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Music Department
Advanced Conducting: Music 336
Dr. Peter LaRue


One of the most important expressive gestures used in instrumental conducting is the fermata or hold. These devices often occur at the highlight of a musical phrase, before a change of tempo or musical section or at the end of the piece. It is essential that the conductor clearly conveys to the ensemble precisely what they want from the group in relation to the hold.

Fermata with a Caesura

These are the easiest variety to conduct as the require a complete break on the musical line. For this gesture, the conductor goes into the fermata, indicates the desired length with a slight motion of the hands, then cuts the ensemble off. The conductor then does a regular preparatory beat to re-start the ensemble.

Fermata with a Lift

This type of fermata is somewhat more confusing to indicate. The conductor leads the ensemble to the hold, stretches the length of the hold as desired, then without a complete cut-off does a preparatory beat to Restart the ensemble.

Fermata with a Continuation

Often times, this is the most musically valid way to proceed out of fermata. In this case, the conductor leads the ensemble into the hold, continues motion with hands, then without a release or preparatory beat, re-starts the ensemble. This gesture is especially desirable when the fermata or hold is rather brief.

Conducting Practice

Type One

Type Two

Type Three

It is important that you practice each of these three gestures