Dilemma - playing vs. conducting

Thumper

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I've assembled a reasonably accomplished group of musicians, enough so that we are seriously considering arranging some classical / baroque music for the band, in addition to working more on arranging some of the works a couple of the folks have written. We have an eclectic group and set list (our tag line is "Everything from Billie Holiday to Billy Idol"). We all really enjoy working with each other and i love working out percussion parts for the works that we create, often on the fly.

Thus the dilemma. It is nearly impossible for me to properly conduct the music from the drum throne. The solution seems to be, find another drummer with similar enough skills and get out front, but i'm really reluctant to do so for a number of reasons.

Anyone else dealing with, or hopefully, have dealt with this?
 

MrDrums2112

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Working in the theater, I have seen keyboard players do it all the time. What my can't a drummer? Where there's a will, there's a way.
 

dcrigger

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Thumper - Even piano player/conductors can't always "properly conduct" while handling piano parts as well - but they (and their ensembles) usually figure out a way to get through it.

Assuming you are talking about a "chamber" size ensemble (not full-ish orchestra), IMO there usually isn't a necessity for a person dedicated to wave a stick.

Anyway - yes, I did this for a number of years with a 13 piece band (Turbulence) that I co-lead with a trumpet player friend. Basically anything I just couldn't cue with a free hand, or head nod, he or someone would be tasked with handling. So my suggestion would be to enlist someone that's likely to be a consistent regular member to help here and there.

Also - almost forgot - you'll likely have to abandon the drummer stuck in the back corner of the stage type set-up to this - as for sure it won't work with everyone having to turnaround ever time a cue needs giving. But for almost any ensemble there are ways of getting the drums more downstage and working out the sight lines (something most new ensembles often neglect to consciously ponder - how to best set-up for aural needs and sight lines (both the band's and the audiences).

Hope you can figure it out...
 

rikkrebs

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I've conducted from the drum kit many times. Do both, at least the drummer will be paying attention to you.
 

Thumper

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dcrigger said:
Thumper - Even piano player/conductors can't always "properly conduct" while handling piano parts as well - but they (and their ensembles) usually figure out a way to get through it.

Assuming you are talking about a "chamber" size ensemble (not full-ish orchestra), IMO there usually isn't a necessity for a person dedicated to wave a stick.

Anyway - yes, I did this for a number of years with a 13 piece band (Turbulence) that I co-lead with a trumpet player friend. Basically anything I just couldn't cue with a free hand, or head nod, he or someone would be tasked with handling. So my suggestion would be to enlist someone that's likely to be a consistent regular member to help here and there.

Also - almost forgot - you'll likely have to abandon the drummer stuck in the back corner of the stage type set-up to this - as for sure it won't work with everyone having to turnaround ever time a cue needs giving. But for almost any ensemble there are ways of getting the drums more downstage and working out the sight lines (something most new ensembles often neglect to consciously ponder - how to best set-up for aural needs and sight lines (both the band's and the audiences).

Hope you can figure it out...
Thanks dc, thoughtful response. To be clear, I'm not thinking in terms of baton wielding, just the ability to communicate concepts (e.g. volume, breaks, emphasis, etc.) while listening and observing; on-the-fly so to speak.
 

Thumper

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rikkrebs said:
I've conducted from the drum kit many times. Do both, at least the drummer will be paying attention to you.
I am interested in how you accomplished this (tongue in cheek notwithstanding). As dc mentioned, I'm guessing your stage set-up was more drum centric, or perhaps something like rehearsal in the round?
 

vinito

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I used to be a clarinetist, playing mainly chamber groups, quintets and sometimes a typical large orchestra. The smaller groups (especially and obviously the quintet stuff) did not need a conductor whatsoever and played together extremely well even on complex pieces. And honestly once the music has been rehearsed well, the large orchestras only "needed" a conductor every now and then for a cue here and there. Good musicians certainly don't need a conductor waving his arms all the time. Music is an audible art, and a conductor is just visual candy for the audience in my opinion (at the performances anyway - the conductor is obviously responsible for guiding the interpretation of the stuff which is communicated in rehearsals). In fact, one thing that annoys me to no end is those pop orchestras with a flamboyant conductor - usually on TV - begging for smiles and recognition during the whole dang concert by flailing about more exaggerated than you ever see from actual notable conductors. It's just posing.
On a side note, I feel the same way about musicians who move around in an exaggerated way as well, apart from dancers or a "front man" who does it for show and somehow seems more humble than a conductor or violinist-in-charge. Nothing wrong with moving, bobbing,weaving and dancing on stage, but you know attention-mongers when you see it.

My point is, it might do the group well at least to experiment with playing whole things with no conductor at all and see what happens. It encourages listening, which is ultimately THE main thing. I had one large orchestra conductor (the best one I ever had) who when things would start to slip out of the slot, would NOT start waving larger patterns presumably to "bring the group back together", but rather would simply point one finger to an ear and get tiny in his hand motions to encourage the musicians to listen and play together better, which is what needed to happen! This is the opposite of what you usually see from typical (lesser?) conductors and it worked beautifully without fail, and this was with a full symphony orchestra.

There are notable orchestras known for playing mostly or completely without a conductor (Orpheus comes to mind). link another link

In my experience and opinion, a conductor-less group who can listen to each other is a far more enjoyable experience from a player's perspective. In saying that I am referring to performances as someone has to be the last word authority for interpretation in rehearsals. But even in rehearsals, arm waving is unnecessary at least 95% of the time. Obviously this is not likely the situation with young or inexperienced players who need a living, visible metronome and all the cues coming from the front. But good musicians do just fine without it. No kidding.
 


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