Pop music’s problem with silence

Download videos:

What are the uses of silence in music and why is popular music so afraid of them? In this video I look at the various ways composers use silence, and why so many of them are considered out of bounds to today's chart toppers. Support me on Patreon:

mahler das lied von der erde scott joplin ragtime da... sibelius 5th symphony silence silence in classical music silence in music silence in popular music

I think silence on modern popular music (all styles really) is implemented primarily by absence of kick and bass rather than silence per se. Interesting you talk about the reggae One Drop rythm here especpaillly as so much of modern post-rock music, especially EDM styles. is so heavily influenced by reggae. \
Abram Foster
In terms of current radio pop, \
I am an aspiring (rock) musician with no formal musical education, but your content is amazingly inspiring as many other people have said here. I hope I can repay you someday through some good music of my own.
Alex Larking
The way you talk about these examples inspires me so much…
Alexis Harper
Metal definitely uses silence. Some songs just cut something off at a good time (I’ve seen this more in death metal than other genres). There’s also rhythmic silence (good example Master of Puppets chorus by Metallica).
Arne Hanna
Silence is extremely important in dance rhythm I think. For dance rhythm, whether it be funk or latin or techno etc, to have the desired effect, the silences, albeit extremely short ones, just have to be there. There's no better way to kill the groove than to smother it with sustained chords.
Thunderbolt by Bjork have a long pause between the verse but it was supposed to meant the time of lighting and the thunder. She often make long pauses between phrases too and let the background instrument shine.\n In my own composition i like to make variation in density of instruments to add \
Austin Molitor
The silence just before the end of Strawberry Fields Forever is my favorite.
You sound like red guy from dont hug me im scared
Benjamin Eliasson
Thank you very, very much for raising awareness of the beauty of silence in music. Silence is avoided like the plague by many composers (too many?) - only the most brave and accomplished dare to go there. As with all your videos, your treatment of the subject at hand is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you.
Bob Gooday
No Simon and Garfunkel reference? Bold move.
CPotter Vlog
There’s an old kyuss song called Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop (dumb title, I know) that has these long pauses at the end of the song.
Caleb Creed
Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, has many dramatic pauses in the A section. One of them even appears at the apex of the melody. Blood aand (SPACE) tears. \n\nAnother possible example is the intro and outro to Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah.\n\nIt's used to good effect in many places throughout Fleet Foxes' newest album 'Crack Up'\n\nOne very powerful set of (almost) silences for me is the brief pauses at 13:10ish in the Dawn Upshaw recording of Goreki's 3rd 1st movement setting off that little soprano solo nestled into the very top of the movement. Like you've walked up some Golgotha, and stumbled upon some Mary there still singing about her dead son.
Cheyenne Martin
Extremely interesting and wonderful video. Really makes me think about how some songs I listen to for the first time that begin with silence make me think my headphones are broken.
Colin MacDaniels
Most people that listen to pop music don't have an imagination, that's why they listen to pop music.
David Bennett Piano
My favourite fade out is 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen - when my band play it live, the audience always continue singing past the fade out, and if they are still singing when they reach the next 'don't stop me now' we come back in and play another chorus!
David Bruce Composer
5:05 Do I get the prize for the longest silence in a YouTube video?
David Young
A somewhat similar technique is the \
I've instantaneously recalled Hemispheres from Rush. There is pause o 2:34 that, in my opinion, is simply genius.
On silence in pop music, my first thought is the 17 seconds of silence in \
My favorite fade out that I've performed is in Eric Whitacre's \
Silence is one of my favorite musical notes. And complete silence during a piece can be a very powerful statement :)!
Fishy Fod
Interesting video and topic, but isn't the title somewhat misleading? The video talks mostly about different uses of silence and their different meanings, but it doesn't really focus on its absence in pop music. Wouldn't a better title be \
Would also like to mention some powerful pauses in \
Astounding work! Hugely underrated channel
Gran Ribeyro
Two words : war pigs
Gussy Rikh
Very, very insightful.
All I hear during silence is tinnitus :(
This great website I found called, Wikipedia 😂
I Am Frank
There are far different economies of scale between classical and pop music, and the experiences - and expectations - of both are therefore different. I wouldn't say that pop music is 'afraid' of silence (specifically the \
Is there a technical name for pattering the strings with the fingers on the tailpiece side of the bridge, as you use in Consolation? Or is this a described instruction in the score?\nI have played jazz compositions that include written ensemble silences. Also once wrote a short piece with the instruction that each player, whether playing the melody or soloing, should randomly remove elements over several choruses until total silence is reached, then build the piece back up in a similar manner. It's terrific when it comes off...\nEnjoying your channel David. Many thanks.
*S i g h l e n c e*
Jane Zetkin
Coming from a background of listening largely to hardcore and metal, silence is used generally to give the listener a moment's pause to breathe.
Jazz Duets
Thank you so much sir. Best video I have seen in ages¡ Please can you do a similar one on dynamics please if you have not already. cheers + subbed
Joe Zawinul Reviews and Reactions
Great video. I think you might find some interesting silences and spaces in Joe Zawinul's music. Sometimes it's total silence but other times it's lots of percussion and that groove is background and there are long spaces between notes on the keyboard
John Berkley
John St Dominic
I dislike fade-out endings, having grown up during the '80's when they were ubiquitous in pop music. Would you say that false endings in rock/pop (e.g. Blind Guardian's 'The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight') count as silence?\n\nMy choirmaster told me this anecdote: When Stanford was teaching Howells composition at the Royal College of Music, he took Howells into the Chapel and lectured him in depth on its architecture. He then told Howells to compose a piece for him. When Howells presented Stanford with his composition, Stanford was not pleased. \
Jonathan Palmquist
There is still an expectation of silence in between album tracks. You focused on the minority of situations where you don't listen to a whole song, but the silence between album tracks is one of the most common examples of what you're describing, at least as it relates to pop music. \n\nAnd you didn't mention how modern songs use them in 'drops' especially in edm music, like a sucking in affect. Like in the song \
Jonny Roxx
Without silence,\n\nRhythm...\n\nWould not...\n\nBe possible.\n\nPeace. JR
Josh Costantini
This video made me realize how much background noise there is in my house right now.
Josh Starkey
Rush's YYZ is the first song I thought of. Those pauses after the morse code bit create a lot of anticipation.
Kade Kalka
One of my favorite examples of silence at the beginning and end of a piece is Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. There's a brief bit of silence before the piece fades in and the piece ends with a very well made fade out. There's just something about that I really enjoy.
Lee Torry
Leo Humphries
Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys has a bar of silence after the famous \
Lisa Harbers
My favourite song that uses silence as an important part is Awaken by Dario Marianelli. I can't really explain it, you should see (or hear it) yourself
My favourite silence is in Richard Strauss's 'Metamorphosen'. After 20 minutes or so of music without any silence and much of it polyphonic, suddenly there's an unexpected bar of silence after an accelerando. It just puts you on edge as you await resolution. Very effective. Cracking piece, one of Strauss's best. Great video. Thanks!
Mal-2 KSC
I think Alanis Morissette nailed it in _All I Really Want._\n\n_Why are you so petrified of silence?_\n_Here, can you handle this?_\n\n[silence]\n\n_Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines?_\n_Or when you think you're gonna die?_\n_Or did you long for the next distraction?_\n\nShe both used it effectively, _and_ lampshaded why it isn't done more often. Isn't it ironic?\nᴇᴅɪᴛᴇᴅ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ɪ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ ɪɴᴛᴏ ɪᴛᴀʟɪᴄs.
Maurice Sarin
Bach fan here. Great video I must say, however, there is another example of partial silence in Bach that serves very profound theological purposes. \n\nIt is in BWV106, the Actus Tragicus cantata which is basically about the stages of accepting death somewhat, and there are three occurences of partial silences. The first and most heartbreaking is when the soprano is singing \
Max Spencer
Björk has a magical moment in Harm Of Will after two crescendo moments with strings, choral and her vocals. The celesta, which plays all the way throughout the piece, dominates under her voice. Another example is in her piece Hollow, near the end, she uses pauses which gives her audience an edgy “is she finished?” feeling and then the organ starts playing again. I also had an experience at uni where we were given 10 random ambient samples to create a non-monotonous piece with. As I write for orchestra usually and everyone else in my class writes for electronic dance music, I created stretched out silences and drones whilst their music contained 120 tempo, 4/4 beat music.
Mike Fezwaldo
Sometimes it's not what you play, it's what you don't play.
I was something like 10 years old when I did a presentation about Metallica with my friend for music class. After talking about the band we played Sad But True on cassette and had a lot of fun watching our teacher always getting up during the pauses thinking the song had ended. Anyways, there's one example. Cool video!
Mouldy Soul
I'm torn on whether you should have resolved the ending by saying silence. Great video, please do an entire episode on Arvo Part and his ideas around using bell harmonics, and the tintinnabuli technique, I would really appreciate your insight as Arvo's the dude!
Kiss by Prince shows one of the greatest and sexiest uses of silence in a pop song IMO
Neo Colors
Great Video, makes me think differently about silence and music. I don‘t get some of your examples though, there is no silence in some of them, like the bob marley video, they skip one beat, they don‘t play the 1 on the bassdrum/bass(?), but nothing is ever silent here. Also the Adele (?) Video. You can hear her breathing, so its intimate but not at all silent. The reggae beat plays with what the listener expects and the Adele video is just really quiet, so its more a dynamic thing. I‘m a musician myself and I do some compositonal work too, you are absolutely right with the moment of creation that happens to the listener before the band starts to play. I love this moment, anything could happen. Its very effective for composing, i wrote a piece inspired by a video of a performance and I paused it right before they started to play because in this moment I had my own music in my head that I‘d like to hear from this people and this instruments on stage. I never listend to the actual music afterwards.
i think this is in part exactly why i found the 17-second long silence in the video for Childish Gambino's \
Noah Bell
It’s like Shawn Mendez watched this video before producing the album he released yesterday. He threw in a tasteful and much needed dosage of silence in his new record
Noel Walters
When I turn on my radio and wonder if it's working then I know it's correctly tuned to BBC radio 3.
Not Right Music
Steller video David! One of my favorites of yours. \nYour presentation keeps getting better. I felt as if you were in the same room with me. That's a hard quality to achieve through video. \nI tried to think of massive silence in pop music. The first thing that came to mind was \
1:18 As a German: Your pronounciation of the \
Ever since reading about Cage's thoughts some years ago I feel like I appreciate more every sound. 4'33\
7:17 There's also the fade-out that closes the central fugue [\
Piping Pepsi
Since nobody’s said “first” yet, first!
Richard Atkinson
I went to one of those new music concerts where every piece is an amorphous, pulse-less collection of gimmicks, and one of the program notes claimed to be using \
Rigado Salcardo
Great video, i have been thinking of silence in pop music for quite a long time. I seriously think that i don't like certain kinds of music only because of the lack of silence. Its funny that u speak about barroque music because i often say that i dont like that time (musicaly) because it lacks silence. \n\nGreetings from a student in México City, im very glad that u r doing thin kind of work on youtube, thank you, Sir.
Ross Jones
Black Lake by Bjork is about 50% pauses.
Siriana Evera
A very educational video. Thank you for the insight, I really enjoy learning something new on a topic that is either neglected in our fast-pacing time or overly focused on (like in esoteric circles). The clip when the audience communally held the silence at the end of the music piece... whoah, that was more moving than anything loud. Like an exclamation mark to your explanation right before - perfect ! As for examples, I''m not sure if it falls into \
My favourite use of silence in a movie recently was in Infinity War. SPOILER WARNING!!!\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe score built and built and built all the way up to Vision's death, it's undoing and redoing and Thor's last attempt to kill Thanos, getting more and more dramatic and intense, but came the snap. The silence after the snap was just perfect. No one in the cinema made a sound. It was the only way to capture the enormity of what had just happened. The lack of music throughout all the deaths that came after just made each and every one of them more tangible. It just gave a perfect impression of being numb and dumbstruck by what had just happened. It's also the opposite of what most movies with (a) dramatic death(s) do, which is have a moment of muted audio before a swell and a slow motion shot. It subverted my expectations perfectly.\n\nI was amazed by it. However when I spoke to my friends after the movie most of them said it felt anticlimactic specifically because of how quiet it was in comparison to where it had been. I can understand why they might feel that way, because modern cinema has essentially conditioned viewers to expect a sad string swell every time a character dies, but for me, that deafening silence is what made that entire final section so emotional and effective.
Static Voicings
This is a great video. I have no orchestral background but I wanna include these silence and negative space into my drawings and music. Beautiful
A rather modern artist I often think about when incorporating silence as an integral part of the music is Murcof, a minimalist electronic/classical act. Especially on his first album, Martes, where many of the tracks start of with a single, repeating phrase, that is then broken by the silence, until more layers are added. An entirely different aesthetic is on his Cosmos-album, living up to it's name in truest Hans Zimmer's Interstellar-fashion, with a fluctuating, droning soundscape that sometimes feels like it lasts forever and keeps building up, until slowly fading out and letting silence take over. Really neat.
TSG Frank
I never quite realized how profound silence is and the ways it could be used in music. \nStuff like the fade out and using silence in music have been undermined and ignored over time, which after seeing this video, it just seems a shame and a loss that composers and musicians in pop and in general don't make use of it.\nHonestly, great job with this video, you deserve a lot of credit for your work.
That Dude
fade out is easiest way to end a piece
Dilla was exactly what came to mind just before you played it!
Torbjörn Svedberg
Maybe our fear of silence derives from the possibility that we, in that void, have to face our selves. Look inwards and reflect. Scary stuff huh? Thanks for bringing this subject up. Very interesting indeed.
Trekkie 135
Rush uses pauses a lot
Vitor Roma
Zelda Breath of the Wild soundtrack makes great use of silence.
I just discovered this channel, I love your content! I'll have to check out the wiki-whatever site too!
On Bach: consider also pauses between movements. They sometimes give listeners a deliberate respite, time to catch their breath. Best example: after the Erbarme Dich (St. Matthew Passion again), there's a pause, and a chorale. You need this silence and the simpler melody after this emotional peak, and Bach understood this perfectly. Also, not sure the Wikipedia article correctly interprets that bloodrushed pause you talked about (one of my favourite moments in all of music).\nAnd another one you could have mentioned: 2nd movement of Schubert's Great Symphony. There's a climax point, symbolising destruction of some kind, and then a silence, and a very soft, gradual return of the theme, like a forest that recovers from a wildfire.
Great video. I think one of the major reasons silence is so rarely used in pop, is due to the way people consume the music not the style its self. When i sit down to explicitly spind my time listening (much like you would in a concert hall) to a peice of music, silence can really enhance the peice and be engaging, but if im listening to that same peice but while im working out for example that same silence not only loses its effect but is a distraction and remove immersion from that peice of music or the activity im doing. I think for silence to work the listener has to be actively engaging with the music which explains why its rarely used in pop where people tend to listen passively.
Wiktor Skrzypczyński
Incredibly inspiring video, thank you.
Yash Kshirsagar
*No one dared disturb the sound of silence...*
Zak M
Haydn's String Quartet No. 30, \
Silence is a part of a lot of metal music. An abrupt pause, or just an unexpected one, can make all the difference.
_ musique
So called \
One exception is Mark Hollis album.
a recent example of contemplative silence is shown in Childish Gambino's \
Well, i like changing the density of the sound... Like letting one instrument take the lead for a while, the rest of the band is silent for a while, and come in either in an explossion or fade into it one by one... Most of the time, a short silence is the best way to stsrt that kind of things...
911/Mr Lonely by Tyler the creator has a very short silence
I had to figure out creative mixing solutions to create digital silence where and when I want in my mixes. I also love tape stops, and fake silence (where sound is actually playing but mightn't be audible on crappy speakers/headphones, or where people naturally assume/hear it as silence because they compare it to the louder sounds before).\nThanks for the *Pro Tip* that fade outs aren't being used much anymore... Heck, I still love me a nice long snare roll!! (What ever happened to them!? Haha.) That being said, I think I've just done my best effect manipulated fade out on my latest track, lol... ;D Subscribed!
kirby march Barcena
This video is Magnifico!
marti garaughty
I love your videos but this was seriously awesome !
...\n\n\n\n\nGood video.
petrik coffy
I just wanted to thank you for your awesome videos, they never fail to inspire me.
I can't think of a sensuous pause in pop music, but the stop in Steve Harley's \
Childish Gambino's Sweatpants plays with the sensuous pause near the end of the song. His last verse is spoken in anger, you hear fists slam against a table and then sudden silence, bringing a sense of uncomfortably, especially while watching the music video with everyone around him staring at him. A synth plays a simple chord progression followed by another heartbeat of silence, and then the chorus hits us more powerfully than before.
Christina Aguilera barely leaves any gap of silence between verses. Pop music fears silence, that’s very usual in people with nothing inside the head.
tye simpson
One of the several reasons silence, more than a pause, has become less used in compositions, particularly in pop, is because of the sense of radio or audio recording. The medium shapes the content. Silence on the radio is the unforgivable “dead air” because it’s unbillable time or feeds the mostly myth that your station will be missed by those tuning in. Silence in audio recording in analog like tape or digital signals separation between songs. Silence between movements and such in classical music was an early problem for iTunes and iPods which delineated songs, hence revenue, where several classical pieces became multiple songs and billings.
5:07 How angry would the audience get if I ripped a thunderous fart in the key of G?