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A modern baton made of hornbeam with a cone-shaped cork handle

A baton , also known as a conductor's baton , is a baton that the conductor uses to indicate the beat to a music-making ensemble , give inserts and clarify accentuations and musical movements.

Even drum majors use a rod for conducting. This stick is much larger (approx. 90–130 cm) and is not referred to as a baton , but as a tambour stick , stick or kisses .

Shape and material

The length of the baton is approx. 20–45 cm, the diameter 2–4 mm. A wide variety of materials are used for the pointed rod. B. wood, ivory or the very light and extremely stable fiberglass used; the handle is mostly made of cork and can take various shapes ( roller , pear , cone , ...). In some cases you can also find batons without additional thickening of the handle, here the wood of the baton was only left a little thicker when grinding.

For special areas of application (e.g. very dark orchestra pit ), the baton can be provided with a luminescent material , similar to the pointers and markings on a wristwatch . There are also batons with a light source (usually an LED ) on the tip and the power supply in the handle. In addition to the classic white color, signal colors (red or green) are also used on batons.

A conductor obtains the “ideal” length of the baton (without the handle) from the distance between the bend of the elbow and the base of the middle finger of the conductor's hand / palm; however, personal preferences and the size and proportions of the conductor also play a role. In general, smaller batons are preferred.

Since the baton has a similar meaning for the conductor as the instrument has for the musician, it is regarded as a very personal device, which is often made according to the wishes of the owner and bears a mark of the owner.



The earliest evidence in literature of the use of a baton appears to be a report by the Bolognese patrician Ercole Bottrigari. He describes a concert in Ferrara at the end of the 16th century in which the nun and maestra di concerto Vittoria Raffaella Aleotti conducts her ensemble with a polished staff.

During the baroque period , rolled music paper was used for conducting in Germany, as can be seen in pictures of the time. In France, on the other hand , at the court of the absolutist King Louis XIV , heavy, ornate staffs were used to stamp the beat on the floor. Jean-Baptiste Lully , court musician of the “Sun King”, injured his foot so badly in 1687 while performing a motet with his baton that he died of gangrene a few months later .

Since the 19th century

In its current form, the baton appeared in the 19th century during the Romantic era , when the duties of a conductor were expanded by the addition of larger orchestras and choirs . In Vienna, for example, the baton was first used in 1812 by the conductor Ignaz Franz von Mosel . Often the distances between some musicians and the conductor were so great that a utensil was required that “magnifies” and “clarifies” the conductor's movements. With the help of the baton, a conductor is able to make small movements especially visible over a greater distance. It is also almost always necessary for conductors in the opera due to the poor lighting conditions in the orchestra pit , as the conductor, who is almost completely dressed in black, is difficult to see and the bright baton is a good orientation point for the musicians.

In addition to its function, the baton has long since become a symbol for the conductor.

Web links

Commons : Batons  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: baton  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Karin Pendle: The Nuns of San Vito. and Vittoria / Raffaella Aleotti. In: Women & Music, a History. Indiana University Press, Bloomington / Indianapolis 1991, ISBN 0-253-34321-6 , pp. 44-45 and pp. 49-51.
  2. Eckhard Roelcke: The baton: conductors tell of their instrument . P. Zsolnay, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-552-04985-1 .