As conductors, we are tasked with communicating the written score to an audience through our ensembles. Here are two habits in rehearsals we can break.

It is not the easiest of tasks. Conductors take music in its written form and ask musicians to create and combine sounds in order to breath life into ink. To do this, we study the score and rehearse our ensembles as efficiently as possible. It takes effective communication to make it happen.

However, what we say and what we show in our gestures are not always the same. And, as we all know, some students learn by seeing and other by hearing. For rehearsals to be their best, matching our verbal communication with physical movements helps.

There are two common moments of miscommunication that happen almost simultaneously before the first sound is created. The first of which is our breath during a preparatory gesture. Many of us spend time working on appropriate breathing techniques with our groups. We ask for an open “O” formation in our mouth, like we are saying “woah.” This helps create a full, deep, relaxed breath. Yet, when we give a prep beat, our faces are tense or we breathe through our nose.

Tip 1: Show the breath you want your ensemble to execute.

If we want our musicians to take a full, relaxed breath, we should also take that type of breath. It will help them perform as requested and improve timing.

Along with our breath comes out eyes. At the conclusion of our preparatory gesture sound should be created. Often, this first sound is not exactly together. Our response is often “if you watch, you won’t be late.” Or, “get your eyes out of the stands.” Maybe your ensemble doesn’t watch because you drop your head to the score before the sound starts. You are not watching them. The line of communication is broken.

Tip 2: Keep your eyes up as the sound is initiated.

While these seem easy to fix, old habits are hard to break. There are times in which I still struggle with these. But, fixing this will help rehearsals improve significantly.

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