While most students want to know when to play certain notes and chords, it’s equally important to know when not to play. For example, I had a student who knew how to improvise and play in the New Age style. What he didn’t know how to do was to allow for breathing space. I tried to teach him that you don’t have to play note upon note but allow for some pauses.
Eventually he got it. He learned how not to rush and that the pauses between notes are as important as the notes themselves – especially in the New Age style of piano playing. Listen to pioneer New Age piano player Steven Halpern to get an excellent idea of this. Steven literally defined “breathing space” for music. His music floats in the air. It is pure improvisation and, if you listen to him play, you’ll find that it’s one of the easiest styles to play in.
He let’s the spaces in between the notes work for him. There’s definitely no rushing here. It’s very trance inducing and calming. To play in this way, you need to be very much IN THE PRESENT and listen for what’s to come. There’s no planning or forethought here except maybe to choose a Key or Mode to play in. Then you just improvise.
The spaces between the music are as important as the music itself. In fact, without the spaces, you wouldn’t have this style. The spaces define the style of music. A lot of New Age pianists emulated Halpern and you can’t do better to learn how to master the art of silence than by listening to him.
About the author: Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music’s online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years! Visit us now for a FREE piano lesson! Also,check out the author’s online piano lesson “Oriental Sunrise” to get another good example of “breathing space.”