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Choral Conducting Basics: Body Position

Module by: James Stegall. E-mail the author

Summary: Video segments designed to help find a proper body position for conducting.

Choral Conducting Basics: Body Position

The conductor's body position is the foundation for all communicative movement. Finding and maintaining a proper position while standing is often difficult since the human skeleton is fundamentally unstable in the upright position and the feet provide a relatively small base of support. Additionally, it is common for conductors to lose awareness of their body position when engaged in the rigors of rehearsal and performance. These conditions make it possible for habitual movements to bring on unnecessary tiredness, pain and injury. Ultimately, problems brought on by poor body position can be solved through symmetrical stabilization. This stabilization will minimize weight bearing for body segments, optimize functioning of the internal organs, and sustain the conductor's continuous movements without undue fatigue.

Video Segments

Finding Your Body Position demonstrates sequentially how to establish a proper position for the feet, legs, chest, neck and head.

Segment Overview:

  1. Begin with the feet placed no wider than the shoulders.
  2. Both feet should be parallel to each other with the toes aligned along the same plane.
  3. From this parallel position, allow the feet to flair out naturally.
  4. Step very slightly forward with the left foot to break the plane.
  5. Keep legs relaxed and avoid locking the knees.
  6. Imagine the point where the neck meets the cranium.
  7. From this point, gently lengthen the spine which in turn...
  8. ...Allows the pelvis to align vertically under the torso,
  9. ...Allows the chest to rise to a comfortably high position,
  10. ...Allows the neck to lengthen naturally, and
  11. ...Allows the head to move to a natural position with the chin neither too low or high.

Finding Your Arm Position demonstrates the proper placement of the conductor's hand and arm position.

Segment Overview:

  1. Allow the arms to hang naturally to the side of the body.
  2. Raise the relaxed right arm so that the forearm is relatively parallel to the floor.
  3. Avoid creating tension by raising the elbow too high.
  4. The hand should be aligned with the center of the torso, palm facing down at a comfortable 45 degree angle.

Finding Your Hand Position - Side View Video and Finding Your Hand Position - Front View Video demonstrates the proper placement of the conductor's hand.

Segment Overview:

  1. With a relaxed hand, swing your arm back and forth until you feel the blood rushing to your fingertips.
  2. On your last swing, raise your arm up and you will discover your natural hand position.
  3. The back of the hand will have a slight natural curve and the fingers will be aligned.
  4. From this position you can establish your natural artistic flair.

The Baton - Front View and The Baton - Side View demonstrates how to incorporate the baton into your proper body, arm and hand position.

Segment Overview:

  1. Open your hand.
  2. Place the baton in the center of the palm.
  3. Gently wrap the hand around the baton.
  4. Do not allow the index finger or pinky to flair out.
  5. Find your basic arm position established in the previous video segment.
  6. The baton should be naturally aligned with the forearm without creating an angle.
  7. The tip of the baton should be aligned with the center of the torso.

Supplemental Information

Helpful Directives to Improve Body Position

  • Let the spine lengthen.
  • Allow the joints to ease, avoid the pulling in of joint surfaces.
  • A sponge expands to its natural shape.
  • The shoulders should be released and widened.
  • The back must lengthen.
  • Don't strive to move, allow yourself to move.
  • With better balance, one should feel lighter.
  • Feel lighter, feel open.
  • Establish a sense of physical alertness.
  • Keep the chest comfortably high.
  • Lift the chest to it's natural position.
  • The spine should be straight, not rigid.
  • Feel like a marionette hanging from a string.

Suggested Reading

Barlow, Wilfred. The Alexander Technique: How to Use Your Body Without Stress. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1990.

Conable, Barbara. What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping and the Alexander Technique to Making Music.

Columbus, Ohio: Andover Press, 1998.

Franklin, Eric. Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1996.

Dimon, Theodore Jr. Ed. D. The Body in Motion: Its Evolution and Design. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2011.

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