Teaching Youth to Lead Music

Fun ideas for teaching youth to lead music:

  • Use glow sticks! Turn off the lights and let the fun ensue! (Katie)
  • Tell youth they will be invited to lead the music during sacrament.  It’ll help them stay on task! (Deanne)
  • In my conducting class at BYU we had to draw the different patterns in front of us on the chalk board at the right height and size and then we would stand in front of it and conduct. That helped get the very basic movement down. We will be doing this soon because none of my girls know how to conduct and the ones that do can’t conduct and sing at the same time.” (Sabrina)
  • I combined this activity with each YW presenting a favorite song of theirs. We talked about how music can inspire, calm, invite the spirit, pump you up, etc…It was fun insight into each of the girls and we were all introduced to new songs and different genres of music.” (Melissa)
  • If you’re really ambitious, you could have a few girls volunteer to conduct the rest of the group with a familiar hymn and practice with tempos — really slow to super fast — and maybe even cutoffs. The idea is to make sure everyone is paying attention to the chorister.” (Shannyn)
  • I let the girls pick an appropriate modern song they liked and then I googled the time signature. The girls had a blast. I tried to show them how they can find the beat dancing and its the same for conducting.” (Shannon)
  • “After your lesson, let the kids lead music during mutual opening exercises.  Have youth double up to help each other!  On the first mutual activity, have your best conductor help Youth A.  On the Second week, Youth A helps Youth B. For the third week, Youth B helps Youth C, and so on.  In this way each kid gets to be a learner and a teacher.  They also get to conduct twice, which helps them gain confidence.”  (Jenny)

Personal Progress

If your group includes young women, this activity will help fulfill the value experience Knowledge #6!

If you don’t know how to lead music…

If you don’t know how to lead music yourself, this information from the hymnbook will be helpful:

For Beginning Music Directors

Measures, Time Signatures, and Downbeats

A measure is the smallest musical unit bordered by vertical lines:


In the hymnbook, when a measure is carried over from one line of music to the next, the end of the first line is left open to show that the measure continues on to the next line:

The time signature (two numbers, one above the other, such as  is found at the beginning of each hymn. The top number indicates the number of beats or pulses in each measure. The bottom number tells what kind of note gets a beat or pulse. For example, a  time signature means there are three beats per measure in the hymn, and a quarter note () gets one beat.

As you direct the music, the first beat of your beat pattern (see beat pattern illustrations) should correspond with the first beat in each measure. This first beat, called the downbeat, is the strongest beat in each measure. You will note that many hymns begin on an upbeat, or pickup note, before the first downbeat.

Standard Beat Patterns

The purpose of beat patterns is to keep the congregation together rhythmically and to communicate the mood and spirit of the hymn. Patterns should be kept simple, but may vary according to the nature and mood of the hymn. The dots on the beat patterns show where the rhythmic pulses of the hymn occur.

The two-beat pattern (used for hymns marked  or  ):

The three-beat pattern (used for hymns marked  or  ):

The four-beat pattern (used for hymns marked  ):

The six-beat pattern (used for hymns marked  or  ):

or  hymn with a slow tempo, such as Silent Night (no. 204), may be conducted with either the traditional six-beat pattern or a double three-beat pattern—first a large one, followed by a smaller one:

or  hymn with a moderate tempo, such as Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd (no. 221), may be conducted by omitting the second and fifth beats of the traditional six-beat pattern, and pausing at those points in the pattern:

or  hymn with a fast tempo, such as Master, the Tempest Is Raging (no. 105), may be conducted with a two-beat pattern—the first three beats go with the first stroke, and the last three beats go with the second stroke:

When using the last two beat patterns, be sure to keep the rhythm or pulses of the hymn constant.

Some Hymns That Are Easy to Conduct:

The two-beat pattern:

The three-beat pattern:

The four-beat pattern:

How to lead music videos

You could even show these videos during your activity.  But REMEMBER, YouTube is blocked by the church’s wifi, so you’ll have to either download the videos or show them using your cell phone’s data or hotspot.

Final words

I was our ward music chairperson and conductor for a couple of years.  We had little Primary aged children come up and help me lead the music each Sunday (excluding the sacrament hymn) for years.  You can literally teach someone to lead music in about 5 minutes, especially if you stay with them to help.

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