Junior High Band
Conducting Tips

Make Gravity Your Friend

The more exact you are at indicating where the beat is, the easier it is for your students to follow you.

The conducting premise of one of my college professors, Ralph Laycock, is that we live with gravity every day of our lives. We know how it works. If a glass falls from the top shelf we instinctively know where to grab to catch it before it hits the floor. He demonstrates that by dropping his baton and having the students clap when it hits the floor. Even though the majority of the students cannot see it hit the floor, they all clap in the right place because they know gravity. If you imagine the floor is at waist level and move the baton as if it were being pulled down by gravity (accelerating into the ictus) it is easy to tell where the beat is.

Another way to think of gravity is to imagine you are pounding nails with a hammer. You wouldn't bring the hammer down slowly and then jerk it up after touching the head of the nail - it just wouldn't work. Yet many conductors do just that as they conduct making it difficult to determine where "the head of the nail" or the beat is.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.