What does an orchestra conductor do? It may look like he or she is just waving a baton around in the air, probably just to keep the beat. The conductor’s job is, however, much more complicated than that!
A conductor has to have an image in his head, a very clear idea of what he wants the orchestra to sound like, at every moment. He has to know every tiny detail of the musical score – dynamics, tempo variations, where the melodies, harmonies, musical themes occur. A conductor studies a new musical score for hours before rehearsing with an orchestra.
During rehearsals, the conductor has to know how to speak to each instrument section, how to communicate to them the sounds and nuances he’d like in every part of the piece. In order to do that, he has to have a very good idea of how each instrument is played – otherwise he might ask for things that just aren’t possible to do.
Watch the videos below to hear and see more about the conductor’s role.
In the next sections you’ll explore the basic movements a conductor makes – called “conducting patterns”, and you’ll see a conductor both in rehearsal and during a concert.