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?
As mentioned above, you probably turn the palm of your hand down for a soft sound and upward for a large sound. A neutral pose then would be in between these two, with the palm turned to the side.
A neutral pose should not be too weak, but at the same time should not have too much tension. What would be the appropriate way to hold your hand? Try the following. Imagine shaking hands with a nice person in a sincere, warm manner. Reach out your hand to this person. Now stop and hold your hand in this position. Study your hand. Your fingers probably lie against each other or lie close. Your fingers are slightly bent. The hand in full is open – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to ‘receive’ the hand of the other person. Your thumb is apart from the other fingers, but it is relaxed and slightly bent as well. This very pose is excellently suited to conduct in a neutral way.
Receiving and appeasing
Now turn your hand with the palm up, without changing the position of the hand. This is the kind of pose you would use to receive something, for example to get your change when you bought something. This same pose is used to ‘ask’ sound by the singers. As if the hand is saying: “please give, I love to receive”. Now turn your palm down. This kind of pose you would use to reassure a child or to appease an argument. In conducting, this pose is useful when you wish the choir members to sing softly. As if to say: “relax, be quiet”.
Directing is communicating. You are making contact through your hands. Reach out to the singers, as if to greet them. That is a good starting point for conducting.