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What Does a Movie Conductor Do?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A movie conductor is typically responsible for leading an orchestra or other group of musicians as they play and record music for use in a film production. This conductor may also be the composer of a piece of film music, though this is not always the case and different people can compose and conduct a piece of music. The movie conductor is typically responsible for setting the speed or tempo for the musicians playing the music and guiding them through the composition. This can also include rehearsal of music to provide notes or feedback to musicians, as well as adjusting the way in which the music is played.

In general, a movie conductor performs many of the same tasks as the conductor of any other group of musicians, though with certain special considerations for the use of the music in a movie, often known as the score for a film. Basic conductor considerations often begin with rehearsals with the musicians or orchestra to ensure that the musicians know the music and understand what the conductor wants to hear. This is often done to provide a sense of direction for the musicians and filmmakers on a project; the movie conductor can then use feedback from the composer or director to adjust the performance as needed prior to recording.

During performance and recording of music for a film score, the movie conductor typically leads the musicians through each piece or arrangement. This can be done in a number of different ways, depending on the preferences of a conductor, though standard form involves the use of the right hand, often holding a baton, to set the pace and tempo for a performance. Different patterned movements are used to indicate different time signatures, and musicians follow the lead of a movie conductor to play together in this tempo.

Beyond this basic responsibility of a movie conductor, he or she can also provide other information to the musicians throughout a performance. The conductor can use gestures and facial expressions to indicate that a certain section should be played more loudly or when certain musicians should stop or begin, often to punctuate the action that is occurring during a moment in the film. Many conductors work in a studio with a large screen, conducting the recording of music as a working print of the movie is played for him or her to see. This allows a movie conductor to ensure the pacing and performance of a piece properly matches what is occurring in the film, and allows him or her to make spontaneous adjustments as needed.

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Discussion Comments
By Euroxati — On Aug 16, 2014

I've always thought about being a musical composer for a movie. While doing so, I've always taken into consideration that the score needs to be leveled out with the sound effects and the voices. Have you ever that that incident in a movie or any form of media where it was hard to understand what the other was saying because the musical score was too loud? It might not seem important in the long run, but it can make all the difference to an audience that has been waiting to see a film for years.

By Chmander — On Aug 16, 2014

@Viranty - Well, I think one thing you seem to be forgetting is that movies take years to make, and they are not made overnight. Because of this, they have quite a bit of time to prepare the score while the movie is in production. Also, you should take into consideration that some of these people have been doing it for years. While there are those who would have a bit more trouble because it's their first year on the job, experience can really help you in the long run. Lastly, some musical composers have also been known to take inspiration from others, so this could help a great deal as well. Just remember that in the long run, it's easier said than done.

By Viranty — On Aug 15, 2014

Speaking of a movie conductor, one thing I have always wondered is how do they know what they want the music in the film to sound like? Not only is there an endless array of compositions, but even more so, the score has to fit with the scene, and must be timed perfectly. For example, a cutesy song that you often hear in a Disney movie wouldn't fit anywhere in a horror film or action packed thriller. Overall, these are some of the things you really have to think about.

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