The importance of silence in music

A blog on the most overlooked ingredient of music, Part 1
When we think of music we basically think of sounds. Sounds played by various musicians and their instruments. These sounds get arranged in all kind of patterns, in all kind of rhythms and in all kind of styles, which we enjoy as music.
Hardly anyone however realizes which hidden ingredient gives music its strong expressive appeal… silence. Silence is a quality not appreciated very much in our modern world. It even seems to be something to avoid at all costs.
In the media one moment of silence is often being considered as a moment of weakness, one has to keep on talking, hence all these talking heads on television basically not saying anything.

Silence for the bass guitar player
Through silence however a musician is able to make his music alive and expressive.
I’ll explain what I mean: As a bass guitar player I’ve always been very aware of the beginning of a note. A note started on the wrong moment is being referred to as bad timing. Especially for the bass guitar it’s crucial. If you start a note a little to early or a little to late have a look at the drummers face; he won’t be happy!  If this occurs too much you bet you get thrown out of the band.
It took a while before I understood that the end of a note is as crucial as the beginning. Once I got it, playing bass became a lot more fun. Just listen to a few different bass players. Most of them play well timed, and of course they do, otherwise they would have been sacked. But the great ones really groove because they know when to stop the note to leave some silence before the next note comes.  The most basic illustration of this effect is the difference between staccato and legato playing of a riff. (to be continued)

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