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Music Department
Advanced Conducting: Music 336
Dr. Peter LaRue

Preparatory Beats/Cut-Offs/Releases

Preparatory Beats:

Remember always the primary purposes of the prep beat are ...

a. indicate style
b. indicate tempo
c. indicate dynamics
d. indicate breathing
e. invitation for the ensemble to play                                              

Conductors must use the preparatory position as a signal for the ensemble to get ready to start their playing. It secures initial attention, readies the mind and readies the body of the performers. It also gives the musicians time to raise their instruments to a playing position.

1) stand in front of the ensemble in a confident, positive and authoritative manner

2) stand erect, balanced, with feet slightly spread apart, poised, yet relaxed, not tense

3) raise your arms upward and outward with elbows slightly away from the body

4) the preparatory position should be easily visible to all in the ensemble and commanding and positive in appearance

5) make sure that you have established eye contact with the entire ensemble and maintain this eye contact throughout the prep-beat and the initial down beat of the piece.


6) make sure that your inhalation is apparent to the ensemble and that it is in the style, tempo and mood of the piece.


Releases and cut-offs fall into two basic categories and you should choose the release which is most appropriate for your ensemble/music.

1. the circular approach (clockwise or counter-clockwise)

2. the flick approach (slightest indication from the baton)

Terms to Know - Takt & Ictus