Born in Bandung, Java, Dutch East Indies, as the son of Herman Louis Johan Badings, an officer in the Dutch East Indies army, Badings became an orphan at an early age. Having returned to the Netherlands, his family tried to dissuade him from studying music, and he enrolled at the Delft Polytechnical Institute (later the Technical University). He worked as a mining engineer and palaeontologist at Delft until 1937, after which he dedicated his life entirely to music. Though largely self-taught, he did receive some advice from Willem Pijper, the doyen of Dutch composers at the time, but their musical views differed widely and after Pijper had attempted to discourage Badings from continuing as a composer, Badings broke off contact.
In 1930 Badings had his initial big musical success when his first cello concerto (he eventually wrote a second) was performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Champions of his work included such eminent conductors as Eduard van Beinum and Willem Mengelberg. He held numerous teaching positions; e.g., at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart and the University of Utrecht. Accused after the Second World War of collaboration with the Nazi occupation forces, he was briefly banned from professional musical activity, but by 1947 he had been reinstated.
Badings used unusual musical scales and harmonies (e.g., the octatonic scale); he also used the harmonic series scale from the eighth to the fifteenth overtone. A prolific artist, he had produced over a thousand pieces at the time of his death. He died in Maarheeze in 1987.
His works include four symphonies, two string quartets, several concertos, chamber music, and incidental music.
Recently, interest in Badings' music has grown; the German label CPO have committed themselves to recording Badings' entire orchestral oeuvre, and a Badings Festival has been held in Rotterdam in October 2007.