Inspired by Jenny Maclay’s post about the importance of giving good cues in chamber music, I’d like to share some advice on cueing technique. Beginners to this often work much too hard at it, trying to execute movements that are large, elaborate, and confusing.
Instead, try one of these:
- Just breathe. For intimate ensembles, a purposeful breath on a preparatory beat is often enough. (For example, for a piece in 4/4 time that starts on beat one, breathe on beat four.) The breath is simple and natural, and is subtle but just detectable visually and aurally. To an audience, it looks almost like telepathy. A breath cue is also expressive—it can communicate not just tempo and downbeat, but also character.
- Or, if a more visually-oriented cue is really necessary, keep it extremely simple. For a preparatory beat, lift your instrument and/or head up (an inch is more than enough), then cue by bringing it back down. Skip the curlicues.