I'm currently studying Hrabe's 86 Etudes for String Bass. On Etude #3 I came upon this fermata:

Example of a fermata over a double bar line

It's not on top of any note or rest, but on a double bar line. How am I supposed to play this? Do I hold the last note, or is there a pause before I go on to the next line?

2 Answers 2


It is usually the case, when you have multiple sections of a piece, one after the other, where the composer wants a slight pause in between sections. Remember Fermata just simply means pause.

  • 1
    A fermata does not mean "pause". It means "Keep doing what you're doing, longer than normally." That's why it can be put above both notes and rests. When put above a bar line, it means "Prolong the silence between the notes in the adjoining bars". Sep 5, 2017 at 6:37
  • 2
    Both ABRSM and UNISA give the meaning of Fermata as a pause.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:26
  • I suspect when they write "pause" what they really mean is to pause the meter, not a "Grand Pause," which is a short pause where nobody plays. Sep 5, 2017 at 11:05

Looks like a way to say 'hang on a bit before you play the next bit'. There's no rest to put it on, and if it was over a note, that'd have to be held on.

P.S. What's the strange sign instead of a number at the start of the last bar?

  • 4
    It's the string playing symbol for "stop the string with your thumb," used on both cello and bass. 0 without the tick means "open string," or sometimes "natural harmonic".
    – user19146
    Sep 4, 2017 at 16:05
  • If you had attached an image of the whole etude (only 4 lines) it would have been clear that this is the mid-point, and the second half is more or less the mirror image of the first half - so it means "take a short pause for breath." You can't easily show the phrasing using slurs in string parts, because they get confused with bowing instructions.
    – user19146
    Sep 4, 2017 at 16:09
  • @alephzero - which hand thumb?
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2017 at 16:18
  • @Tim the fretting hand's thumb Sep 4, 2017 at 18:55
  • @Tim left hand. You can't stop a string and use a bow with the same hand! See youtube.com/watch?v=QIZtJvgUIsM for cello, youtube.com/watch?v=-c-39Bten_E for bass.
    – user19146
    Sep 4, 2017 at 18:57

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