Three-Beat Pattern

driehoekLike I said in the previous post, I’m busy drawing beating patterns. I just finished the pattern with three counts in a bar, like the 3/4 and 3/8 time signatures.

Below is the three beat pattern that is legato. That is, the movement on all beating points is rounded, to create a flowing sound from the musicians:

The Four-Beat Pattern

vierkantIn conducting, it is important to make fluent movements. Making the patterns really legato isn’t easy. Good drawings of the beating patterns may be helpful in the learning process. Much to my surprise, the drawings in existing books on conducting look rather bad. They are more schemes pointing in the right direction than drawings of how the actual movements should look like. Thus, I took the challenge of creating beautiful drawings of the beating patterns.

In this post we are focusing on the first one, the legato 4-beat pattern. (This is the pattern you use when there are four beats in the bar, like in the 4/4 time.) With the term legato I mean in this case that you are making fluent movements on all four beats.

Percussive Singing

Whenever you are singing fast, energetic songs, the music will sound good if you make small accents on the notes. In this way you are emphasizing the rhythmical character of the music. We might call this ‘percussive’ singing. It is opposite to the classical way of legato singing.

The term ‘legato’ is common in classical music. It indicates that you should bind the notes, preventing gaps between them. But at the same time the term is used to indicate that the notes should keep their volume, creating a continuous sound. We might depict legato like this :


In a previous post we talked about solfege. I argued that singing from sight can be best learned by giving numbers to the notes in the scale and relating all notes to the root.

The post ended with the following two short exercises:

Rehearsing Notes Without Getting Bored

Rehearsing notes with a choir is not very enthralling. The director is singing the notes (or playing them on the piano) and the singers are repeating the notes. It may take a lot of time before all voice groups know their parts. Probably the director starts with the top part (because it often is the melody) and works his way down. By the time the basses have their turn, five or ten minutes may have passed.

A director should try to make the rehearsals as interesting as possible. Below are some suggestions.


trapFor choral members it is useful to be able to sing from sight. A lot of singers hae the skills a bit. But most of the singers get stuck when the jumps get bigger than a third.

If you really want to be able to sing from sight, you will have to get a feeling for the different tones of the scale. Each tone has a specific associations, and they will help you in hitting the tone.

Positioning of a Choir

A lot of choirs always stand in the same way, lining up from highest to lowest voice. However, this is not the ideal formation. Other positions may be preferred for acoustic reasons or because they will make it easier for the singers to hear each other well.

The standard formation for classical choirs is from high to low. The highest female voice is standing at the most left side and the lowest male voice on the right:

This formation is conveniant in a lot of ways. It is easy to remember and for the conductor it is easy to find the voice groups. Furthermore, the female voice groups will hear each other well, and the same goes for the male voice groups.

The Hand

In conducting, you are using the hands to indicate different kind of expressions. For a soft sound, the palms are turned downwards. And for a large sound, the palms are turned upward. For a tender sound, you keep your hand relaxed and for a powerful sound, you make the hand solid. If you want to ask for a precise timing, you put together your thumb and indicating finger. Each pose has a different meaning.

However, sometimes you don’t want to give any expression at all, but rather you would like a neutral sound. This might be at the warm-ups for example, or while rehearsing difficult notes. What neutral pose would be suited for such a moment?

In Time

Though singing in a group is wonderful, choir members are often late for rehearsal. That’s the way it goes. Maybe it’s part of human nature. Somehow people tend to think being early is silly and being late is acceptable.

It’s a shame. Being early has a lot of benefits. You may have a little talk to the people who are dear to you, you can help arrange the chairs, make coffee, look at the sheet music. And above all, you will have the time to let go of your daily troubles and get in the mood for singing.

Basses Go First

Using a tuning fork to indicate chords is difficult. Do we really have to? A lot a directors are scared for it, because it involves a lot of steps. First you have to understand the chord, next search for the root, imagine the right notes and sing the notes with a good intonation while looking at the voice groups. Indeed, it isn’t easy! Nevertheless, we should learn it! On a concert, you should be reluctant to indicate the notes of an a cappella with the piano. It just won’t fit and you will look unprofessional as a conductor.

In this post we are focusing on the order in which the notes are indicated. A lot of directors start with the soprano. After all, it is polite to let the ladies go first. And most of the times the melody lies on top.