Basic Conducting Technique
- What it Means to Be a Choir Director
- Why Technique Matters
- Proper Arm and Hand Position
- Proper Stand Position
- Basic Patterns
- Preparatory Beats
- Phrasing and Articulation
Proper Arm and Hand Position
Beat patterns are given by the right arm, even if you are left-handed. Mirroring, or using both arms to conduct the pattern, should be avoided. The palm remains down with the wrist loose and flexible, the fingers naturally curved, and the thumb resting alongside the hand (rather than jutting out – a common tendency), much as the arm would appear at rest on a tabletop. Do not twirl your fingers, undulate from the wrist, sway the body, etc. when conducting. Some may feel such mannerisms are expressive, but they are actually distracting and contribute little to gestural clarity.
Your primary conducting space is directly in front of your body, between the shoulders and waist. The downbeat should always drop as though coming straight down the button line of your shirt. Conducting off to the side, up in front of your face, or down low by the navel, restricts visibility (especially when working with instrumentalists) and/or forces your ensemble to choose between looking at your gesture or your face, both of which are vitally important to communicating the musical events of the piece. With your hands and arms at a natural and comfortable height, centered directly in front of your body, your communication is clearer, more direct, and more compelling.
Conductors often find themselves in less than ideal rehearsal or even performing spaces where it may be a challenge to maintain ideal positioning. Always adjust the height of your music stand or elevate your body with the use of some kind of stool or platform rather than moving your arms and hands out of proper position. Make whatever adjustments are necessary to keep your arms centered in front of you body.