How To Read Music

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How To Read Music

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CHAPTER 4

Types of Rests


Rests are used to indicate silence – periods where you will not play.

Like notes, rests have different durations. Since you already understand how notes work, rests are going to be very easy to master!

The Most Common Rests

Rests follow a pattern nearly identical to notes:

Whole Rest
whole rest

A whole rest is similar to a whole note, but with one important distinction: a whole note has a duration of four beats while a whole rest takes up an entire measure (except in 4/2 time).

Anytime you see a whole rest in a measure, that means the entire measure is silent, regardless of the time signature (again, except in 4/2 time).

Half Rest
half rest

Half rests have the same duration as a half note (two beats in 4/4 time).

Quarter Rest
quarter rest

A quarter rest has the same duration as a quarter note (one beat in 4/4 time).

Eighth Rest
eighth rest

An eighth rest has the same duration as – you guessed it – an eighth note.

Sixteenth Rest
sixteenth rest

The sixteenth rest takes up the same amount of time as a sixteenth note.

Like notes, rests continue into thirty-second rests and then sixty-fourth rests.

Using Dots with Rests

Like notes, rests also use dots to increase their duration.

Dotted rests work the exact same way as dotted notes do: they increase the duration by half.

A dotted quarter rest equals a duration of silence equal to a quarter rest and an eighth rest. Shown visually, here’s what that looks like:

dotted quarter rest equals a quarter rest and an eighth rest

Here is a dotted eighth rest:

dotted eighth rest equals an eighth rest and a sixteenth rest

What About Ties?

Recall from the last chapter that ties are used to extend the note’s duration over a bar line. Composers write rests to completely fill each measure and have no need to use a tie. If they need to use a rest at the end of one measure and the beginning of the next, they will simply write two rests like this:

example of rests on treble clef in 4/4 time

If you’re curious about that 4/4 you see in the above image, that’s the time signature. We’ve mentioned it a couple times in the last two chapters and now it’s time for you to understand what it means. Head to the next chapter to learn about time signatures.