if i'd known it was going to be so good. :clap:

    And a big thankyou to the Friendly band for putting up with all us novices waving bits of wood at them and frequently getting things wrong. I realise it must have been a kick in the chops for you all, blowing for that long with us lot at the front, but it really was well appreciated. Thankyou all!

    Seriously folks, if you have the faintest interest in conducting, even if you only take the odd hymn tune to warm the band up when your regular stick waver's stuck in traffic, I really can't think of a better way to spend the price of a couple of DVDs. When next year's event comes round, sign up. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!