Practical Guide To Musical Rest In Sheet Music

Practical Guide To Musical Rest In Sheet Music

Musical Rest In Sheet Music

Musical rest is very important in music performance as rest is important in every life’s activity. Absolutely, in every physical activity of life, there is always a time to rest. Probably to refresh our energy or working strength. For instance, we sleep in the night to rest after a day of up and down to earn a living.

Rest is also a common phenomenon in sports activities as well. Every performer would be allowed to rest after a certain period of time. This is part of every game because the performer needs to refresh the strength and recover the energy used in performance. In actual fact, we need some rest in whatever we are doing in order to avoid a breakdown in strength or loss of interest.

Rest is also a very important aspect of music because it gives musicians room to refresh and come back strong during the performance. In fact, there are many periods of silence in music that musicians observe to make the music what it is.

What is a Rest in Musical Content?

Rest in music is a period of time performers need to put the sound off and also a defined time to observe silence. It tells musicians not to sing or play at that period. Therefore, there would be a silence when the rest is actually observed in music, but not always a total silence. Furthermore, music rest occurs in different ways in different musical content. Sometimes, musical rest occurs between the sound or as part of the sound.

Music rest does not actually mean a period of total silence in music as said. Most often, only a few parts of the music are silent while others keep going with the musical sound. In an ensemble, for example, a brass part may need to observe musical rest while others are keep playing. Similarly, in the piano piece, the left hand may have musical rest while the right hand is busy striking some notes.

However, there are also times that rest will be for every performer to observe in musical content. And this means total silence during a performance. During this period, none of the performers will make a sound, sing, or play. Specifically, this is common in the end session of many musical pieces.  Thus, everyone cuts off the sound for a particular length of time and later resume to end the piece.

Rest Notation In Music

Practical Guide To Musical Rest In Sheet Music

In musical notation, rests are defined as musical symbols that inform musicians to observe silence and cut off the sound.  Unlike musical note that denotes how long a specific sound will last, rest notation denotes a particular length of time for silence in music. Therefore, the musical rests are exactly the opposite of musical notes.

Again, the rest in musical notation is represented by symbols that show musicians not to play for a certain period of time. In addition, there are different types of musical rest symbols use in notation that is corresponding to every musical note. This is in time of value and maybe duration. The established length and duration of rest note make it to be a very useful part of musical notation.

Moreover, rest is indeed an important part of musical notation. Because the rest is one of the building blocks of good rhythms, it is very useful in music notation. It enables the proper representation of music in writing and also in interpretation. Because every part that requires silence needs to be observed is properly taken care of with rest notes.

Types of Musical Rests

A musical rest actually denotes a moment of silence in musical content and they are of a different type. Each with its length in terms of beat and duration of silence. They are represented with symbols whose values correspond with the musical notes we discussed in What You Need To Know About Musical Notes. This is the major reason every musical rest takes their names from corresponding musical notes.

Musical rests are of varying degrees of duration and the measurements of time, just like notes. Typically, we have six major types of musical rest that are equivalent to the time’s degree of musical notes. Therefore, for each kind of musical note, there is a musical rest of the same length or beat. In detail, the six major musical rest we have are Semibreve rest, Minim rest, Crotchet rest, Quaver rest, Semiquaver rest, and Demisemiquaver rest. And in America notation, they are whole rest, half rest, quarter rest, eighth rest, sixteenth rest, and thirty-second rest.

Whole Rest or Semibreve Rest

Whole Rest or Semibreve Rest in sheet music

This is a musical rest that is equivalent to the whole note or semibreve note in terms of length and beat counting. The whole rest and its symbol tell the musician to rest for 4 beats count. The symbol used for the whole rest is shown in the diagram above. It is shaded rectangular in shape and normally suspends on the fourth line of the staff. Again, it means 4 beats or 4 pauses of silence.

Half Rest or Minim Rest

Half Rest or Minim Rest  In Sheet

This musical rest is corresponding to the Half note or minim note in relation to their duration of activities. However, while the Half note indicates 2 beats of a tonal sound, the Half rest indicates 2 beats of silence. The symbol of the Half rest is shown in the rest notation diagram above. Similarly, it is also a shaded rectangular shape like the whole rest but it normally rested on the third line of the staff.

Quarter Rest or Crotchet Rest

Musical Rest In Sheet Music -quarter rest

The quarter rest is a musical rest that is equivalent to the duration value of a quarter note which is 1 beat. The symbol used for the quarter rest is shown in the diagram above. Truly, it is very logical to describe what the shape looks like. However, some people described it looks like a filled-in squiggle. Again, it indicates 1 beat or 1 pause of silence.

Eighth Rest or Quaver Rest


The eighth rest matches the duration of an eight or quaver note. It is equal to 1 beat count. The eighth rest is normally written in the center of the staff as shown above. In terms of appearance, it has one flick and looks like an inverted Arabic symbol for 2 or like 7 of the western numbers. It is normally written in the center of the staff with its flick in the 3rd space and tail inside the 2nd space. The eighth rest is a half-beat count of silence and two of it equal to 1 beat of silence.

Sixteenth Rest or Semiquaver Rest


This musical rest is similar in duration to the sixteenth note. Four sixteenth rest symbols tell musicians to be in silence for 1 beat count. Its symbol is shown in the diagram above and it looks like the eighth rest but with a double flick and a longer tail. The symbol for the sixteenth rest covered four spaces of the staff and its two flicks reside in 3rd and 4th space. In addition, its tail extends to the 1st space from the 3rd space. Again, one-sixteenth rest is equivalent to one quarter beat count.

Thirty-Second Rest or Demisemiquaver Rest


This Thirty-Second rest has the same duration as the thirty-second note. The symbol used for the thirty-second rest is as shown above. It is very similar to the eighth and sixteenth rest but with three flicks and it covers the whole staff space. Also, its three flicks are inside 4th, 3rd, and 2nd space respectively and its tail is from 4th space to the 1st space of the staff.

Dotted Musical Rest and Their Values

As we have discussed earlier in dotted notes and their values, we also have dotted rest, which work the same way as dotted notes. Just like with notes, when you see a rest followed by an augmentation dot, the rest’s value is increased by one half of its original value. Thus when you see a dot after a rest, that rest will last one and a half times the value of the main rest. The dot extends the value of rest by 50 percent.

Although dotted rest is less commonly used than with notes, except occasionally in modern music notated in compound meters such as 6/8 or 12/8. In these meters, the long-standing convention has been to indicate one beat of rest as a quarter rest followed by an eighth rest (equivalent to three-eighths).

Musical rest is used to indicate the space in between the notes and are just as important as the note you play.  But unlike notes, rests are never tied together to make them longer, so don’t bother looking for tied rests in music. So rests are, however, sometimes dotted when the value of the rest needs to be extended.

Fermata Musical Rest

This is a musical rest that has a musical symbol called fermata on it. Actually, there is no defined duration for any fermata note, and the way it will be played depends on the state of the music. Therefore, if there is a fermata symbol on a rest note, the length of the note is for the player to define.  The performers can either play the actual length of the note or elongate it as they like.

How To Observe Rest In Music

Again, musical rests are moments of silence during the musical performance because it indicates temporary suspension of sounds.  When you see a rest in a piece of music, you don’t have to do anything during this period but to keep on counting off the beats.

For example, in a musical piece with multiple staff for different parts and instruments, musical rest can be used as a placeholder for one or some of the parts. This also happens in piano or organ pieces where the right-hand or left-hand needs to rest. What you need to do in such a situation is to properly observe the rest.

Therefore, you need to continue with the music silently and keep counting the beat for the rest steadily throughout the period.  You count the beats for the music rest the same manner you do when handling musical notes in playing or singing. If you do otherwise, you will definitely miss your timing and over the course of time scatter the piece.

Moreover, there can be a fermata on musical rest in the middle of the performance. For instance, fermata over rest in the middle of an orchestra piece. In that case, fermata is a sign to inform the performer with the rest about others that are still playing notes with a fermata. And in that situation, the player needs to pay more attention to the conductor and not depend on beat counting. That is why some people do call fermata the eyes of the music or musical eyes.


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