Adrian Casas Lupercio - conducting expert

The Beat

A very interesting lesson for all beginning conductors

In this video, Adrian explains how to deal with the beat and how to practice your movement correctly.

Released on March 4, 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'm a violinist and conductor from Regina, Canada and we are here today to talk about the beat. One of the first tasks that we're given as conductors is to direct the speed at which the music is going to be performed. Now you as a musician know that music is measured in small units of time named the beat. Now when you are playing with small ensembles such as string quartet, or a trio, or a duet, you probably rely on each of the musicians in your group as well as your own personal practice to know when to start, when to stop and how fast to play. However, if you played in a large ensemble such as a wind band, or a symphony orchestra, or a choir, you probably have realized that there are too many things to think about.

You have to play the music that is in front of you. You have to make sure that you are together with your section. You also have to be listening to the rest of the sections in the ensemble. And on top of that you have to be looking at the conductor. So as conductors, one of the best things you can do for your ensemble is to provide them with a clear beat to maintain unity within the ensemble. Now, there are many ways to think about when it comes to a clear beat, but the first few things that you might want to consider is that the beat has to be predictable, it has to be visual, and it has to be accurate. Now there are many ways to add these three elements to the beat. However, these are a couple of ideas that I have found very useful. So here it is.

With the tip of your Baton. Let's imagine a circular motion. Now if you make a circular motion at a consistent speed, you might be able to predict when that circular motion is going to complete a full rotation. However, this requires your full attention. Now if you think about it, the musician is only looking at you with the corner of their eye or just using their peripheral vision. So the beat might not be very predictable in this case. So there are a couple of ingredients that you can add to the motion in order to make the beat more predictable. And that is acceleration and deceleration.

Now let's take that circular motion again, but at acceleration towards the beat point and deceleration when you come out of the beat point. In other words, get faster when you approach the beat point and then slow down after you come out of the beat point. You will probably notice that the beat becomes more and more predictable. A very similar effect that happens by adding acceleration and deceleration. If you notice at the motion, there is a moment of the motion that it becomes the slowest before changing direction. In some schools of conducting like the sight of technique. This is called the secondary beat point and it is a very powerful tool if you want to empower the musicians who are using just the peripheral vision to predict when the beat point is going to happen.

Now let's explore the idea of a bouncing ball. A bouncing ball has the same elements of acceleration and deceleration that we discussed before. A bouncing ball accelerates before reaching the bottom of the motion and then decelerates when it bounces up into the air. It also has a secondary beat point. Or the moment when the motion becomes this lowest or it stops before changing direction. The only difference is that with the bouncing ball we are showing a vertical motion to demonstrate the beat.

Now how much acceleration and deceleration you are going to use. It will depend on the music that you have in front of you. In the following videos, we're going to explore how to apply these ideas or these techniques to basic and complex big patterns, as well as how to apply acceleration and deceleration to convene the music that you are performing. For now, just try these with your ensemble. Whether if you're an experienced conductor that you want to try new ideas or you're a beginner conductor, just go with your ensemble and try these two basic motions. Make them count, or play a note, or clap. And try first for the circle and then acceleration and deceleration. You can also try the bouncing ball. You will be very pleased on how easy is for them to find the beat.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sandra Sedivy * VSM MEMBER * on March 4, 2020 @8:38 pm PST
As a pianist, I often find myself responsible for the beat when working in a small group. This was helpful! Thank you.
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