I was learning Santa Lucia when I came across a Fermata (bird's eye) over a whole rest. I wasn't sure how to play it. Is it that we have to rest for a little more time, like an eighth/sixteenth more?

It looks something like this:

Fermata over Rest

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    Pretty much same thing as "GP" for "grand pause" . As Tim wrote, length of the wait is up to the performer. Commented May 31, 2016 at 13:34
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    I understand if it's in the middle of the piece - take your time before proceeding. Notice that the fermata over the rest is at the end of the piece, though. To me, that doesn't make any sense. In that case, does the composer want you to stare at your instrument or sheet music for a while before looking away to the audience, and [s]he wants the audience to notice you're doing that on purpose? Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 1:09
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    A fermata over a rest in a multi-voiced piece may also mean, that some other player has a solo here, so you have to wait until she is finished. See this answer.
    – guidot
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:23
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    Another player's solo may be a good REASON for an extended rest. But there's no way the rest, in itself, tells you that's what's happening!
    – Laurence
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 1:00

3 Answers 3


There's no specified extra length for a fermata, so it will depend on the mood of the piece (and that of the performer!), and that can vary from performance to performance.10-20% longer would be about right. I've seen it exactly as you show, at the end of a piece, on a rest, and thought that in this case it could be a very long fermata! It's probably not actually like that, though?

  • Thanks for your Reply! Though this Fermata is in the middle of the piece on the bass clef after which in the next bar there's a triad. So I just wanted to know whether I have to wait a little bit before playing the triad or it just means nothing? Commented May 31, 2016 at 12:03
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    Yes, just keep the listeners waiting - they would expect the piece to carry on in tempo, usually, so take your time.
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 13:05

I'd read that as the composer wanted you to really make that pause important. So take your time with it, especially if it's in between two very different feeling parts of the piece. (Fast to Slow section, major to minor, etc) Since there really isn't an official length to hold a rest with a fermata do what feels right.

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    If you play in a band or an orchestra, having a fermata over a rest in your part is nothing special. It's just to warn you that that the performers who are actually playing notes also have a fermata, so you have to watch the conductor rather than just counting the beats.
    – user19146
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 20:28
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    @alephzero Yes, I assumed in my answer that the OP was referring to some sort of solo piece. But if part of a group, totally, it's a warning sign to look up and watch for the next downbeat because the director will be taking his/her time.
    – Zessa
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 0:11

In some performance scenarios, for example in a church or cathedral, the sound will echo around the building, dying away after the musicians have stopped playing. This could be an instruction from the composer to allow the sound to die away, with this sound being considered a part of the music.

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