The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!

-Artur Schnabel (Austrian pianist)

The pause is as important as the note.

-Truman Fisher (American composer)

UBC Symphony 2013 Fall

The more I grow as a musician, the more I have come to understand that the pauses and spaces in a composition are equally important as the notes played. As a young musician in an ensemble or group improvisation setting, the temptation for me was to play all the time, often to exercise my zeal in a recently new found skill or technique. But how much more there is to the musical experience when one stops to listen to not just the individual parts but to the piece as a whole, including the spaces and pauses in between.

Which leads me to this. The pause.

What are you doing your pauses when performing and practising?

You are likely listening to the music or perhaps counting measures.

Here are a few other tips I encourage the musical athletes I work with to practise:

  • Reset your posture: Find that neutral position again where your head and shoulders are sitting on top of your pelvis, with equal weight exerting through both legs or both sides of your buttocks when sitting
  • Deep breaths: Take a deep, slow belly breath (diaphragmatic breathing). This helps you relax any nervous tension that may have developed when playing.
  • Shoulder rolls:  No matter what instrument played, most musicians will carry some sort of tension in their shoulders. A simple way to reset the muscles is to roll the shoulders forward and backwards a few times during your break.

These few practises will help to prevent unnecessary tension in the muscles. This will benefit you by decreasing your chances of injury; easing your tension when playing, both from the physical and mental aspect.