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5/4 Time Conducting

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Mostly, it depends whether it's 2+3, or 3+2.

In general its quite similar to a 3/4, with additional subdivisions. Since in both cases of 2+3 or 3+2 you have a secondary stress either on three or four, you show that stress by the typical left-to-right movement (like the two in a 3/4 or the three in a 4/4). So in a (2+3)/4 you'd first go down and slightly to the left like in a 3/4 (one), then make another beat at pretty much the same place (two), then show the secondary stress by moving right, as in the three of a 3/4 (three), then again a little beat at the same place (four), and back to the top (five). With a 3+2 you'd just do one more little beat before doing the left-to-right motion, and leave out the little additional beat on the right instead.

Of course, there are more possibilities of doing it, but in general the important part is just the secondary stress either on three or four, by going left-right.

In a fast tempo, a 5/4 (respectively 5/8) is usually executed as a "2/4" with either the downstroke or the upstroke one fourth (or eighth) longer than the other (depending on whether it's 2+3 or 3+2 again).

Finally, there's also the possibility at completely dividing a 5/4 in one 3/4 and one 2/4 and conducting it as such, which some conductors do. This can help precision as you are making relatively large, clear movements, but it may disturb the "flow" of the music by splitting it up too much. Plus, it may make it harder for people to count long rests. (Think of the poor trombones who have to count their 126 empty bars until they may play a note again!). It could also be argued that if a composer had intended it as 3/4 and 2/4 bars in succession, she or he would have written it as such.

I'm not sure if my explanation was understandable though.

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Yeah, I understood it. I thought that may of been how it was done. I remember reading something along the lines of that a while ago.

Thanks for answering. I don't really know all that much about conducting since I'm mainly an arranger. I just needed to show somebody for a certain composition how to conduct it.

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:O I've never heard of "forward" in conducting before. It does make sense when you want to do a totally "even" 5/4 without a stress on the three or four, but is it practicable, i.e. easy enough to read for the musicians? I would have guessed that any forward or backward motions are very hard to see/understand from the view of the orchestra. But of course, this unclarity could actually be the "aim", so not to give the impression that the 5/4 is subdivided in any way. Interesting, but I'm not totally convinced!

Forward? Out? In?


Well, out and in make sense to me. When conducting with the right hand, out is going right and in is going left. The other way round with the left hand.

But somehow "Down, In, Forward, Out, Up" still sounds like instructions to brutally murder the first violist with your baton.

Of course, a violist trying to play a 5/4 might easily give you a reason to do so.:D

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Guest QcCowboy

when the music has no clear 3+2 / 2+3 division (a "smooth" 5) I liked to use a 4 with an additional stop in the middle...

in other words, center, left, center, right, up-beat.

you can also do it as a straight 4 where you double the center stop (1st beat). I actually find this one clearest to understand and the easiest NOT to get screwed up half way through a measure. the repeated first beat position is easily understood.

If the 5/4 is very fast, I'd just divide it into 2: one short, one longer.

while conducting, I found that most of the time I didn't rely on the "standard" patterns.

everything became a sort of "rolling" motion, with emphasis on a clearly defined 1, and then a clear final up-beat.

I find this gave me the most leeway for expressiveness, too.

The only time I used really clear patterns was when the music was highly rhythmic (ie: a march, or something with a very strong "beat", or very aggressive).

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Guest QcCowboy

sometimes, it's easiest to actually "fake" a beat pattern when conducting odd time signatures. I know that my own Missa Brevis has two entire movements which need to be conducted in "modified" straight patterns.

The allegro Gloria is a modified three: 1 & & 2 & & 3 &

The slow finale has a couple of modified four patterns:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & & [4+5 / 8]


1 & 2 & & 3 & 4 &

along with a fun section in alternating 12/8 and [4/4 + 6/8]

makes for some fun conducting.

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