How to conduct (for an absolute beginner)

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MrsDoyle, Jun 20, 2009.

  1. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

    Hello everyone out there in tMP-land...

    I'm thinking of learning properly how to conduct (I have only done a teensy bit). Could any MDs or any other trained conductors pass on some tips to me, such as help with how to indicate articulations properly, any books I could buy, any general advice etc.?

    I look forward to getting a response on this topic...

    Thanks all :tup
  2. QAD

    QAD Member

    Start off by just conducting the standard 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 beats in front of the mirror.
    Aim for a clear beat - particularly on the second beat in 3/4 and the third beat in 4/4 where many conductors tend to sweep and not indicate it clearly enough.
    Remember that a good beat does't have to involve large gestures. I use the size of the beat to indicate dynamic levels - small beats = low, larger beats = loud. Also you can change from flowing to sharp beats for lyrical and accented passages. One of my conducting teachers used to say imagine that the stick is hitting the inside of a box open in front of you and place the beats by hitting the sides.
    There are lots of texts out there that can help but you could just start off with wikipedia for examples of the standard beat patters
    Hope this helps.
    Of course waving your arms about is only 10 percent of conducting itself.
  3. QAD

    QAD Member

    By the way I used to know a very good conductor from you neck of the woods, Huw Gareth Williams, if he's still about in Wrexham it wouldn't hurt to get a few lessons.
  4. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    Go and watch as many different conductors as you can locally - no band should mind i doubt.
    Everyone has different styles - its all about communicating with the players in front of you at the end of the day.
  5. jockinafrock

    jockinafrock Active Member

    You don't have time to conduct...! I'm waiting on your masterpiece arrangement with bated breath...! ;)
  6. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    I recommend Ray Farr's Introduction to Conducting (Jagrins Music Publications) then actually having a go. In my experience 90% of conducting can only be learnt live in front of a band (though I'd still consider myself a beginner).
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

  8. TubaPete

    TubaPete Member

    I'd agree - experience is a great thing once you have the basics.

    In many ways, waving the arms around is only a small part of it. You also need to know:

    1. How to read a score and some basic musical analysis skills

    2. How to practise (e.g. that just going over stuff again doesn't usually fix it)

    3. How to teach - this is about understanding that your personal approach to solving a problem won't work for everyone and knowing some toher approaches that different people can try

    4. How to communicate

    5. How to motivate

    6. A good sense of rhythm and pitch

    Very few conductors have all of those skills to a high level but most of us are good enough at most of them.

    Personality is very important - I've played in and conducted some bands where the overall approach to banding has felt very much like mine, and bands where it hasn't!

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2009
  9. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

    Thanks for the advice... I'll look into the books and suchlike.
  10. Independent Silver Band

    Independent Silver Band Active Member

    One thing that I didn't see mentioned. Practice conducting CD's of numbers that you know, and have the scores. Study the scores, make your notes, then conduct the numbers. Go back through the scores, and see what works. As has been suggested, use a mirror. There are several excellent suggestions on this thread.

    Sounds like you had better finish that arrangement.
  11. TubaPete

    TubaPete Member

    I'm not sure about the mirror advice - I think I used it early on but once you get used to conducting people the way they respond will give you a better idea of what's clear and what's not.

    Another thing I'd suggest as an extension of the 'conduct to a CD' is to try conducting a piece through silently, once you know it well. You should be able to 'hear' the main melodies and rhythms in your head (sing along if you need to) - even if the pitch isn't 100% accurate it'll give you a good feel for how you can move the tempo around, particularly to add expression in slower music.

    Another handy thing might be to put Radio 3 or Classic FM on, try to work what time signature a piece of music is in and then beat along. Once you can do that OK, try subdividing the beat in your head and get a feel for where abouts in the phrase shapes professional performers pull the tempo around.

  12. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I'm taking notes too Pete!!
  13. Independent Silver Band

    Independent Silver Band Active Member

    Of course this (using a mirror) would be discontinued as experience deemed unnecessary, but as this thread was geared to the beginning conductor the technique has merit. It is valuable for the director to know what his/her visual appearance is. Having taught many student conductors in conducting classes, this technique has proved to be successful.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  14. Columbo

    Columbo Member

    As a Young Pretender myself, I'd agree with most of the posts here as they've worked for me. It must also be remembered that motivation is also a big part of 'band training'. Not withstanding the technical aspect of conducting, enthusiasm brings feeling into music also.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  15. Independent Silver Band

    Independent Silver Band Active Member

    Preach it brother !!!!!!!
  16. TubaPete

    TubaPete Member

    Indeed - and I know several experienced conductors who place a video camera behind the performers when they're conducting concerts. This gives them a chance to review it afterwards and see where they can improve what they do.

    I think video can be very useful as you're gaining experience. You soon forget it's there so get on with the job of conducting then when you review it later you can easily see where you're gestures are unclear, confusing, inconsisent or unnecessary (e.g. 'mirroring' with both hands).

    One further thing I'd suggest is try to get the chance to do some orchestral playing. Often the people who conduct good amateur orchestras are excellent. I've been lucky enough to play for John Anderson (MD for Brassed Off and internional freelance conductor), Gary Walker (now regularly conducting RPO and RSNO), David Angus (International freelance conductor), Ben Ellin (young freelance conductor) and Natalia Luis-Bassa (professor of Conducting at RCM, Mentor for Peter Snow in Maestro). These have all been relatively young but talented conductors working with amateur orchestras early in their careers. As an orchestral brass player you ahve plenty of time in rehearsals when you're not playing - an ideal opportunity to study their conducting technique and rehearsal technique!

    Of course, if you can't get orchestral playing, most amateur orchestras are still happy for people to sit in on rehearsals. If you find a conductor you like, tell them that you're interested in conducting and dveelop a relationship with them. Get your own copies of scores and they may even be happy to spend 5 or 10 minutes chatting to you about the music and their approach to it.

  17. Columbo

    Columbo Member

    Having conducted your band quite recently Pete, it has obviously worked there. I too have played under John Anderson (No comments please!), and although didn't realise it at the time, it helped me some years later. At the end of the day, if you are humble enough to learn from those with more experience, which seems to be a thing of the past nowadays, then you will progress. I have played under many conductors with different conducting and training techniques, and having put all those together, I have found that extremely useful. Believe it or not, the person I have learned more from, in a training capacity is Les Beavers, and that is after experience of Mssrs Parkes, Newsome, Cutt, Broadbent, Goodwin, Brand etc. Les is a great band trainer and as I mentioned earlier, encourages people to play with enthusiasm and vibrance, which I believe always helps a performance. I will always refer back to Les's advice and techniques when I despair at times!
  18. YRBBC

    YRBBC Member

    Any aspiring conductors, young or not so young, may be interested to know the Yorkshire & Humberside BBA are planning a Conductors Course to be tutored by Richard Evans on 6th December near Halifax.

    Further details will appear on the website in the near future or send me a message and I will put you on the list.

  19. Columbo

    Columbo Member

    I quite fancy that, but whilst confident in front of my bands, Thought of it makes me quite nervous. Can anyone put my mind at rest?
  20. Lewis Chris

    Lewis Chris Member

    Having just completed a part-time course with Ray Farr in conducting, I can well recommend a course, be it a day or two or longer. The pieces we were studying and conducting were challenging and having the opportunity to talk with the composers was a useful part of the course.

    Ray was very patient and gave good quality, constructive criticism. He let people form their own opinions and ideas, and let us try them out on the band, jumping in if they didn't work with his own ideas. (I should say a huge thank you to members of the Fishburn Band for there patience and hard work too)

    I found it extremely useful and I have benefited from this (the band I conduct have also noticed the benefits)

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