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Course 3: Conducting

Teacher: Curtis Hollembeak
FREE: Test your knowledge of conducting!

Developing Musical Leadership:

The goal of the music director, whether he is conducting a choir, an instrumental group, or a congregation, should be to clearly communicate his vision of the message contained in the music to the performers. This requires much forethought and a pursuit of the removal of all distractions that would cause his conducting to be unclear.

Lesson 1. Introduction to Conducting

"Ready, Begin!"

The well-rounded musician should be familiar with and be able to demonstrate the basics of traditional conducting technique. Directors should be able to clearly indicate tempo, volume levels, phrasing, accents, etc. by their gestures. Performers who understand conducting patterns will be able to better understand and follow the gestures of a competent music director.

Lesson 2. Finding the Pulse

"And-a 1, 2, 3, 4"

The first step to conducting the pulse of the music is to determine how many beats are in each measure by taking a close look at the time signature. In this lesson, we will learn how to decipher the time signature so we can choose the correct conducting pattern to use.

Lesson 3. Basic Conducting Patterns

"How to Beat Time"

The conductor uses his or her hands to communicate to a group of performers a wide variety of musical information. The most obvious element of the music directed by the conductor, is the pulse, or beat. This is done by “drawing” a specific pattern in the air, based on the number of beats per measure in the music. In this lesson, we learn to conduct a 1 beat pattern, 2 beat pattern, 3 beat pattern and 4 beat pattern.

Lesson 4. Beginning, Holding and Ending

"Starting and Stopping Together"

Now that we can determine which pattern to use, and can conduct using these basic patterns, we will learn how to begin and end a song. We will also consider how to handle fermatas, and other held-out notes, found in the middle of a piece of music.

Lesson 5. Expressive Gestures

"Make the Music Moving"

As the director of the music, you must bring to the song all the passion and energy that is required to communicate the message of the song effectively. Have a vision of what the song should sound like before you begin. Perfect the gestures that will help you communicate that vision to the performers.

Lesson 6. Advanced Conducting Patterns

"Watch This!"

When directing a slow song with a compound time signature, you may need to conduct every beat. For these situations, you should be able to perform the 6, 9, and 12 patterns. Note the larger lead-ins to the main beats. You may also on occasion run across an unusual time signature such as 5/4. This lesson will show you what to do in these more uncommon situations.

Lesson 7. The Left Hand

"Building Confidence in the Performer"

Having acquired the ability to conduct beat patterns with the right hand, we can now move on to helping performers feel comfortable and confident with other more difficult aspects of music performance, by mastering the use of the left hand. Entrances, cutoffs, volume changes, differing rhythmic patterns, and held notes are all good candidates for left hand cues.

Lesson 8. Other Body Language

"Demonstrate What You Expect"

Conducting is an ongoing dialogue between the conductor and the performer with the goal of increased unity, accuracy, excellence and musicality. The good conductor will maintain an open, relaxed stance as the basis of all conducting techniques. Then, maintaining a thorough immersion in the vivid physical, emotional and spiritual content of the music will allow the conductor’s bodily expression to communicate that content to the performers.

Lesson 9. Congregational Song Leading

"Let's All Stand Together and Sing"

One of the primary ways that a local congregation participates in a church worship service is through the singing of hymns and gospel songs. How can the song leader best guide them through a successful, vigorous, heart-warming delivery of each song?