Concentration, good technique and 'breathing in the music' were among the tips given to young musicians at a recent class. More than 80 students and teachers attended a pre-examination programme held in Hong Kong by the Australian Music Examinations Board as part of its international assessment. Budding pianists were told how professional performers used suitable silences to enable the audience to let their imagination flow. A suitable silence gave the audience time to digest the notes, said Gerard Willems, lecturer at the University of Sydney's Conservatorium of Music. 'Music is not like maths where we are taught to draw a straight line. In music, there's no straight line. It's a reflection of nature, so try to develop an inner ear for listening to the music, and try to vary the colour and the shape of the phrases. Just like a beautiful night . . . and sing along with the phrases,' he said. The masterclasses gave participants an opportunity to gain feedback from examiners before they performed for the exam. Mr Willems, the examiner, also advised students to concentrate while performing a recital. 'Only concentration can guarantee quality,' he said. Students who attended will take part in the practical examinations between November 23 and 28. Mr Willems focused on the technical aspects of playing including pausing and finger positions. The idea was to let students play for someone who they had not met before, Yvonne White, state manager of the Australian Music Examinations Board, said. 'This will give students and teachers a chance to improve,' Ms White said. 'And having an idea about the standard of the examiner beforehand also helps.' Sally Ho Sau-ling15, said she joined the class to absorb the strengths of other musicians and to understand the standards required by the examiner. 'Now that I know, I can concentrate more on the things the examiner likes. My teacher and I still have a couple of months to practise.' Sau-ling will take the seventh grade pianoforte examination in November. She completed the eighth grade in the Royal Music Examinations Board last year. The Australian Music Examinations Board was established in 1918. More than 100,000 candidates take part in the examinations every year throughout Australia and Asia.