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#3173910 11/29/21 03:33 AM
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How do conducters count time? Its different to how musicians would count isn't it ?

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Not really, but there is latency. Like an organist, a conductor has to be a little bit ahead of the beat, so the musicians have time to respond to the cues.


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It is not so much that the conductor is ahead of the beat than it is that the musicians are behind it. Orchestral musicians are trained to wait for the "click" of the baton before starting a note. This results in a few millisecond delay from what the conductor is doing to when the sound is produced.

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Originally Posted by Tatum125s
How do conducters count time? Its different to how musicians would count isn't it ?
Conductors count beats just like any other musician, because they are musicians smirk .

Most of them didn't start as conductors - they played violin, piano, whatever. (And these days, many pianists have turned into almost full-time conductors when they 'matured', starting by directing orchestras from the piano.) So, they learnt to keep time like anyone else.

Incidentally, if you did ABRSM exams, you'd also learn to conduct, because beating time to music is one of the aural tests.

As for orchestras playing "behind the beat", I believe there is one venerable European orchestra that plays almost a whole beat behind the conductor......


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Daniel Barenboim addressed this in his book A Life In Music. He explained that some instruments, like the brass, have to be cued ahead of the other instruments because there is a slight delay between blowing and the sound emerging and because they are usually placed at the back of the orchestra. IOW, to get all the instruments to play together, you have to cue them based on the sound delay and as BDB said, response time.

Last edited by Gooddog; 11/29/21 07:53 PM.

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I’m not sure I understand the question. I’m a conductor for my day job (public school band director). Although most of my energy and training is devoted to pedagogy rather than conducting, I have had several conducting classes at both the undergrad and graduate level. I count exactly he same way the students do, especially since I’m the one who teaches them the counting system. And they are trained to respond exactly in time with the baton, just like a visual metronome. Now there is a slight delay in the time it takes for a wind instrument to go from silence to vibration and sound, but that only applies to a cold start. And the latency is very small. But it can create problems lining up an initial attack between winds and piano or percussion.
Now, as a teacher/conductor, my main goal is clarity. Some of these professional orchestra conductors are all about the feel and movement. They can be very hard to follow.

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Originally Posted by EvanDale
[...] Some of these professional orchestra conductors are all about the feel and movement. They can be very hard to follow.

Agreed. I couldn't follow Karajan in the above video! Perhaps, after working under him, orchestra members get to learn to understand his conducting style and how to adapt to it. But that would have to be quick; I doubt that Karajan would tolerate a "slow learner!"

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Von Karajan's predecessor at the Berlin Philharmonic apparently was quite difficult to follow. I read somewhere (Schonberg's The Great Conductors?) that Furtwangler would start by sort of rocking one hand while lowering it slowly, and somehow the orchestra knew when to start, in the middle of its descent.

The Schonberg book is probably worth reading. I read it long ago, and this reminded me that I still had it.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Von Karajan's predecessor at the Berlin Philharmonic apparently was quite difficult to follow. I read somewhere (Schonberg's The Great Conductors?) that Furtwangler would start by sort of rocking one hand while lowering it slowly, and somehow the orchestra knew when to start, in the middle of its descent.

The Schonberg book is probably worth reading. I read it long ago, and this reminded me that I still had it.

I thought I read that the orchestra members knew how many shirt buttons to wait in order to account for the various delays.

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funnily enough a conductor is also a musician, I don't see any discrepancy there, all musicians (need to) count.


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Here is a dissertation from last year on conductors and the delayed beat. I haven't read the whole thing, but can already tell that there is a good amount of interesting information included on the subject.

https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1184&context=music_etds


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