Two Types of Cues
All cues fall into one of two major categories; cues that are totally silent and cues that utilize sound. In both cases, some type of movement is made by the Leader to show the two beats before playing begins. The most common movement is downward for the first beat and upward for the second (tuba players, because of the size and position of their instrument, are seldom able to do this particular movement effectively). In a piece that begins on the first beat of a 4/4 measure, this would be seen as a downward motion on beat 3 and an upward motion on beat 4 immediately preceding the first note of the piece. It is crucial that the Leader establishes the tempo in his or her head as preparation for giving the cue at the right tempo. The Leader should count, at least, two beats in their head before he or she gives the cue. At a moderate tempo a Leader can count “1, 2” in his or her head and signal “3, 4” with the movement of his or her instrument. At faster tempi, it may be necessary for younger players to count 1 measure in their head to ensure that the cue (and subsequent entrance) are at the same tempo.
There are many trumpet and trombone players who use a completely sideward motion on the first beat of the cue (as tuba players are forced to do because their instrument usually has no room to descend). This motion can be successful much of the time; however, it is not as clear as a downward motion (either straight down or diagonally down). The reason for this is that, for the Followers watching the Leader’s profile (and sometimes only able to do so using their peripheral vision), a sideward movement is not as easily detectable. Since a downward motion can easily be seen, even by the Followers far off to the Leader’s sides, it makes for a more consistently clear motion. For all but tuba players, the downward motion is just as easy to execute as a sideward one and should therefore be the movement of choice to ensure maximum clarity.
Observe the cues below. First look at them straight on and then view them with your head and body turned slightly so that you're pointing a little more in the same direction as the Leader—as if you're about to perform with him to the audience (chamber brass seating and orientation is the topic of another article). At this vantage point you should be using your peripheral vision. You will notice that the linear movement is not as easily detectable as a vertical movement.
With a peripheral view of a slow cue, the sideward motion becomes almost imperceptible.
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