For this project, I was inspired to create a tool that helps beginner conductors analyze the timing of their conducting patterns. Outside of classes, I spend a lot of my free time coaching young students in leadership and conducting, specifically for the marching arts.
Many times, I find that people don’t know that conducting an ensemble in the marching arts is very different from conducting a wind ensemble group or conducting an orchestra. Drum majors are often called the “time-keepers” of a marching band or corps. The hardest part of their job is having to deal with the physics of sound given the marching arts’ natural environment, the football field. On top of having to ignore sounds that bounce off the concrete in stadiums or the delays coming from the performing members who are facing the opposite direction, drum majors have to make sure their conducting patterns are consistent, precise, and extremely clear.
This is what inspired me to create this project. I wanted to create a tool that allows beginner conductors to analyze their patterns to help them on the field. For a lot of high school students who are just starting to learn the basics and foundations of conducting a marching band, they have tendencies to rush or slow down certain beats of their patterns. For example, in a simple 4/4 pattern, because of the different lengths of the pathways, a natural tendency for beginners is to be slow on beat 3 and rush into beat 4.
The tool that I created consists of two visuals: one shows where the metronome hits (shown in red), and the other is where the conductor’s beats hit (shown in blue).
I started by coding a metronome. At first, I used an impulse signal but ran into problems when I realized not all the impulses were shown in the visual display because the length of the impulse signal was too short. So to create the metronome click, I recorded the sound of a pen hitting against glass and edited the length using audacity.
For the second display wave, I used a contact microphone to show where the conductor’s beats were landing. This microphone can be connected to a music stand.
From there, all the user has to do is set a tempo they want to conduct at and hit the record button to record their conducting patterns. The recording is displayed on the two different visuals where the conductor can analyze if their beats are consistent or not and figure out how they can fix it.
Here is the link to the patch: