Guide To The Music Conducting Beat Patterns

Guide To The Music Conducting Beat Patterns

The Beat Pattern In Conducting

The conducting beat patterns are the method of establishing the tempo or beat structure of the music. The beat pattern is just the basic way the conductor uses to convey how the notes of the musical piece are structured. The beat pattern used in conducting pattern varies in relation to the time signature of the piece. However, the 2 beats, 3 beats, and 4 beats per measure are very common measures and they are the pattern used mostly.

The Number Of Beat In A Measure

The Beat In A Measure

Basically, the beat in music is the unit of time and the number of beats in a measure is represented by the time signature. The time signature is the symbol in musical notation that will always tell you about the number of beats in a measure. You will always see the time signature at the beginning of the musical piece after the cleft symbol and immediately after the key signature.

Specifically, the time signature is two numbers with like fractional figure with one above the other. The one above indicates how many beats exist in a measure. We can have any number of beats per measure. However, the number of beats we normally have per measure is usually between 2 and 12. Therefore, 2 at the top, as we have it in 24, mean two-beat in a measure. Likewise, when 3 is used for the top number like in 34, it means we have 3 beats in a measure. And with 4 at the top for 44, we have 4 beats per measure.

ALSO READ: Guide To The Role Of A Conductor In Choral Music

On the other hand, the number at the bottom denotes the type of musical notation that is used for one beat in a measure. This also means a type of beat to count and this has to do with the note value. Therefore, if you have a half note (minim) for one beat, you will have 2 at the bottom. The typical example is 22 measure. Similarly, if the note for one beat is a quarter note, 4 will be the figure at the bottom. For example, 44 time also known as common time. And for the eighth note as one beat, the bottom figure will be 8 as we have it in 68 time.

Actually, the time signature and number of beats we have in a measure is frequently the same throughout the musical piece. Though there are some cases where the beat per measure changed to add flavor to the music.

The Downbeat And Upbeat

The Downbeat And Upbeat

The downbeat is the first beat at the beginning of the bar and after the bar line in a measure. This beat is always the strongest beat in a measure. The downbeat is the most stressed beat but we don’t actually need to over-emphasize it for music not to get clumpy.  On every downbeat, the conductor’s hand is always striking down. This means in conducting, the hand movement is always in a downward direction with every first beat of the measure.

Downbeat is best noticed when you are clapping for beat counting in music. At the time you clap your hand, you are on the downbeat.  This beat is made at the center of a conducting plane to always point out the first beat of a measure to musicians.

Upbeat is the opposite of the downbeat. It is the last beat that ends the bar and is always before the bar line in a measure.  This term also has a relationship with the conductor’s hand movement. For every upbeat, the conductor’s hand is always in the upward direction. Upbeat is best identify when you are clapping to count beat for music. At the time you put off your hand for the clap, you are on the upbeat.

The Beat Pattern

The major function of a conductor is to make a group of musicians playing music together effectively.  Customarily, they do this by waving their hand to show the beat of the music. The hand waving is usually in a particular pattern and it is known as a beat pattern. Every beat pattern is based on the number of beats the music has in a measure. This is shown by the top number of the time signature as discussed above.

Before we move further, you should know that every beat pattern starts with a downbeat. This is transformed into downward arm motion by the conductor.  And as you would see later in our discussion, the first beat is always down-stroke and the last beat is always upstroke. The movement or stroke between the first beat and the last beat is what defined the meter. The diagram above shows the movement of each beat pattern.

In conducting these beat patterns, try to keep your wrist and shoulder steady while you bend your wrist a little to point out the beat.  Also, ensure all the arm movements are even, smooth, and from your forearm and the elbow. Moreover, the conducting movement must have some kind of bounce and dip to make every movement stand out. These bounces and dips are necessary for the clarity of the beat pattern that makes it uncomplicated to follow.

Two-Beat Pattern In Conducting

Guide To The Music Conducting Beat Patterns

The 2 beat pattern in conducting is generally used for a measure defined with a time signature of 24 or 22 times. The 24 denotes two beats of a quarter note per measure. And 22 indicates that we have two half beats in a bar or per measure.  Basically, for 2 beats in a measure or duple meter, the conductor uses just a down and upbeat that resulted in two strokes.  This 2 beat pattern is done by bringing the arm down for the downbeat which is the first beat. And then bringing it back up for the upbeat and the second beat.

Three-Beat Pattern In Conducting

Guide To The Music Conducting Beat Patterns

The 3 beat pattern in conducting is to be used for every musical piece with three-beats per measure as we have it in 34 time signatures. The time signature with 34 means we have three notes of quarter value in a bar. Furthermore, when we have three beats in a measure or triple meter, the beat pattern will be in three directions. The three directions are down, right, and up.

To conduct with the beat pattern, move your hand downward for the downbeat or the first beat. Then, move it to the right side to signify the second beat. Finally, move it back up to the starting point for the third beat which is upbeat. Observer not too much bounce on the downbeat and dip on the second beat as well as the third beat. Note the point of bounce and dip in the diagram were indicated with a small circle in the diagram above.

Four-Beat Pattern In Conducting

Guide To The Music Conducting Beat Patterns

The four-beats pattern in conducting is normally employed for a musical piece that has a 44 time signature. Again, 44 implies that we have four beats in a measure and the fundamental note is a quarter note. However, for the four-beats pattern that represents four beats in a measure or quadruple meter, the conductor movements are in four directions. These movements are down, left, right, and back to up to complete the beat circle.

To put this beat pattern into conducting, move your arm downward for the downbeat which is the first beat.  Then move your hand to the left for the second beat and to the right for the third beat. End up your arm movement back to the top for the upbeat which is the fourth beat. As you are moving your arm around for the beat, keep it in mind to observe the bounce on the downbeat. In addition, don’t forget to pinpoint the dip on the second, third, and fourth beat. 

These beat patterns worth your time to master. If you don’t have the skill set to properly move your hand in those three directions, engage in practice until you can do them freely. That is when you can do the pattern at a constant tempo even with distraction. There are other beat patterns but these three are the basic. Therefore, practice them to a good extent and let them be in your muscle memory as well as your brain. Above all, you should master the indication of the beat by making it very clear to the musicians or performers. The clarity of the beat pattern is the core value of every conducting activity that every conductor must inculcate.

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