What makes a good conductor?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ComputerBloke, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. ComputerBloke

    ComputerBloke Member

    This is likely to cause controversy....

    What makes a good conductor and what makes a bad one?
  2. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    What makes a good conductor:

    Someone who has an understanding of the piece
    Someone who has an understanding of the instrumentation
    Good stick technique
    A plan
  3. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    Someone who has a good "bed side manner" to put the band at ease
    Someone who is firm but fair
    Someone who does not wave his/hers arms about like a rag doll
  4. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Good (in no particular order)
    1. Clear, consistent beat in all time signatures
    2. Ability to hear what the various parts are doing
    3. Knowledge of the literature
    4. Ability to properly plan and conduct a rehearsal
    5. Patience
    6. Communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal
    7. Musical sense
    8. Common sense
    Bad (again, in no particular order)
    1. Inability to adapt to the specific group of players on hand
    2. Inconsistent instruction (varying from rehearsal to rehearsal, or even between "takes" in the same rehearsal)
    3. Poor interpersonal skills
    4. Lack of commitment
    5. Puts oneself into the show rather than directing the show (some conductors seem to believe that they should be the center of attention rather than the music)
    6. Poor rehearsal technique
    Some things that don't matter (yet again, no particular order)
    1. Which hand is holding the baton
    2. Whether or not a baton is even in use
    3. Conductor's personal ability to play on any or all instruments
    4. Gender
    5. Color, race, nationality
  5. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member

    Good conductor - A person who can instill the right sense of "musical hunger" in a band while communicating ideas in an effective and professional way. Inspriation, that's what it's about...
  6. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    to add to the above...

    someone who can create a picture of the piece in the players minds to make them play like it should be heard.
  7. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    A good conductor: someone who can motivate, enthuse, instill passion and make a great job with the resources available to them... as well as making it enjoyable for everyone concerned.
  8. cornet.kid

    cornet.kid Member

    good conductors...

    To me it doesnt mater at all what the conductor does as long as you enjoy the rehearsals and (more importantly) get the results you want at contests. This said you still need a good enough group of players....
  9. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    There is a famous trick question that teachers get asked during interviews.

    the question - "What do you teach?"

    the correct answer - "students"

    I think almost ahead of anything already stated, having a good rapport with the band is most important. If it is not there band is no fun, which is why we are all there.

    The second most important thing to me is keeping a clear and steady beat.

    Also, I think (contrary to many) that knowledge of the conducted ensembles repetoire is very important.
  10. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Isn't all that easier to acheive with a good conductor stood in the middle though?

    I'd second pretty much everything people have already said, and if I had to add anything it would have to be the ability to treat everyone the same and fairly - even if they are married to one player and hate another!
  11. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    [I always seem to over-compensate and end up giving my wife more grief in rehearsal than anybody else - lucky she's a good sport really ... ]

  12. Yevgeny

    Yevgeny New Member

    The ability to inspire, coupled with the best musicianship.
  13. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    I'm not sure that this is a requirement. Sometimes the best musicians don't have the time, desire, temperment, etc. to do a good job as conductor. When I took over the band I conduct in 1999, there were at least four other people in the group who were far better musicians than I am. But none of them were in a position where it was possible for them to lead the group, for a number of different reasons. Fortunately, I could rely on them for support and advice when needed, which made things much easier for me.
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    As well as many of the factors listed above, conductors should also be good sight-readers and be seen to have done their homework on selected pieces.
  15. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    What makes a good conductor? The full, total and complete support of the band, good attendance at all rehearsals, players that practice hard, a large music budget and good resources are all vital.

    The support of a partner who understands the need to buy every band CD (then listen to one track repeatedly until it accompanies their dreams) and who accepts the need to write down next year's summer programme on the back of every envelope in the house is also useful.

    Players who tell the conductor that he's not doing such a bad job from time to time can also contribute to the band's success.

  16. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    A good conductor is...(in my opinion)

    1) Someone who doesn't shout all the time
    2) Has to have patience with the players
    3) Makes rehearsals fun! :)
    4) Knows what they're on about (might help :p )

    (rehearsals start to get boring when they're strict, cus I can't sit down and shut up for that long.. unless the music is like amazing :p ) lol
  17. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    It's been interesting reading the replies to this thread, and it is clear that most people are thinking in terms of the requirements for a "resident conductor" for want of a better term, ie a conductor who is going to work permanently, or at least over a period, with a group.

    The reason I make that point is that some of the "best" conductors I've played under, at least on one-off occasions, have been more likely to inspire awe, if not fear and dread, rather than any thoughts of friendship. Nevertheless they'e been able to produce incredible results, even with somewhat mediocre forces.

    Just another aspect to be borne in mind ;)
  18. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    The best conductors are silver, copper and aluminium.
    Other quite good conductors are gold, iron, steel, mercury, gold, magnesium, nickel and sea water.

    Well, come on - somebody had to say it ;)

    The best musical conductors are very hard to define. They have to know the repertoire (of course) and have to to have immediate command of the band. Some people walk into a bandroom and everyone immediately takes notice of what they say. Frequently this comes with a reputation built up over years (I am sure many of us can think of brass band conductors for whom this is the case).

    You need someone who is going to get the job done, without offending anybody too badly. Sometimes it is necessary to shout, sometimes it is necessary to knock somebody off their perch. A good conductor will know how to do this without causing serious offence (or will be able to take the flack if they do cause offence!).

    Musicality must come first, but band-diplomacy is a very useful additional tool.
  19. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    But can they punch tickets ;)
  20. peatair

    peatair Member

    There are some really good points already mentioned. In many bands the players will not deliver the instant super performance. The conductor needs to have massive patience and the skills needed to encourage the players until the music is as good as it can be. This includes working with those who have actually attended a rehearsal and not worrying too much about the absences. After all, those who come have to enjoy the experience.

    How a conductor tackles the really difficult piece is also important. We all need to be "stretched" by such music but I have known conductors flog a piece when the band was clearly struggling. Such pieces need to be taken in smaller chunks and worked on gradually.
    I have also known conductors take a piece out entirely because, for example, the intonation was not quite right. That to my mind is to fail: the whole purpose of the conductor's role is surely to improve the band musically.