Baton technique – Legato and staccato strokes

Last updated Aug 31, 2021 | Published on Sep 23, 2021

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.

In this episode, we looked at pulse and beat. Generally speaking, a pulsing point corresponds with the beat within the pattern. These points are connected by a stroke – straight or curved. Each stroke can also have other characteristics: long and smooth or short and stopped. These are used, respectively, for legato and staccato passages.

When you practice these different strokes use a metronome: from 54 to 80 for legato strokes and 60 to 96 for staccato strokes. It’s really important to start slowly and move up gradually.

What’s the basic difference between the 2 strokes?

In the legato stroke, there is one continuous line between one pulse and another. The wrist initiates the baton movement and the tip of the baton carries the sound to the following pulsing point. Feel the resistance of the sound at the tip of the baton.

In a staccato passage, the movement is stopped, creating a short stroke.

When you put it in a 2 patterns, the stroke assumes the different shapes.

In the legato stroke, click on both beats (with the wrist only) and continue the stroke. In the staccato stroke, click and stop the movement.

Here are some pointers on how to practice:


  • start with your arm in an L shape
  • practice each pattern (2-3-4-6) at least 10 times, or until you feel that your body has learned the movements properly
  • change the shape of the patterns: taller, wider, shorter, etc. This is very useful to indicate dynamics and to gain confidence with different sizes of the same stroke
  • keep checking your baton grip: do you see the top of your hand?
  • make sure you only use one part of your arm for each stroke

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This last point is very important: if you move your forearm and your wrist at the same time, you’re going to create multiple pulsing points. For players, that is really unsettling because they end up looking at different reference points. That’s often one of the reasons for orchestras not playing together.

Now that you’ve most likely done all of this with your right hand, do the same with your left hand.

The left hand needs to be able to do everything that the right hand does, and viceversa.

Want more examples? Take a look at this video.

Happy conducting!


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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

Harold Farberman

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