Counting Measures

Counting Measures

Every musician in the orchestra has to know how to do two things: how to make beautiful sounds and how to keep beautiful silences. If everyone played at once the music could not breathe. In those silences the player is not idle, nor drifting, nor detached. He is listening to the other notes, keeping his place in the flow and his eye on the conductor. What you don’t see is that he is counting measures.

There are times when he is playing the notes written on his own score, listening to the other players, carefully matching pitch and tempo and dynamics- playing in harmony. Then there are those brief moments when it is his turn for a solo, for the few bars where his instrument alone is intended to shimmer against the background laid down by the other performers.

The readiness is all. Years of lessons, hours of practice come to the fore when he is called upon to step out alone and let his light shine for a brief but glorious interval. It is the discipline of long periods of just counting measures that allow him to make his entrance and exit at the exact right moment.

During those silent times, when it seems that no one is watching or listening, that the sound of your instrument is not being heard at all, remember that you aren’t idle or sidelined; your place in the orchestra is secure and your notes are essential. Keep your eyes on the conductor while you keep that beautiful silence. Keep counting the measures, enjoying the music that surrounds you ; always leaning slightly forward, ready and able and waiting for your turn.

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