The best way for a conductor to improve is in front of a live ensemble. The unfortunate reality, however, is that this is not always possible. Aspiring conductors therefore have little choice but to find other ways of honing their skills.

    Once you have learned the basic patterns, try spending a few minutes each day alone practicing changing time signatures. This is an important skill to learn when conducting twentieth century music. Try conducting the following metre changes, giving one bar to each pattern: 4/4,3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 5/4, 2/4, 7/8, 6/8, and 3/4. Once you have mastered this, try doing it backwards. Then make up your own series of metre changes and practice them.

    Some aspiring conductors practice using recordings. Others argue against this approach on the grounds that it encourages a conductor to follow the band rather than to lead it. The latter is admittedly a real danger, but the risk is worth taking in view of the restricted opportunities for beginners to conduct live ensembles. Besides, learning to follow a recording is not all bad. Conductors frequently have to use this skill when accompanying a soloist. They may also need to adjust their beat to follow the ensemble during a concert in order to avoid disaster when things go wrong unexpectedly.

    When practicing with recordings, it is important to begin with works such as marches and Classical compositions that are in strict time. You should also make the effort to anticipate entrances, giving appropriate cues to the imaginary performers.

    Other suggestions for home practice include the following:

     
    • Conduct using a metronome. This will aid in the development of an ability to maintain a strict tempo whenever it is desired.
     
    • Practice in front of a large mirror. Note carefully your stance, and hand position.
     
    • Try conducting in absolute silence. This will help you develop your ability to keep the music going in your head.

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