Adrian Casas Lupercio - conducting expert

The Baton

Basic tips for dealing with the baton

In this video, Adrian talks about the baton. Do you really need a baton to conduct? And if so, what kind?

Released on April 1, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello everyone. My name is Adrian Cassis. I'm a violinist and conductor from Regina, Canada, and we are here today to talk about the baton. So, the history of the baton is quite extensive. We have in the Baroque and the Renaissance period, we have everything from freehand conducting to conducting from the violin where the violinist will give the entrance with a bow to the different musicians all the way to audible conducting where the conductor will have a stick all the way down to the floor and literally tap the stick on the floor to mark the beat that way. The most famous case of audible conducting was in 1687 with Lully literally stabbing his foot with a stick and eventually causing his death with gangrene at that time.

So the baton as we know it today didn't come around until later on at the end of 19th century, beginning of the 20th century. So for our purposes today, we're going to focus on the modern baton and how we use that baton. First of all, if you, you don't need a button all the time. If you're conducting a small vocal ensemble or a small instrumental ensemble, you don't need a baton, you can just use your hands to conduct. The reason is because the baton, the purpose of the baton is to expand the range of motion of your arm and give the beat point a focal point so that the beat point is visible from every angle of the orchestra or the large ensemble. So if you're conducting an orchestra or a large instrumental ensemble like a wind band or a vocal ensemble like a big choir, then yeah, I do recommend to use a baton.

So when you choose a baton, make sure that the baton works for you. So a lot of conductors focus on whether if the baton is balance or if their baton is made out of certain materials and whatnot. I wouldn't go that far. I wouldn't worry about that. So don't go there and spend two, $300 on a baton. Just make sure that the baton feels comfortable for you and it works for you. Now, a couple of things that you might want to consider when choosing a baton is, first of all, it has to be light, light enough so that you can hold at a rehearsal for two or three hours. And make sure that it's not too rigid or too flexible. Make sure that it's not too long or too short, between 35 to 45 centimeters long. And make sure that the grip feels comfortable in your hand, okay?

So I have a few examples of different batons here and you can see that there are different shapes and sizes of batons. If you're a beginner conductor, I will stay away from these smaller grips just because they might cause for your hand to either have too much tension or make your fingers spread apart and distract the musicians from the tip of the baton. If you, as a beginner conductor, I would recommend these cork batons. They feel comfortable and they are light enough. I prefer a wider grip. So these are my two favorite grips, two favorite batons. And so whatever baton you choose, make sure that it works for you.

So when you're using a baton for the first time, there is a couple of things that you might want to consider. First of all, the baton is an extension of your arm. So if you are of of the idea that batons shouldn't be an extension of your arm, then I recommend to just use free hand conducting, and don't use a baton. But if you're going to use a baton, make sure that the baton is always an extension of your arm. All right? So in other words, make sure that the baton is aligned with your elbow. All right? So that it is visible from every angle of the grip. So make sure that your baton doesn't go this way or this way or this way or this way. So make sure that the baton is always an extension of your arm.

The other thing that you want to consider is make sure that your grip is not too tight so that it causes tension when you're conducting and eventually causes pain. And not too loose so that your fingers cause a distraction from the tip of the baton. Make sure that your fingers are wrapped around the grip of the baton and make sure that the tip of the baton is always visible. All right? So go back to my previous video where I talk about the beat and there are a few exercises in there that you can try now with your new baton grip. Please stay healthy, follow the recommendations of your local health authorities and stick around for another month and see you all there. Take care.
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