1.5.1 Using the Arms Correctly

Let’s spend a little bit of time exploring in more detail the different parts of our arm than can move when we are conducting. The three joints or hinges are wrist, elbow and shoulder. If using a baton we can also create movement at the tip of the baton just by moving our fingers. Which of these we use, and how they interrelate with each other is crucial. You can think of them a bit like gears on a car or bicycle. If using the wrist only, the gesture will be small and focused. It can be energetic, whilst also being light, and is therefore good for staccato. The elbow and shoulder should be static. 

Using the elbow will increase the size of the gesture and enable much more horizontal movement. It is useful for legato, or to show strong impulses combined with flowing motion. The wrist should have some flexibility, but not too much or the beat will be too loose.

Using the shoulder increases the potential size of the gesture again. As the size of the gesture increases, the speed at which your arm moves needs to also increase in order to maintain the same tempo. This sounds incredibly obvious, but it is really important to remember! 

Work through activities 1 “Small to Large Gestures” and 2 “Checking your Movements”.

Activity 1 – Small to Large Gestures

(allow around 5 minutes for this activity)

Put a metronome on at 120 beats per minute and try conducting along with a very small gesture. Maintain that tempo and get steadily bigger and bigger. What happens?

Note how much harder it becomes to do this action accurately, not to mention how tiring. If your brain is concentrating so much on keeping up with yourself, you have fewer brain cells left to listen! Small is good.

Activity 2 – Checking your Movements

(allow around 10 minutes for this activity)

Watch this video that shows an exercise you can do to practise moving through the gears and being aware of which hinge is in charge. Then try it yourself.

Scroll to Top