Thursday, 12 April 2012

Masterclass: Conducting Techniques

In our latest masterclass Gordon Herring takes readers through some invaluable conducting techniques. Gordon is musical director of the Friggory St. Bees Silver Band and recently guided them to 17th place at the Trampsmere (Birds Eye Peas) Shield.

"For a conductor, a clearly defined beat is crucial, especially if conducting a Wankers Section band. Two in a bar is easy, that's just up and down. Four in a bar I do just the same, except there's twice as many beats in each bar. Yes, I think that's right. Three in a bar is a bit more tricky, I do like a triangle, with each beat being one side of the triangle. For more complicated stuff like 5/8 or 7/8, I tend to just wave my arms in different directions or, sometimes, I just give one longer beat followed by another one that's a bit quicker".

"Discipline around the stand is also vitally important and the conductor must remain in control. If I come across a player what hasn't practiced his or her part, I make the fucker stand on a chair and play it until they get it right. We once spent a whole rehearsal listening to some fat little bitch of a horn player trying to get to grips with a chromatic run. She broke down in tears at the end, then I sacked her. It sounds harsh, but sometimes it has to be done".

"Bluffing, or 'bullshitting' as Herbert von Carrier-Pigeon once put it, is the most useful tool in the conductor's armoury. If I fuck up beating a bar I stop and pretend I meant to do it to see if they were watching. Then I ask them something like have they ever heard the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's recording of the piece. By that stage they're so confused they forget I've fucked up at all".

"Finally, sort the finances! Remember, most people who apply for vacant conducting jobs are fucking useless. Even if the band is really shit I hold out for at least £50 a rehearsal"

"Best wishes, Gordon".