Technique 5

Technique 5 looks at subdividing and articulation, here is a little appetiser:


Before we get going on the serious business of this chapter, let’s quickly consider the position of the music stand. If it’s too low, you will have to bend over to turn the page. If it’s too high, it can feel like a barrier between you and the musicians. If it’s too far away from you, you will need to go for a walk to turn the page. If it’s too close, you will have to bend your neck to look down at the music.

The ideal position is as low as possible, and as far away as possible, as long as you can turn the page without bending over or moving your feet.

Here’s a short video to demonstrate this.

If you conduct from memory, think about whether you should still have the stand there: there are practical and psychological reasons why it might be a good idea. If there is nothing there, it can be easy for your beat to go too low – where the stand would have been. This can be annoying for musicians further back in the ensemble as they may not be able to see your beat.

The psychological point is that it can seem a little ostentatious if the conductor dispenses with the music stand even though the musicians still have their music. For this very reason, the great Bernard Haitink always had the stand there with the score on it. He rarely opens the score, but by having it there he was putting himself on the same level as the musicians. Good leadership! 

If you are going to conduct from memory, be absolutely sure that you know the music well enough to do so if something goes wrong in the ensemble. 

A final point: being able to turn the page whilst maintaining a steady tempo is not as straightforward as it sounds. Practising this is another aspect of developing independence of the hands.

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