As a conductor and baton maker I will submit that there is no such thing as a "best baton". A baton is personal. Like any instrument, shoes, or even a car; a conductors baton is something that needs some thought and consideration before we decide if indeed this instrument is the "best" for us as conductors. I have made thousands of batons for many of the world's top conductors and have surveyed hundreds to come up with answers about what the "best" baton is for each individual and have determined that there are some general constancies that relate to handle shape, and stick length that are directly related to the conductors anatomy and job. However I would be less than genuine and insulting to my colleagues in the baton making industry if I were to posit that any baton was ubiquitously superior. Hopefully the following information will help satisfy your curiosity and provoke some more questions.
Before deciding on any instrument we need to evaluate some things: 1. comfort 2. ease of use 3. aesthetics 4. value (this is very personal).
The most important baton we'll ever purchase is the very first one. It sets the standard for feel, weight, and response. It's our only point of reference. Like most things we look for recommendations and validation from teachers, friends, artists, or the internet about brands and baton models. Be careful, each of us is different, so what's good for your friend may not be good for you. There are a lot of videos and articles floating around the internet that lack proper research while advocating for particular brands or models of conducting batons. Caveat Emptor!
Ease of use
Ask yourself the following questions about your current batons: 1. Do I experience any cramping in my hand 2. Is my should sore after a rehearsal or concert 3. Do I "notice" my baton or is it just an extension of my arm 4. Can the musicians in my ensemble properly see my baton?
The attractiveness of our instruments (batons maybe more than any) is a huge part of the lure. However, just because it's pretty doesn't mean it's right for you. Certain finishes can be too slippery or rub off too quickly. The type of wood that grabs your eye may not balance properly with the shaft length you require. So I contend that this should always be a minor consideration.
What is a good value for a stick?
A baton is as much an instrument as a trumpet or violin. You can play one off the shelf or you can customize it to your needs. The value should be assessed by the customization, craftsmanship, and warranty. PaGu Batons are all handmade to your specs and include a 1 year warranty with all their batons. That's a nice piece of security.
Last, but not least is the shaft (after-all that is the business end of a baton)
Most companies taper the entire shaft to a point. Most batons are painted white. Almost all batons have maple wood shafts (either natural or painted). Consider this: only PaGu Batons tapers the first 4" of the shaft leaving the rest at a full 3/16" diameter so that there is more for the ensemble to see.
Now that you've read my views it's time to make some decisions about your next baton. To learn more about the PaGu Batons process for helping you build your next baton, please go to www.pagubatons.com
by Phil Aguglia,
Band Director, Kenmore East High School
Owner/Craftsman of PaGu Batons
Recipient of Several Awards for Excellence in Education
Frequent Guest Conductor and Lecturer
Music is Art Board Trustee