How to give a cue: preparation and release for orchestra and singers
By Gianmaria Griglio
What's a cue?
A conductor’s cue is nothing but a signal, a preparation for a musical event. It’s how we, as conductors, help the players. The cue consists of two parts: preparation and release
Preparing a cue [1/2]
The preparation of the cue takes place one beat before the entrance: you look at the player, point your baton towards the player or the section and click with your wrist.
Eye contact is crucial.
Preparing a cue [2/2]
The cue will determine the volume, the intensity, and the length of what is about to be played: all of this information goes into a single cue.
Breathing with the players or singers is particularly important
Delivering a cue
After you prepare your cue you need to deliver it, following up on the intensity, dynamics, and everything else you promised in your preparatory pulse
Deliver what you promised
What if the player needs to come in on the 2nd eighth note of a bar? In this case, the preparation is not on the beat before but directly on the beat of the event. BUT...
If you are starting the piece with an offbeat cue – for instance, the beginning of Beethoven’s fifth symphony – you will need to give a pulse-less preparation on the bar before and then pulse on the downbeat.