Conductors Part 2


From my last posting which was placed on Tuesday 25th November. There has been many remarks about what a conductor is and who this person should be. It's been very interesting reading the views of so many of us conductors. But it would also be good to hear from some of the players out there who have to listen to us in the middle.

What do you as a player think makes a good conductor and why?

That's question 1 now from all our replies to the first posting there was some main areas what came up.

These were
Communication Skills Yes I agree We do need good skills to get what we want out of the music. But do we sometimes forget that how we see it the players don't. For example telling a back row cornet player it's easy. When to them it's not and if we can't help them to see it's easy then are communicatiuon skills have gone.

Telling them just practise.
I am not saying am the greatest guy in the middle and never will be but we must remeber that in the modern world there is so much to offer us out there i.e women, pubs,clubs and sport. So when we have these players in front of us for 2 hours or 4 hours a week, we must make the most of them and have ours goals of what do we want the players to achieve from entering the bandroom to leaving the bandroom?

Training. you don't need training as such you learn as you go on as long as you have a cool head and know what your talking about then your half way there. The stick waving comes through time. There's so many different ways of beating out there and none of them are wrong as long as the players can follow.

Video taping Yes I have done this and it does work. Even doing it in front of the mirror helps I feel. Even if you can't video your self. recording yourself on to tape helps it's amazing what you pick up from the tone of your voice and others around you. Plus you can pick up some great gossip.

If you disagree then say so if you agree then add your comments because in the long run it can only improve us.

Dave Payn

Active Member
I'm active as a player and conductor and certainly go along with what's been said. I did suggest that training would be useful for MDs of lower section bands, but should really have added that a lot of that training could be sub conscious, i.e. you pick things up from listening to and watching other conductors. Though I did receive formal musical training, most of what I believe I've learned conducting wise has been from watching and learning from others, particularly with regard to brass bands. After all, I took my A Level music in 1982, and attended the RCM for a year thereafter but I hadn't seen a brass band score by then. I only really started conducting in dribs and drabs towards the end of the 1980s and reading brass band scores can be a frightening prospect for the uninitiated!

I also know I've got a long, long way to go in the learning process and as I intimated in a previous thread, that represents a welome challenge to me, so thoughts about what players look for in a conductor would be most welcome. Thank you IJK for starting a very useful couple of threads for us arm wavers (sorry, I don't use a baton!)



Active Member
Complex one this, but as a player I would say being able to communicate what you want to the players is the most important thing. Without that you might as well put a metronome in the middle. Having said that, this covers a multiple of sins, from actual talking to body language, the way you move the baton (or your hands/arms if you don't use one), and how you communicate (musically, that is) to them outside the actual rehearsal time, amongst others.
Knowing the abilities of your players, stretching them just enough to improve them but not so much as they get disheartened, encouraging them (very important). One of my pet hates is a conductor who just says "that's wrong" (or some variation thereof :) ) but never tells you why it's wrong. How are you supposed to know what they want?
It's also possible to tell players off and encourage them at the same time, without upsetting them. If you can do that I would say you've probably cracked it as a man-manager/trainer.
I also think any player who moans about conductors should think about having a go one night, it might make them think differently. I took our training band for a rehearsal at short notice once, it took all my concentration just to keep 1..2..3..4 going properly (sometimes it was 1!). Boy was I tired at the end, and it was only an hour!

James McFadyen

New Member
I practice my baton technique in front of a mirror, it helps me lots and shows me what the players see, and making sure I do the right shapes at the right time.

I think communication has over-ruled baton technique in Brass Band conducting, but it always amazes me, that some BB conductors don't know they should cue people in advance and make gestures for big fz chords, etc half a beat early! and some conductors use the 'hot stove' method too often and in the wrong places. But hey baton technique is difficult!

Dave Neil, our conductor at Tullis is great, fantastic communication skills, has a laugh and makes it fun, while still being very knowlageable at picking up what the composer wrote.

I say good on all conductors, it's one thing to make comments from your seat but it's entirely different to lead! much appreciation to all conductors!

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
Beat preperation and such have been major issues at the 2 conducting courses I've been to. Now that I know, I am very conscious of other conductor's ictus's and stuff.
I think one issue I feel is missed by a great many conductors who work only with brass bands is just how much information the conductor can communicate!

In my humble opinion, the conductor is not merely there to beat time and give occasional cues - by doing only this, you are restricting the amount of information you give to your players, consequently losing their attention and having to spend a great deal of time speaking to the ensemble. Instead of stopping and criticising whenever something isn't working, for example, I think there is a three-check system to use BEFORE you criticise the players! Firstly, you need to look at what you are doing as a conductor if there is an error and try something different. If this still doesn't work after trying new ways of showing what you want in your gestures, then it is appropriate to stop and speak. I have found that trying to communicate everything I want in the music through left-hand gestures (eg. dynamics, phrasing, articulation, balance, type of sound, style) a lot more ground can be covered in a far shorter space of time!

If only conductors would look at themselves for clarity first instead of becoming too egotistical rehearsals would be far more constructive!

James McFadyen

New Member
Alan, I don't think the words 'In my humble opinion' are needed. You're a working conductor giving professional advice. Give yourself more credit, man, you're a good conductor, you're one of the ones that do cue properly and prepare the players for climax, etc in advance. And you communicate excelently and give good advice! :wink:

Product tMP members are discussing