1: Five Mistakes to Avoid in your Conducting Video

Show Notes:

In today’s episode, I will share exactly how to prepare your next conducting video for applications in a professional manner. 

By walking you through the five biggest mistakes to avoid in your conducting videos, I’m going to show you how to edit the format and the content of your conducting video to maximize your chances of getting noticed and reviewed more carefully in a selection process.


Links Mentioned in Today's Episode

Hi everyone, this is Chaowen recording in May 2023.
After finishing the first season of the Conductors podcast, I have decided to give this podcast
project a dedicated website with more user friendly functions.
So now we have a brand new website called theconductorspodcast.com.
And now we also have its own Instagram handle, it’s also the same the Conductor’s podcast.
So all the show notes have been moved to the new site and I invite you to come check out
all the resources and happy listening.
The most fatal mistake that will hurt your application is not starting with your best.
You must start with your most perfect conducting from the very beginning of your video.
You do not need to submit a video of the entire movement or an entire piece if the beginning
is not great.
Remember that we only have one chance to make the first impression.
This is your chance to make the best conducting first impression.
You can start the clip in the middle of a movement, in the middle of a section or even
in the middle of a phrase.
It doesn’t need to make musical sense.
Hey there, welcome to the Conductors podcast.
I’m your host Chaowen Ting, a conductor with over 20 years of experience working with professional
symphony orchestras, opera houses, new music groups and vocalists.
I’m also founder of Gross Who Conduct and have mentored hundreds of conductors from
across the globe.
I created the Conductor’s podcast to share all the behind the same secrets with you while
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while you learn.
Hey there, welcome to the very first episode of the Conductors podcast.
I’m your host, Chowentine and I’m thrilled that you’re tuning in today.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever put the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears into recording,
curating and editing your conducting videos.
You submit them to every single application that you can possibly find, from schools to
training programs to jobs, only to never advance in the process.
Sometimes, your YouTube statistics even tell you that people only watch a few seconds of
your videos and you have no idea what you’re doing wrong.
I know how frustrating it is when you have worked so hard and you feel as though you’re
just not getting anywhere closer to where you want to be.
But what if there’s a checklist for you to go through when making your videos that would
actually help you get the right in a professional manner and transform your application package?
In this very first episode of our podcast, I’m going to talk about the five mistakes
to avoid in your conducting videos.
This will answer the question I get asked the most.
People often do not get feedback on their video submissions and are eager to find out
how to better improve their materials.
Before we dive in, I wanted to talk a little bit about the selection process in general.
Usually, for any conducting job opening in the professional world, the organization might
easily receive over 100 applications.
When I attended a masterclass with Maestro Heintink as part of the Luton Festival, they
received 290 applications that year for that particular masterclass.
Depending on the organization at a number of applications, there could be several rounds
of selection in the process.
Reviewers could be the same people analyzing your materials in old rounds like a search
Or, in a bigger organization, they might have a separate preliminary committee shortlisting
applicants before the materials are revealed by the final selection committee.
Take the example of the masterclass with Maestro Heintink.
They had a selection committee consisting of conducting teachers from other institutions
and they shortlisted old 290 applicants into around 23 conductors.
All of us were invited to audition live in Luton before the festival started.
This is unusual, as normally people do not invite so many conductors to live auditions,
which is something we will talk about more later.
However, Maestro Heintink really wanted to see these conductors’ life and to make the
final decisions based on their conducting performances rather than watching videos.
For that audition, we had to prepare Mozart Symphony No. 39, all movement, and the process
took a whole day, from 10 a.m. in the morning to almost 6 o’clock in the evening.
Afterwards, Maestro announced eight conductors selected into the masterclass as active participant
while everyone else was invited to stay in Luton and audit.
Another example, I recently took an audition as a finalist for an assistant conductor
position and I was told that there were four rounds of selection before the four of us
were invited to audition live.
During the four rounds, the only thing we did in addition to submitting the initial application
package was a quick phone call with the executive director.
Another recent audition I had included a 30-minute Zoom session with the entire search
committee of around six people.
So you could see that the selection process varies, but you must pass the first round
of what I called paper review, meaning standing out among applicants only with your materials,
including the cover letter, resume, and videos.
Very often, you will be asked to provide two contrasting videos for an application, which
could be a total of hundreds of footage for the review committee to watch.
Therefore, you want to make sure that your materials are as strong and professional as
possible, helping you to quickly stand out in the first preliminary round and to get your
materials reviewed a second time.
In other words, you want to stay in that maybe or yes pile from the very beginning.
You will really help your application if you have a handful of good conducting videos
that you can mix and match, including standard repertoire, concerto, or any type of accompanimental
material to contemporary music.
You can then submit the two that were interested to your potential employer or program coordinator
the most based on their artistic vision and needs.
For example, you might want to include one example of you conducting a composer reading
or award premiere when you are applying for a contemporary music festival.
If you are applying for a fellowship with an opera house, it’s useful to have some materials
showing your work with singers or conducting an opera excerpt.
Two contrasting movements from the same symphony are always considered two contrasting videos.
So if you are thinking about getting a few friends together to record, that could be
an option to organize your recording session more effectively.
When I just started out in my conducting studies, video recordings were not always part of the
application requirements.
I remember that there were a few schools that would invite everyone to a two or three round
audition process where you had to pass a series of tests ranging from music theory, history,
ear training, analysis, orchestration, or even score reading on a piano until you finally
had the chance to conduct an ensemble.
We all know that nuances get lost in recordings and it’s always the best to observe someone
conducting live musicians.
However, video submissions do make applications more affordable and it can save travel expenses
from attending live auditions across the country or even across the globe.
It also gives the organization a chance to make sure that you have a certain conducting
ability or that you are at a certain level that they are looking for or even get to know
your personality a little bit before they decide if they want to extend an invitation
for a live audition.
Okay, before we get started, there are two things that I need to confess with you.
First and foremost, your conducting needs to be good.
You will be talking about strategies to make your materials more professional, increasing
your chance to be noticed and reviewed with more care and consideration.
But if the conducting is not at the right level for the program or the job, even having
the most professionally produced footage might not help you win the spot.
Secondly, we have to lay the groundwork and make it clear that conducting videos are not
always the most important factor of whether you are advanced to the next round or eventually
get hired.
But the videos are still really important.
It is almost always a part of the application requirements from fellowship programs to graduate
studies from competition entries to job applications.
And this is one thing that you have control over.
So, if you’ve been motocasting, come back to me because we are going to start with the
five mistakes to avoid in your conducting videos, especially when you are just starting
Make sure you are listening all the way till the end because I have a bonus waiting for
Mistake number one.
You submitted a recording of you conducting alone to a recording.
Yes, COVID made it almost impossible for the majority of conductors to have regular rehearsals
and access to live musicians and ensembles.
However, you never want to submit a video of you conducting alone to a recording.
Never ever.
When you are waving your arms to someone else’s performance, you are not really conducting,
but demonstrating some choreography with the music.
You were not leading or influencing the music making.
You did not set the tempo, and it was not your musical interpretation.
The players did not perform and respond to your gestures or your presence, and there
was no interaction with the ensemble.
Additionally, when people find out that you submitted a video conducting to a recording,
it really hurts your credibility.
Remember that in any selection process, the committee very easily has over hundreds of
videos to review.
It is okay not to be remembered, but you do not want to be remembered at someone who
made a huge mistake.
Mistake number two.
The video was shot from the audience only showing your back.
When you submit a video that has been shot from the hole facing your back instead of
your face, the video is basically useless in the selection process.
If we only see your back side, we lose the majority of conducting markers required for
We cannot see how you connect with the musicians, your conducting techniques, your knowledge
of the score, and how the ensemble responded to you.
This angle does not serve you well at all, even if there is great music happening in
the video.
I know that this can be difficult as an audience perspective video might be the only one that
you have, taken either by friends and the audience or the organization itself for marketing
Therefore, you want to get in the habit of always recording yourself when possible from
the back of the ensemble.
You can use your smartphone with a phone mount set on the stand or a tripod or invest in
a small palm size can quarter that can capture the entire rehearsal or performance without
having to worry about the memory or battery.
Make sure you film yourself as often as possible and over time you will have more footage than
needed to choose from.
We will talk about the audio quality very soon in the following tips, but you wanted
to pay attention to the audio quality being picked up by the camera microphone.
Let’s take number 3.
You have a video showing your front, but we can’t see you clearly.
A good rule of thumb is to frame your video so that you are conducting occupies about
3 quarters of the image.
We can clearly see you from your waist up to above your head.
You set your camera stand in the middle of the frame and wave your arms above and around
your body to ensure that your hands are never out of the frame.
We also want to see a little bit of the musicians to know that you are really working with a
live ensemble.
However, you need to be the main subject that we are seeing, from your facial expression
to your body gestures.
If you are recording from your mobile device, try to find a trustworthy friend to start
the camera for you, so you can be framed properly.
Record horizontally or landscape instead of vertically.
When committees are watching hundreds of videos, they are more likely to use their computer
than to view.
So when you film it vertically or portrait, your conducting is very small to see.
Tip number 4 and also the most fatal mistake that will hurt your application is not starting
with your best.
You must start with your most perfect conducting from the very beginning of your video.
You do not need to submit a video of the entire movement or an entire piece if the beginning
is not great.
You should cut the video so that the first moment we see you conducting is your very best.
This makes the viewer want to continue watching and to find out more about you.
Remember that we only have one chance to make the first impression.
This is your chance to make the best conducting first impression.
You can start the clip in the middle of a movement, in the middle of a section or even in the
middle of a phrase, it doesn’t need to make musical sense.
Do not show something that didn’t work and that you fixed it later, because reviewers
often won’t watch until that point when everything is fixed.
If the footage was taken from a workshop or an educational setting, make sure that you
cut out all that part when the teachers or clinicians are speaking to you, making comments
to the ensemble or even giving you instructions like, that was better, try it again.
Cut out everything less than perfect or that might make you look unprofessional.
You are probably curious how long do people really watch the videos?
Let me tell you, the average duration of video viewership is around 40 seconds.
Yes, you heard it right, about 40 seconds, 40.
After that, they might have gotten enough of you and move on to the next candidate or
they might have grown interested in you and want to watch a little longer or to check
out your other videos.
Because of this brevity, you want to ensure that your strongest video is first when you
submit multiple videos.
If you are not sure which one is better, there are two ways that you can examine your videos.
The first is to watch your videos muted and see if you can identify which piece, which
section or which passage you are connecting.
See if you can sense which instruments you are connecting with, what key that was in and
what style the music was it.
Don’t forget to also check the basics.
Use your tempo steady and consistent.
Did you miss any important entrances and were your beat pattern clear?
The second thing that you can do to help you pick your conducting video is to ask friends
that you trust to watch them for you.
It’s always nice to get a fresh set of eyes on our work, especially after we spent so
many hours editing the recordings.
A lot of times others will see things that we have missed and could have varied different
opinions on a particular video that you love or dislike.
The last mistake that could really hurt your application is that you do not have good video
quality to your videos.
Never use the microphone on the camera.
This is the placement of the camera, which should be at the back of the ensemble.
Very often the full symphony sound becomes a horn concerto.
Or we can only hear the back of the string sessions who are not your strongest players.
If you can save and invest in a good audio recorder that could be placed out in the hole,
that would be the best.
If you added to your video, simply synchronize it with an image.
Otherwise, just record audio from your phone in the audience or by the podium might be
better than the microphone that came with your camera.
You should know that when the selection committee quickly schemes through videos, a recording
with very good audio quality and sound immediately capture viewers’ ears and prompt them to
examine you more closely.
This will help them be more interested in learning more about you as a candidate.
In pre-COVID times, this practice unfortunately made conducting a really expensive profession
to enter.
Many conductors would attend master classes or music festivals to have the opportunity
to work with professional orchestras in other countries in order to obtain footage.
COVID has changed a lot of this and organizations in general are understanding and more willing
to accept the videos of an orchestra of repertoire played by, say, a piano quintet, for example.
However, the level of playing should be as high as possible, so you are not disadvantaged
in the selection process.
Overwhelmed, don’t be.
I know this is a lot of information if you are less familiar with the selection process,
but remember you can always subscribe to the podcast and download the episode.
You can also find all information in a show note.
Go to chaowenting.com forward slash one.
That is CHAOWENTING.COM forward slash number one to find everything in words.
So, here you go, my friends.
The five mistakes to avoid in your conducting videos, especially when you are just starting
your career.
Number one, you are conducting alone to recordings.
Never, ever submit video footage of you are conducting someone else’s recording.
Try to find a couple of friends to play for you if you really need conducting videos.
Then two pianists or a string quartet will be much better than waving your arms alongside
Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Number two, always record your rehearsals and performances from the back of the ensemble.
Over time, you will be able to select a short clip that best represents your conducting
and musicality.
Number three, don’t submit a video where you are too far away or too close up.
Make sure we can see your body from the waist up and keep your arms in frame when you conduct.
If you are not wearing a mask, seeing your facial expressions clearly is important.
Number four, always put your strongest video as the first choice and always start with
your best conducting.
Remember, it doesn’t have to make musical sense and you can start in the middle of a
Number five, and one that will dispense you in the selection process.
The audio quality of your footage is not good.
If the venue provides audio recording from the hall, always request access to that recording.
Otherwise, you could invest in a good audio recorder to place in the audience or even
use your phone to record by the podium.
Now, the bonus I promised, a rapid fire round of questions about everything videos.
Question number one, what device do you use or recommend for recording?
I actually don’t have fancy equipment and have been using a Panasonic or a Canon palm
size skin quarter that I got from Costco years ago to record.
I heard great things about Sonic camcorders too.
I also have a few recent footage recorded on my phone, which was okay.
But mostly, I would just use the video that I was provided by the workshop or masterclass
organizer because they tend to have better audio quality.
Question number two, when sending out an application, should I send separate videos or one video
with several excerpts like a highlight reel?
This really is personal preference.
When I was on the review committee, I liked having separate links for each excerpt.
So if I’ve gotten enough information, I can quickly move to another one.
However, I have friends loving just one video with all the excerpts so they don’t have to
open hundreds of links at once.
Question number three, what program do you use to edit videos?
Actually, anything that’s free on my laptop.
I’ve used Microsoft Movie Maker, iMovie on a MacBook or Adobe Premium.
You really don’t need a fancy program.
All you need is a cover or title showing the repertoire and the ensemble and to trim the
video to start right at your best.
Question number four, I’m always nervous or busy leading up to my own conducting when
I have a chance.
So I feel overwhelmed that I have to get the equipment ready to set the camera right and
to record audio in the hall.
What should I do?
Well, like everything else in life, prepare in advance.
You want to always get the rehearsal room or it comes a hall early to set things up in
If you can afford it, having multiple devices to be safe.
For important performances, I will have two cameras to record or sometimes my machine
in addition to the one the organization is providing if possible.
If you don’t or can’t have multiple devices, don’t stress out.
There are always others you can get help from.
Asking fellow conductors at a workshop to help you set things up or even record on their
machine is not uncommon.
Of course, you want to ask nicely and after you get to know that person a little bit,
not when you just first met each other.
If I were at a workshop and knew the order of conducting, I often set things up and hit
recording button when the previous conductor was still on the podium.
So I can make sure that the angle and the frame is the way I like.
You can always edit the previous person out.
I put everything in one bag so I can just grab it on my way to rehearsal or concert.
I got some string bags or pouches of various sizes from dollar stores for the court and
power to stay organized.
Oh, and always bring an extension cord when you came.
Extra, XT cards and an adapter if you are traveling to foreign countries.
As you never know, when you need them.
So there you will have it.
I hope you enjoyed this episode.
If you’re starting out, I hope you know you need to focus.
Go out there, get it done.
I’m telling you it’s a game changer.
Thank you so much for being here with me today.
And before I forget, have you subscribed to my podcast yet?
I don’t want you to miss anything.
And if you subscribe to the podcast,
you will be notified each time I have a new episode.
Thanks again for tuning in.
I will see you here at the same time,
same place next week.
Bye for now.

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