1.7 Workbook Exercises

Workbook Exercises

We believe in connecting what you learn about technique to real music-making right from the very beginning. In all of the technique chapters in the main ConductIT website you will find material from the ConductIT Workbook.

The ConductIT Workbook is a series of short excerpts chosen to demonstrate specific technical points. You will see three videos demonstrating each extract:

  • Conductor Only View
  • Ensemble View
  • Conductor Plus Score View

You can download the score, a piano reduction, and instrumental parts in a wide variety of transpositions to practise yourself. In the Library you will find all this material in one place, including additional excerpts that don’t feature in the individual lessons. Many of the conductors in the videos are themselves students, albeit some of them with quite a lot of experience. This is intended to expose you to conductors at different stages of their development, rather than just the famous ones you might see on YouTube.

Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet (Fantasy Overture)

The focus of this excerpt is conducting in a legato style in 4/4 time. At this quite slow tempo, and with a very straightforward rhythm, one preparatory gesture is all that is needed. Note that there is no “click” in the beat, just a change of direction in order to convey legato. The wrist is relaxed, but the elbow is where most of the motion comes from. The crescendo and poco piu forte are indicated by using a slightly larger beat. When the music stops in bar 7, the conductor gives an impulse on the second beat in order to help the ensemble restart on the third beat. Notice also that the conductor doesn’t beat through the last note.

A final point to introduce at this stage is the importance of breathing. This is vital with wind and brass players and singers, but extremely helpful at all times. Your breath should not be audible (no hissing please!) but it should be visible, so try to inhale through your mouth – exactly as you would if you were about to sing or play a wind instrument.

1. Conductor only view

2. Ensemble view

3. Conductor plus score view

Mendelssohn – Symphony No.3, 1st movement

Here we look at 3/4 time, also in a legato style. The tempo is a little faster than in the Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet (Workbook 1), but still very moderate. Notice how the conductor increases and decreases the space he uses as the music gets louder and softer. It can be useful to visualise a frame within which your gestures take place – as this increases the frame gets wider and higher, but the beats all land on the same horizontal level at the bottom of the frame – see Figure 1.17.

Fig 1.17: Visualising a frame

Don’t worry too much about what your other hand is doing at this stage, but you will see how the conductor uses his left hand to show where the top of the crescendo is each time, and what sort of articulation he wants from the players at those points.

1. Conductor only view

2. Ensemble view

3. Conductor pluss score view

Tchaikovsky – Overture to the Nutcracker

Now we are in 2/4 time, the tempo is much quicker, and the character of the music is staccato. As a general rule, the quicker the beats the conductor gives, the less distance those beats should travel. Too much distance travelled in a short space of time can look frantic and is difficult for the musicians to process. In addition, to convey the staccato, the beat takes place in the wrist to give a short click for each beat. Note how the beat becomes more energetic (and not that much bigger) on the repetition when the dynamic changes to forte, and the way the conductor uses her left hand to show the accents. In particular, even though the third accent is on the off-beat, it is still indicated on the quarter note beat preceding it.

1 Conductor

2. Ensemble view

3. Conductor plus score view

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