I've seen two ways of beating time, and I'm not sure if there's a clear better choice. One way is for the ictus to always be in the same spot in front of you, with a followthrough to prepare for the next beat. The other is for the ictus to be at the bottom of each beat, widely separated. Do people have preferences here, or just "whatever the heck we can actually follow"? :-)


When someone is following a conductor, the location of the ictus is not so important as the direction of movement of the tip. This is going to seem counterintuitive, but the direction of movement is consistent with both methods, and I've known conductors to switch back and forth with the ensemble only noticing when inspecting the video afterwards. Think about this: the location of the ictus is a single point in time, and no one experiences anything in terms of single points of time, music especially. We experience music and time in motion.

What you are referring to is known as "Focal Point Conducting". There's an article you should read by Stewart Ross in the July 1996 issue of The Instrumentalist--"[Conductor's Clinic] The Conducting Focal Point: A Lesson from John Paynter".

The Conducting Focal Point


When I am following a conductor, I want to know which beat the conductor is beating, so a clearly-defined style with each ictus decently [not, perhaps, widely] spaced is crucial. If it's possible to misread which beat of the bar the conductor has reached (because each ictus is in the same place physically), it's possible to be beautifully on-the-beat on the wrong beat!

When I conduct, I conduct in the manner I like to follow, because I want to make everything easy for my singers.


As a long time member of a professional orchestra, I doubt you would find any member of a large ensemble, be it orchestral, band, vocal or anything else, that would endorse a conducting method wherein all beats look the same.

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