Gesture Collection: Orchestral


Blond women plucking a violin string

Plucking makes a single, short note. Used exclusively to play certain string instruments, and in addition to bowing in others.


Woman using a bow to play the violin

Bowing creates a longer note that last for as long as the bow (a stick with many hairs stretched between its ends) in drawn across the string.


Striking creates a percussive sound along with the note. Works by striking the string with the side of the bow or hand.


Close-up of a hand on a violin demonstrating vibrato

Illustrated instructions on how to preform vibrato on a violin

A musical effect, a regular pulsating change in pitch. The finger is used to stop the string is wobbled on the fingerboard, or even moving up and down the string.


Close Up of hand rosining a bow

Rosin is a hard, stick substance made from resin that is applied to the bow hair in order to increase friction. Dragging the bow across the rosin (which is small, fitting in the palm of one’s hand, and usually square or circular).


Conductor Cueing

The indication of when a preformer or section of performers should begin paying. An inhalation, may or may not be audible, usually accompanied by eye contact or look in the general direction of the players.

Beat and Tempo

Pattern for 2/4, 2/2, or fast 6/8 time conducting

2/4, 2/2, or fast 6/8 time

3/4 or 3/8 time

Pattern for 4/4 time conducting

4/4 time

The beat of the music is usually indicated with conductor’s right hand. The hand traces a shape in the air in every measure depending on the time signature. Every change from downward to upward motion indicates a beat. The downbeat indicates the first beat of the bar and the upbeat indicates the last beat of the bar.

Changes in tempo are indicated by changing the speed of the beat.

Formal technique discourages the use of both hands to indicate the bead, instead encouraging conductors to use the left hand for cueing, dynamics, phrasing, etc.

Tapping baton on music stand

Used to get the orchestras attention and gain order, indicating they should prepare to start playing.


The dynamic may be communicated by the size of the conductors movements, with larger shapes meaning louder sounds. Other gestures include showing one’s palm to performers or leaning away from them to indicate a decrease in volume.

“Cutoff” or “Release”

Indicating the end of the note with a circular motion, the closing of the palm.

Bowing to Audience

Bowing to the Audience indicates the end of the piece.


Phrasing may be indicated by wide overhead arcs or by a smooth hand motion either forwards or side-to-side. A held note is often indicated by a hand held flat with palm up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s