There are tons of great songwriting techniques out there that can take a song from the bottom of the barrel to instant classic. Tempo change, phrasing, different tuning, the list could go on and on. But there’s one technique that rubs us the right way more than any other. Who knows if this is even the correct term, but we like to call it “The Rock and Roll Pause”. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The songs ripping along then boom, everything drops. What’s coming next? Will they break it down or rip into a solo? Back to the chorus or into a new verse? If pulled off correctly, it is a genius move. The listener has that split second to think about what’s gonna happen next and then before they can come up with something…pause over, music’s back and rockin’ again. The pause comes in many different forms too. Rather than try and explain how awesome it is, let me show you some examples of what we’re talking about.
To get the full effect of “the rock and roll pause” you really should listen to the full song, but just in case we gave you specific times to start listening.
311’s “Down” probably has the most precise and basic pause. Just about 1 seconds worth of perfect silence. Go to 1:10 and wait for it.
My Morning Jacket’s “Magheetah” is an example of a double pause that really does the trick. If it works, why not throw a couple in a row? Start at 4:21.
It doesn’t always have to be a hard rock song to have a great pause and it can be really subtle too. Not everything always drops out. The Tallest Man on Earth loves to drop out his guitar and just let his vocals do the work. He does it a couple times here in “Love is All”, but for the true gem start listening at 2:55. Pay attention, it’s a subtle one.
Tool’s “Jambi” has one of my favorite pauses. You can just feel something building then, boom, they cut it out for the perfect amount of time before the beat drops back in. And a nice little bass slid during the pause. Sexy. For the full effect, start listening at 3:30 and wait.
And finally, the king of all rock and roll pauses comes in Metallica’s “Sad But True”. There’s one right off the bat, but for the most badass one, start listening at 2:55. Just perfect timing, a little longer than you think, and then into one of the best metal solos out there. This is how it’s done people.
We’re certain there’s thousands of examples of the rock and roll pause out there. Know any good pauses? Let us know in the comments section below.