Orchestral conducting technique- The baton

There is no way to overstate the importance of the role of the baton..

The baton amplifies and makes more visible even the slightest arm movement, and at the same time  increases the expressiveness and the precision of our gestures making them clear for musicians sitting far away, especially in the concert hall or in the semi-darkness of the orchestra pit.

In our imagination it symbolizes  power, command. Many students feel exalted  when they have it in their hand , even if  they do not really  know how to hold it correctly. However, we are going to examine its professional aspect and not its  psychological implications.

The conductor must feel  at ease while using it  as if it were a continuation of his arm, a fourth part.

This object we are holding in our hand makes it possible to express new shades of expression, but it can also be a hindrance to their realization. Actually, a hand  holding something automatically becomes less expressive  and more rigid.

This is the reason why you have to be very careful when you are holding   the baton. If you manage to keep the different shades of  expressions which a free hand can show, all right, but if the baton becomes a hindrance, consider doing without it

Ilya Musin codified  three ways of holding a baton.

Each of them has to be used in different contexts. Obviously, with experience and practice, the student,  depending on the musical setting, will be able to go from one position to another naturally, without even having to think how he is holding it.

Let us examine minutely the second position

You hold the baton with your thumb and index finger, the middle finger  slightly closed but loose, the thumb slightly   forward. The end lightly touches  the palm of the hand but is not blocked, different from the previous position. The baton  point downwards.

This position greatly amplifies the gestures  of the hand because the baton becomes its extension. Even a slight inclination lifts the point of the baton  25- 30 cm.

Consequently, any small gesture  of the hand becomes visible. The importance of this position consists in making  the gestures of the hand more visible and  making them  independent of the rest of the arm…

from book/DVD Introduction to the orchestral conducting technique


 It is also very suitable for the circular gestures typical of triplets or ternary time. 

The point of the baton pointing downwards can be used to communicate a sensation of weight, of dragging along, of vibrant melodies .

Instead, with the end of the baton pointing upwards, you can suggest lightness and smoothness….



Moreover, a variation of the second position consists in placing the index finger  on the baton and not beside it, so as  to indicate something in particular.  You may use this variation when you are picking out  a small group of players , or  to guide one individual player  during a  particularly quiet poetic moment.

Next workshop  in Italy, Palermo 15-19 July 2019

Intensive summer piano session


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