Orchestral conducting technique: a pattern is correct if…

By Ennio Nicotra 17/10/2016

A pattern is correct if the beats inside it are all of the same and neutral character.

We often encounter patterns that connect vertical gestures to lateral diagonal gestures, to the left and to the right,  and even others, that provide in the final part  a “Christmas tree” which narrows upwards:

These patterns must be avoided. In fact if a student shows an sf and it is basically set up with an oblique lateral gesture, those aren’t the  conditions under which to realise it and to show it clearly to the musicians. Think also of a “crescendo” with the “Christmas tree” which narrows upwards! Impossible to achieve.

For these reasons, particular care must be taken when practising beating patterns, because in this phase, one may acquire defects that are later difficult to eradicate. It is also important during the learning phase of the patterns that the student understands how it is perceived by the eyes of the musicians engaged in reading the part. (click here)

The vertical gesture from above downwards is the only one that gives an equal and neutral character to all the beats of the pattern; the student can easily change the character of one of them depending on the expressive needs.

In the pattern of six in staccato, examined in the following video, we obviously have the presence of six beats of the same character. In this regard, I want to say that often during my masterclasses (and in particular in the piece in question) I am faced with students who conduct in six using the 3 + 3 pattern; that is to say they repeat the pattern of the 3 twice.

It’s wrong! It must be completely avoided! as in doing so in a bar, we have the presence of two strong time signatures, rather than just one; and also try to put yourself in the shoes of the musicians who are counting empty bars: if you aren’t especially careful when watching, after a while of seeing two strong beats, you wouldn’t know if the conductor is beating the first or the fourth beat…

Moreover it is interesting to understand how the eye of the musician engaged in reading the score perceives gestures:



By Ennio Nicotra

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