7 Music RestS: Half Rest, Whole Rest, Quarter Rest

In music, a rest (Whole Rest, Half Rest, Quarter Rest…) is a brief silence, a short break in the flow of sound. In musical notation, a rest is the sign that indicates such a break.

Just as there are music note of different values (Whole Note, Half Note, etc.), there are rests of different value. For each value of note, there is a rest of equivalent value; for each value of rest, there is a note of equivalent value.

Music Rests of Different Values

The example below shows how some of the music notes making up a musical phrase can be replaced with music rests of equivalent lengths.

A staff with music notes of different values, without any rest.
A staff with music notes of different values, without any rest.

 

Now, the same musical phrase, but some music notes have been changed in rests:

A staff with music notes and music rests of different values.
A staff with music notes and music rests of different values.

 

Note Value and Rest of an Equivalent Duration

There is a musical rest for each value of note

Note value and silence of an equivalent duration: whole rest, half rest, quarter rest, quaver rest
Note value and silence of an equivalent duration.

The Whole Rest, which is placed under the fourth line of the staff – the lines of the musical staff are always counted from bottom to top – is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Whole Note.

To indicate silence for an entire measure, the Whole Rest is always used, regardless of the length of the measure. For example, if the piece is written in 3/4 (meaning the piece is written in three beats and each beat is a Quarter Note), although three Quarter Notes are equivalent to a dotted Half Note and not a Whole Note, we will still use a Whole Rest.

The Half Rest, which is placed on the third line of the staff, is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Half Note.

The Quarter Rest is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Quarter Note.

The beginning of Beethoven’s Third Piano Sonata, in C Major, uses the Half Rest and the Quarter Rest.

The Eight Rest is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of an Eighth Note.

The Sixteenth Rest is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Sixteenth Note.

The Thirty-second Rest is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Thirty-second Note.

The Sixty-fourth Rest is the silence whose duration is equivalent to the one of a Sixty-fourth Note.

Difference Between American English and British English

AMERICAN ENGLISH – BRITISH ENGLISH

  • Whole Rest – Semibreve Rest
  • Half Rest – Minim Rest
  • Quarter Rest – Crotchet Rest
  • Eight Rest – Quaver Rest
  • Sixteenth Rest – Semiquaver Rest
  • Thirty-second Rest – Demisemiquaver Rest
  • Sixty-fourth Rest – Hemidemisemiquaver Rest

Dotted Rest

Even if it is possible and can sometimes be found in contemporary compositions (or old compositions edited and published by computer), it is not customary to dot silences.

Thus, for example, to replace a dotted Half Note with a rest of an equivalent duration, we will use a Half Rest (corresponding to the Half Note) and a Quarter Rest (the dot placed behind a Half Note is worth a Quarter Note).

Below are two scores of Beethoven’s famous play, For Elise. In the first video, the musician chose – or let his software choose for him! – to use a dotted Height Rest instead of a Sixteenth Rest and an Eight Rest (left hand, lower musical staff written in Bass Clef, bars 4, 5, 7, etc.). He also used a dotted Quarter Rest (left hand, bars 2 and 6), which is correct from a mathematical point of view but wrong from a musical theory point of view: as mentioned above, when a bar is empty, we always use the Whole Rest.

As for the tempo indication, Quarter Note = 44, and although the metronome was invented during the composer’s lifetime, it is not from Beethoven’s hand

In the score of this second video, the dotted Height Rest at the left hand has been replaced by a Sixteenth Rest and an Eight Rest (the piece being written at 3/8, which means that the piece is at three beat and that each beat is worth an Eighth note, it is normal for the Sixteenth Rest which replaces the Sixteenth Note on the second part of the second beat to be written before the Height Rest which replaces the Eighth Note or the two Sixteenth Notes of the third beat ). Similarly, the dotted rests in bars two and six have been replaced by a Whole Rest: when a bar is empty, we always use the Whole Rest.

It is also customary to delete the silences placed at the beginning of a piece. Beethoven’s piece begins on the third beat, each beat being equivalent to an Eighth Note, so the piece should have started with two Eight Rest. On this point, the two scores of the two videos are therefore correct.

Rarely Used Musical Rests

They correspond to the very little used note figures: the Longa Rest is the silence of the Longa Note, the Double Whole Rest is the silence of the Double Whole Note.

Music Theory Links Tied to Music Rests

7 Note Values (Whole Note, Half Note, Quarter Note…)

The type (shape) of musical notes (Quarter Note, Half Note, Whole Note) fixes the note value (duration).

Music Staff (or Stave)

The music staff (or stave) is made by five parallel horizontal lines.

Clefs – Treble, Bass, Alto, Tenor

Learn about the different musical clefs and which one is used for each musical instrument.

Music Notes – Name of Notes (A B C or DO RE MI)

Seven notes of music and two systems to name them: A B C D E F G and DO RE MI FA SOL LA SI.