Ok Band Geeks, Tell Us Otherwise [Comic]

This is your chance to shine, geeks of the cymbal, flute, tuba, and French horn. Tell us loud, tell us proud: how is this different from your conductor. Because I just can’t see how any of them do anything different…

[Via I Waste So Much Time]

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35 Responses to Ok Band Geeks, Tell Us Otherwise [Comic]

  1. Yes, band conductors obviously set the tempo and help keep it. But they also need to signal and control things like tempo changes — when and how much a song speeds up or slows down. They indicate volume changes, such as if an instrument or section is playing too loudly or too softly. They cue instruments/sections when it’s their turn to start playing (e.g., if they have a long break). I think these are all fairly general, but in more specific instances they might do other things. For example, when people are going to play solos in jazz songs, the conductor may be deciding and indicating who plays a solo, in what order, and how many there will be. While it might look like there’s little to do, I think conductors do more than meets the eye. This is what I could think of from my side (playing in bands before), but it’s been a long time since I last did that; perhaps others might have more to add to this.

  2. The conductor is the player, the orchestra/band/choir is the instrument. Yeah, you might have a blowing machine play a trumpet, but you need to put a soul in it. Likewise, you might set a metronome and let the orchestra follow the score, but music needs more than that. The conductor adds a meaning and a direction to the music.
    (sorry for my English, non native, blah blah ;D)

  3. My conductor looks EXACTLY like jack black! He's hilarious, and does not do just this, he loves his band, we are everything to him; how also enjoys cracking flute jokes ;)

  4. James and dorwinrn are right. The conductor keeps time, tells each section when to come in, indicate increases or decreases in volume, and stuff like that. They also help decide who plays what when giving out the music. They have to know the talent levels they are dealing with; who can handle a solo or if one instrument has three different parts to play, who will play what, etc. It really is as if the conductor is the player & the players are the instrument. At least, that's what my old band teacher used to say.

  5. Conductors are also instrumental (get it?) in the long months of practice that preclude a concert. They have to know everyone's partition by heart and see how well the arrangement fits with the composition of his/her orchestra (proportion of strings woodwinds, brass, percussion, et al). They make it look pretty simple during the representation itself, but conductors are really a central element of the orchestra, on and off the stage.

  6. Our favorite band director conducted… but also led the band by sitting in with us on trombone. Mr. Steinkoenig also got our band a paying gig, and laughed aloud while demonstrating to the student body that rumors about him having a toupee were greatly exaggerated. :)

  7. When I had to conduct, I went in all like 'yeahhhhh, it's only waving a stick around in time to music'. Then when actually onstage, I realised you have to look at things like rests and notes and tempo changes and all that stuff. It's so so so much harder than it looks, because you have to be so precise. >.<

  8. As a conductor, I dare anyone to just get in front of an orchestra and "wave the stick" – They actually follow you. If you just "wave the stick" – There will be some bizarre occurrences. Also, as a French Hornist, I truly appreciated the fact that the French Horn was the only instrument you capitalized! :)

  9. My most treasured Band memories are of Dr. Ned Deihl, the late director of the PSU Blue Band (marching & concert). You knew when to come in from his gestures, what the tempo was, changes in dynamics, everything! They broke the mold when they made him.

  10. The main role of the conductor really isn't the 'waving of the stick' during the performance, but rather the directing of the band/orchestra (as an orchestral violinist/occasional conductor I'm talking from an orchestral background rather than a band, but the roles are the same) in how to perform the piece. As has been stated earlier in the comments, the conductor is the performer, and the orchestra is the instrument; as such it is the conductor's job to decide on which timbres to emphasise, how to approach tempos and dynamics, and overall how to bring out all of the exquisite subtleties of the ensemble.
    I often find that the best conductors are the ones that don't really need to wave a stick at all, because their ensemble knows exactly what they are required to do at every moment in the piece. In performances, they are mostly just there to tweak the sound until it is perfect, make overly elaborate gestures to the ensemble to make them feel the piece with the right emotions, and prance about a lot until their toupee comes loose (that last one is mostly an orchestral thing, I think)

  11. The band conductor must also show conviction and authenticity when conducting. You don't follow him/her if he /she can't read the piece correctly.

    Same thing applies with band musicians (e.g. rock band, guitar, drums, bass etc). Whenever one musician starts conducting (and it is usually before the piece/or song starts), that musician must know his/her role when the band starts playing, otherwise we lose confidence and respect if he/she fouls up on their end.

    Funny, most bass players seem to act the conductor/ band leader part. Wonder why?

  12. This is meant to be funny, people xD we all love our conductors, yes, but this is FUNNY! *sigh* I shouldn't have to explain humor to a bunch of band geeks. Musical jokes are our forte, but maybe understanding them is our piano. *chuckle*

  13. I've always felt that the conductor get's waaaay too much credit. Yes, they have an important function, and yes it takes skill, but no more important or skillfull than the actual musicians! Does the baton make noise? NO!

    That said, conductors can be extremely cool. When they really get into it, it's like an awesome dance, that gets the whole band that much deeper into the zone… I've just always thought it was a bit silly that they often get top billing.

  14. I'm not a band geek, so I asked this question before. The answer I got was that a conductor is sort of like a coach – yes, a hockey team could play a game without a coach, but they're going to play better if they've got one directing them. It made complete sense to me after that.

  15. I think I'm the first person to agree with this, but my boyfriend was in Big Band. (He played the Saxophone.) He always complained about his conductor, because apparently everyone agreed he had no idea what he was doing. I watched his band at a fair once, and you could tell he didn't really help. If anything he was just confusing. He kept leaving part way through and then coming back. I dunno, maybe a conductor isn't as necessary in a well-practised Big Band as they are with an orchestra.

  16. Out of interest anyone have a good video of a band following a conductor who doesnt know what he's doing? Sounds like a laugh..

  17. The conductor keeps time – since most of the people are incapable of keeping time on their own. He also cues certain sections when they need to emphasize a part (maybe because they've had problems with this in practice) or if they've had a long rest (because many instrument players – notably trumpet players – play so often that when they have long rests they are incapable of counting it correctly). He also cues the band to remember to play things with feeling or less choppy or whatever. The band knows the director and what his actions mean, just as the director knows his band and who needs help and who doesn't. I wouldn't go so far as to say the director is the musician playing his instrument (the band), as this implies the actual instrument players are idiots who would be incapable of playing a piece w/o the director, but it's something along those lines.

  18. To get rid of these stick-waving-full-of-themselves-rockstars i suggest hooking up whole band to the source of electricity and shocking them every time the mess up (loose tempo,start/stop late/soon etc.) synchronize it with some app that keep track of each instrument… and VOILA! after few rehearsals we have a perfect sounding band

  19. Wow, to think that is all there is to do, why is EVERYONE not a conductor!?!? That's like saying you can play NBA basketball because all you do is put a ball in a hoop. If something looks easy, it's because the person doing it is so badazz at it, they MAKE it look easy. That's why you are watching them, they are that good.

  20. Conductors are like Directors. Technically, they have a role to play, but they are WAAAAAY over-hyped. Each musician can learn his part and play it properly without someone waving a stick around. Beethoven's 5th sounds a certain way and if you do it wrong, it'll be obvious to the person playing it, and everyone else.

    In fact, I'd argue that a director is more important than a conductor, but, they still don't deserve the hype they get, UNLESS they wrote and acted in the movie (because it's the script and actors that make or break a movie, not some ego yelling into a megaphone). ….but I digress.

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