Nugget of Knowledge: Music conducting

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All conductors have certain basic motions in common

(WYTV) – How do musicians know what the conductor wants them to do?

All conductors, no matter how dramatic, have certain basic motions in common.

A conductor generally uses his or her right hand to keep the beat, a downstroke indicating the first beat of a measure, an upstroke marking the last.

A piece in 3/4 time is counted by lowering the arm down, to the right, and up.

A conductor working with a professional orchestra usually doesn’t have to mark every beat, so a conductor may not keep rigidly to those motions, maybe just a wide sweep of the hand, a natural expression to bring out how he wants the piece to sound.

The left hand brings in other instruments or voices.

The conductor doesn’t have to cue everyone. A solo player in a piano concerto knows when to come in so the conductor might concentrate on bringing in the violins at the right moment, or on quieting the cellos.

Small movements tell the orchestra to play softly, and larger gestures will bring on a crescendo.

A conductor will use short, abrupt motions for faster music, long strokes for slower passages.

Most conductors use a baton to keep the beat.

Others just use free hands. You’re conducting a choral orchestra, two hands are enough to keep the beat and the mood.

Archeologists have found pictures of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians from about 2800 B.C. The pictures show figures with hands raised in front of players with harps and flutes.

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