Adrian Casas Lupercio - conducting expert

How to Make an Ensemble Start Playing

Essential advice for all aspiring conductors

In this video, Adrian discusses the best way to make an ensemble start playing.

Released on August 5, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone. My name is Adrian Casas. I am a violinist and conductor from Regina, Canada. And we are here today to talk about how to start an ensemble or how to start an orchestra or a band or a choir.

So, in conducting, we have what we call downbeats, which is basically marking each of the beats, that is, into a bar. But we also have upbeats or more accurately said, preparatory motions. And it's basically a motion that happens from the beat point and happens on the anacrusis of the next bar or the phrase to follow. And it's very useful to start new phrases for changes of tempo or to start an ensemble. In order to have a successful preparatory motion, just make sure that your preparatory motion comes from the beat point or the ictus point or the conducting plane rather than into it. In other words, you're basically telling the musicians, up and go

So try to not have an extra motion in there, so to avoid a false start. So don't have a flick or a dig. Don't dig into the preparatory motion before you go up, or don't have a flick before you go up. You simply start very quietly and very sticky from the beat point, up and go, right? Think of an object that, depends how heavy the object is or depends how loud or how soft or the quality of the sound on your first beat, is going to be the object on the anacrusis. And you want to throw that object up and then catch it on the first beat. So if the first beat is very loud or your first beat is very loud then your object is going to be very heavy and you're going to throw it up and catch it quite heavily. If your first beat is light and soft and very calm, then perhaps your object is a little bit more light, like a feather, and it's not going to take too much effort to catch it.

The next tip is, take some time to think about the music before you start. So listen in your head the first few beats, the first few bars or the first few notes of your piece and try to center those first few bars before you give a preparatory motion. And what is going to happen is it's going to give you a more accurate sense of how your preparatory motion is going to feel. Now on a stage or when you're on rehearsal, it does feel forever. It feels like you're taking forever and you're wasting their time, but it's actually not. And your musicians and their audience will know that you're concentrating and you're gathering your thoughts to start. So take as long as you need, and it gets easier and it gets faster as you go.

And the last thing to consider or one last tip from me is think of supervision. So whether if your beat is divided into two or your beat is in divided into three it's going to give you a sense of how your preparatory emotion is going to look and is going to feel, right. So let's say for example, four bar, where did the anacrusis is on the four beat and the beat is divided into two say, then you go four and one, right? So notice that, we did a subdivision for each of the eight notes, four and one, but you can also add more subdivisions in there. So you can think instead of eight notes, you can think of 16 notes, for example, 40 and a one, right. What that creates is it helps you to start the entire ensemble together. If your subdivision is your, pardon me, your subdivision is into three, then same thing. You just go four and the one, right. And same thing that will just allow you to start the ensemble all together.

One last thing before you go is go to my videos, to my previous videos and check out the video about the beat, where I talk about the beat and where I talk about acceleration and deceleration into the beat point. And see how that also transfers into preparatory motions or how to start an ensemble. Thank you very much for watching. If are interested in this topic, or you want to go into more detail, just subscribe to my lessons and we can talk about these in even more detail. Thank you very much.
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