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I want to do this kind of thing in my song: In one moment, before a chorus tension raises significantly, then I want to mute all the sounds for a moment just to hit the listener with the chorus in all its glory.

And there's my question. What the length of this pause should be? Does it have to be one bar? Or can I start the chorus (starting next bar) while muting everything for only half of the bar legth (if there are 4 beats in a bar it would be 2 beats of the pause). This situation looks like losing 2 beats, because I want to start chorus (thus starting a new bar) right after only 2 beats of pause and playing a new bar. And how to write this kind of operation on a sheet music?

  • Some of the 'pop' greats have used this type of trick a lot [though not necessarily using silence, but dropping or adding even single beats to lift tension or eliminate 'waste'. Beatles, Stevie Wonder, BeeGees, Simon & Garfunkel are just ones I can think of off the top of my head. If they can do it, so can you. Even The Pogues' Fairytale of New York has a 5/4 bar before the last chorus. – Tetsujin Dec 23 '18 at 10:56
  • Ok. Thanks for your answer, but how would it look like on a sheet ? Would it be just bar cut in half and a new one starting at that point? – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:01
  • You just change the time signature for one bar 6/4 or 2/4, your call, then change it again back to 4/4. I'd bet most of the acts I mentioned above never even wrote it down, so they simply wouldn't care what it looked like on paper, so long as the band all knew where it went ;) – Tetsujin Dec 23 '18 at 11:01
  • Hmm... I've never thought of that. What you said is really clever. I don't know why I didn't think of that. You're the guy, Tetsujin. Thank you so much. According to what you said If I was playing in 3/4 and the pause was only 1 beat, I can change time signature to 1/4 for one bar and then go back to 3/4. Right? – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:04
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    You can also fermata a rest – Luke Sawczak Dec 23 '18 at 14:32
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Dragging some comments into a quick answer (I'll try to come back later to tidy up, busy day ;)

Some of the 'pop' greats have used this type of trick a lot [though not necessarily using silence, but dropping or adding even single beats to lift tension or eliminate 'waste'. Beatles, Stevie Wonder, BeeGees, Simon & Garfunkel are just ones I can think of off the top of my head. If they can do it, so can you. Even The Pogues' Fairytale of New York has a 5/4 bar before the last chorus.

You just change the time signature for one bar 6/4 or 2/4, your call, then change it again back to 4/4. I'd bet most of the acts I mentioned above never even wrote it down, so they simply wouldn't care what it looked like on paper, so long as the band all knew where it went ;)

Very quick example - you can do it either way, a longer bar of 6/4 or a shorter bar of 2/4 - as far as I'm aware that is merely a stylistic choice.

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  • You're the man, Tetsujin. I'm so happy there are people willing to help :) I finally got it. :) A few minutes ago I've asked Tim about the "pause mark and unspecified timing of pause". I don't know if he's still around in this topic, so could you please take a look on my question there? Thank you again :) – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:24
  • Tim answered the question, let's forget about it. Thank you very much Tetsujin for your time and have a great day!!! :) – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:35
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If you want the silence to be an absolute specific length, write in a change of timesig., 2/4, 3/4, whatever, then a rest for the full bar, then resume the original time sig. An idea spawned by Tetsujin - make the bar in which the space occurs longer, say 5/4, with a rest on beat 5. Either way, the time sig. needs changing twice.

If you want it so it's slightly variable, depending on situation, audience, etc., finish with a rest, in normal timing, and write a pause mark over it. That gives discretion to the player. This is probably the easier one to read and perform.

  • Yeah, Your answer and Tetsujin's explained it all to me. :) Although I've got a question about this "pause mark" and unspecified timing of pause. This kind of thing basically means that people in the band can't really count it in any time signature but rather wait (until one of them decides that it's time to go on) to continue from given point, right? So in this situation counting regular time signature that was played before would be misleading (for drummer for example). – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:17
  • @Raven322 - that's why I gave two options. In the pause situation, a lot of bands who play together a lot may well feel the gap, but one member (or the conductor) can easily bring everyone in again together. It's nothing too tricky. And if it was written with a timing change, fair enough, but a very large percentage of players in pop type bands wouldn't read it anyway, I guess. – Tim Dec 23 '18 at 11:32
  • Yeah. Again, thank you a lot, Tim. I was struggling with it for a while and finally I am at peace again haha :) Have a great day! – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:34
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There's no reason why you can't have a 2/4 bar of silence in a piece which is otherwise in 4/4.

  • Ok, let's say I've done a pause for 2 beats of 4. Can I start then a new bar? Cause I'm in a middle of the previous one. How would it look like? – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 10:48
  • Nevermind the question, I got it :) – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 11:39
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No need to stick in a 5/4 or 6/4 bar in a 4/4 piece -- just finish some bar with a 1/4-rest on the fourth beat, and put a fermata over the rest. I'd recommend writing "G.P." over it to indicate "grand pause."
For that matter, if your theme run thru the fourth beat, just toss in a double slash ( // ) aka "Caesura" right over the measure line (See my always-recommended Dolmetsch reference page.

  • I didn't know about Caesura. Thank you Carl :) – Raven322 Dec 23 '18 at 20:31
  • Thanks for the info. A new term for me. Is there a difference between a fermata pause and a caesura? – Tim Dec 24 '18 at 7:57
  • From what I read fermata pause has to be placed over a note or rest and Caesura can just be placed anywhere, not only above notes. I understand that this way: If I have 4/4 bar with a whole rest I can place fermata aboce that rest and as soon as conductor breaks it you start playing from the next bar (because of the length of the rest). Same situation but with a Caesura would look like this: Caesura is placed just after the last played note after which silence occurs (in the same bar). When conductor breaks it you play starting from the next bar. – Raven322 Dec 24 '18 at 10:22
  • I've run out of letters in the previous comment so I'm gonna end this here: This way you omitted adding a bar with a whole rest. I don't know if I got this right, but this is how I see it. – Raven322 Dec 24 '18 at 10:32
  • @Raven322 You have it exactly right. – Carl Witthoft Dec 24 '18 at 16:13

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