Some important communications need to exist between the composer and the musician. Firstly, the composer needs to tell whoever is playing the piece when to play and what to play. But just as importantly, he needs to tell the musician when not to play. That can often be just as important.
The composer does this by using “rests.” Therefore, an important part of learning the theory of music is to know the different types of rests in music and what they do.
What is a Rest?
Let’s take a step back first before we discuss rests. The musician is told what to play and when to play using a range of musical notes. These inform him or her of what they are expected to play. They come in the form of crotchets, minims, breves, semibreves, etc.
But just as we need to give them this information, they also need to know when to leave a break and for how long. For every note, be they crotchets, minims, breves, or semibreves, or anything else, there is a corresponding rest duration. This corresponding symbol indicating a rest has the same time value as the note.
I will be explaining the basic types of rests used in music. This is only a primer. So, if you want to dig deeper into the world of music theory, I suggest getting your hands on Music Theory Essentials.
As an example, have you seen the symbol for a semibreve rest or a whole note rest in the music? This is telling you not to play for a period defined by the rest symbol. The rest indicated will have the same time value as the note. That is four beats.
As we said, there is an equivalent rest symbol for every note. The musician knows then not to play for that period before resuming. To gain a better understanding of music theory in general, you may want to take a look at Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert.
The Types of Rests
Let’s take a look at the different musical rests and symbols. They are all essential aspects of reading music. And if you want a more comprehensive explanation, I recommend How to Read Music: Fundamentals of Music Notation Made Easy. That said, let’s continue.
Semibreve or Whole Note Rest
We have already mentioned this, so I will start with it. The symbol is a small rectangle. It is positioned attached to the bottom of the second line from the top of the stave. The rest has a time value the same as the semibreve note, which is four beats.
Minim or Half Note Rest
This has the same time value as a minim note, that is, two beats. This is shown as another small block rectangle but in a different position on the stave. The Minim rest sits on top of the middle line.
Crotchet or Quarter Note Rest
A rest lasting one beat, it has an awkward shape to describe and to draw. It is placed in the middle of the stave, so it sits between the top and the bottom line.
Quaver or Eighth Note Rest
This is a symbol shaped like a ‘7’. It is placed as the crotchet rest is at the center of the stave, with its lowest part sitting on the second stave line. It has a time value of one-half of a beat.
The Semiquaver or one-sixteenth of a note rest
There are other notes, and their equivalent rests that go beyond the Semiquaver. These are the Demisemiquaver, etc. But as what we have looked at are the most used, we will finish up here.
The symbol for the Semiquaver resembles two ‘7s’ vertically on top of each other. The lowest part is placed on the bottom line of the stave. It has a time value of one-quarter of a beat, the same as the semiquaver note.
The Dotted Rest
As you may be aware, there are dotted notes. These extend the time value of the note by half of the time value of the note again. Similarly, there are Dotted rests. These operate in the same way by extending the length of the rest by half of the time value.
There is something to pay special attention to with the symbol for a dotted rest. Whatever the symbol the dot refers to, the dot will always be written in the same place. That is in the third space from the bottom of the stave line.
Interested in Learning Music Theory?
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The Different Types Of Rests In Music – Final Thoughts
As we have looked at rests, we can see that for every note, there is a rest equivalent. That indicates that all the modus operandi for notes will apply to rests.
However, one difference exists. Whereas you can “tie” notes together, you can’t “tie” rests together. If the need occurs, you must use another rest. And one final issue is that if you need a whole bar rest, you always use the semibreve rest irrespective of the time signature.
Rests are one of the most important parts of music theory, but fortunately not that complicated to grasp.
Until next time, let your music play.