Printer-friendly version
Corwin Slack


September 29, 2007 at 1:21 AM

I am playing in an orchestra again and I have become conscious of "conductors" again after a fairly long hiatus. I think about what I like and don't like. I'll try to be positive. These are some of the characteristics of good conductors.

1. Efficient rehearsal technique: They can teach music quickly and efficiently. They don't waste time on things that are not working. Instead they find another way to teach it. They always say who is to play, what we are to play (e.g "first and second violins at measure 78 through the double bar"). They also rehearse continuity and transitions.

2. They speak in music. They use words like forte, piano, crescendo, ritardando, staccatto, legato. (as opposed to words like shimmer, glow, sparkle etc.)

3. The have a measure of understanding of the technique of each instrument. (They don't say spicatto at the tip.)

4. They have an ear. They tell you the note that is out of tune and the direction it is out of tune (sharp or flat). They can even describe a sequence of notes with direction of the intonation adjustment. (No cheating and just saying that something is out of tune.)

5. They can teach sonority. They can balance chords.

6. They enjoy conducting the classics.

And many more.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 29, 2007 at 4:55 AM
Aw, I like a good metaphor now and then. But not too many conductors can use them effectively.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on September 29, 2007 at 5:32 AM
A good conductor gives you the feeling that he is your comrade-in-arms. None of this him vs us stuff. A good conductor is also a good teacher of how the music should sound and a person who elicits your respect, caring, and enthusiasm. This is a tall order to fill, and I have been blessed with one such conductor for several years.
From Ben Clapton
Posted on September 29, 2007 at 8:44 AM
I think that a good conductor is really judges by his metaphors. Sure, he needs to know how to use the musical language, but he also needs to know the metaphors. There is a large difference between a shimmering tremolo, a ghostly tremolo and a menacing tremolo, yet if he relied solely on musical language he would only use tremolo.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 29, 2007 at 5:51 PM
One of my favorite conductors -- a Russian -- was such a master of metaphor, but also of technique: tuning the woodwinds, working through the violin passages, giving us the exact right cue from the stick. But when he told us, in a certain passage in Shostakovich 8, "You are in Siberia, in the winter, and the not...coming..." We all just GOT it. Or during that schmaltzy part of Mahler 1 in the slow movement, "So sweet, it's ROTTEN!"

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Find an Online Music Camp
Find an Online Music Camp

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine