Conducting music in church can be intimidating or downright confusing. Here is a simple breakdown and tips for leading music.
1. Time signatures and Waving Routes:
a. The most common is 4/4 time. The top four represents four beats in a measure while the bottom four states that a quarter note gets one beat. Use this same style for a 12/8 time signature. Make a plus sign in the air to signify the four beats per measure. The down beat—the first beat in a measure—is the most important one to mark. The pattern is down, left, right, up. Down, left, right up.
b. In 3/4 time, there are three beats in a measure. Use 3/4 technique for 9/8 as well. Make a triangle in the air, hitting a point at each beat: DOWN, right up. Down, right up.
c. Songs in 2/2 time are the easiest of all. There are two beats in a measure, and a half note gets one beat. You can use this same conducting technique with 6/8 and 2/4 time. Make a backwards J-shape in the air: Swoop down, up. Swoop down, up.
2. Dynamics: Dynamics are a measure of how loud or soft the music is. If you are brave enough, use your left hand to cue volume while conducting with the right hand. An upward facing palm means to get louder (crescendo), a downward palm to get softer (diminuendo).
3. Ritardando: Ritardando (rit. in music) means to slow down. We do this instinctually at the end of many songs, but some ask for a ritardando specifically. When encountering a rit., slow the tempo (speed) of your hand/conducting, but maintain the same shape.
4. Fermata: A fermata looks like a dot with a half circle and indicates to hold the note for an extended period of time. There is no specific amount of time you are supposed to hold the note, so do what feels comfortable. Slowly drag your hand out to cue the fermata. When ready to carry on, begin conducting according to the time signature again. Body language cues can also be a big help to those who are following you.
*Want to test out your fermata skills? Try “We are all Enlisted” (Hymn #250)
5. Picking Hymns: Use the “Topic” reference guide in the back of the hymn book to find appropriate Sacrament and holiday songs as well as hymns on specific subject matter such as repentance, love, and missionary work.