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Topic: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

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  1. #1
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    Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    When I attended the Count Basie Orchestra concert last week, I saw the band leader, Bill Hughes, use some hand signals. I've always wondered what these musical hand signals meant. Did you know someone has provided an interpretation of these Musical Hand Signals.
    "You often see musicians using signs to indicate key, solos, finishes etc. Here's some in common use but note that they can vary. A common technique for key indication is to use the appropriate number of fingers either up or down to indicate sharps or flats, e.g. the key of A having three sharps would require three fingers held up whereas F having one flat would require one finger pointing down."

    "Those hand signals the band leader waves to his crew have always been a mystery to us...Here are the meanings of some of those signals, which seem to be universal since they came from musicians all over the world, with no objections: "

    4 fingers down - key of Ab
    3 fingers down
    - key of Eb
    2 fingers down - key of Bb
    1 finger down
    - key of F
    Curved index finger and thumb
    - key of C
    1 finger up
    - key of G
    2 fingers up
    - key of D
    3 fingers up
    - key of A
    4 fingers up
    - key of E
    2 fingers crossed
    - come in at the bridge or the 1/2
    Patting the top of the head
    - go to ‘the head’ (first strain of the tune)
    2 fingers sideways
    - go to verse Closed fist held up - this is the last chorus (take it out)
    Closed fist with thumb up
    - next chorus will be a “fugue” with everyone out except the front line...Finger across throat - Finish
    Musician nodding at bartender and holding up two fingers
    - make that a double! Audience holding fingers in both ears - less volume, please!

    This will come in handy at trade shows. My competitors send me hand signals and I never knew what they meant

  2. #2

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Unfortunately, all the hand signals I learned in the rock & roll bar days aren't particularly well suited for a family environment, given that you could always count on some drunk yelling out "Free Bird!" at midnight no matter where you were playing...
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  3. #3
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Duncan
    Unfortunately, all the hand signals I learned in the rock & roll bar days aren't particularly well suited for a family environment, given that you could always count on some drunk yelling out "Free Bird!" at midnight no matter where you were playing...
    Ha! Yup!

    In fact, during a small interval of silence at a very good jazz concert at the Berklee Performance Center, I yelled "Freebird!". Broke everyone up
    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
    Hint:1.6180339887498948482 Φ

  4. #4

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Hahahaha, and I thought it only happened here!

  5. #5

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    I was in a band once that actually played "Free Bird"... the extended live version, even. At least we were ready when people yelled it.
    www.EricHermanMusic.com
    - Cool Tunes for Kids -

  6. #6

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Quote Originally Posted by Garritan
    This will come in handy at trade shows. My competitors send me hand signals and I never knew what they meant
    [/INDENT]
    You mean they were simply saying G Major??!

  7. #7

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Though I have not seen the film in quite some time, I do believe that the person demonstrating the 5 tone tune that the people in the desert were singing was using the same hand signals to depict the tones of the tune.


    They were something as follows:

    1 finger up - key of G
    3 fingers up- key of A
    1 finger down- key of F

    1 finger down- key of F (8va)
    Curved index finger and thumb - key of C

    And that pretty much stretches my memory. It could have been an other movie but I am sure it is the one I am thinking of.

    Do you know which on I am talking about by listening to the note progression above, and am I right?

    I don't know if those were the exact signals but he was using the same system.



    What can I say? I'm a nut!



    88fingers
    (The Nut )

    www.waveav8.com

  8. #8

    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Ah Ha!!!
    I knew I had seen hand signals in that movie, however I am double enlightend to two different hand signal techniques now.

    Thanks!

    What would I know? With this many fingers everyone is confused with my hand signals.


    I'm still a nut.
    88fingers
    (The Nut )

    www.waveav8.com

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Re: Musical Hand Signals Revealed

    Well, I can verify that these exist in real life... I've had the band leader indicate keys by the above at different gigs in my life...

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