Types of Rests in Music

Music notes tell a musician what pitch and rhythm to play. But how do you tell a musician to stop playing? 

Sometimes, in an orchestra or a band, certain instruments only play at a specific time. They are silent until it’s their turn to play.

This is one reason why we use rests. A rest is a music symbol that tells the musician to stay silent and not play until the rest is over. 

Today, we’re going to talk about what a rest means, and then we’ll take a look at different types of rest notes and symbols.

What is a Rest?

Types of Music Rests (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

There are several types of rests in music. Rests are breaks in the music that tell the musician when to stop performing, and how long they should stay quiet.

Most music rests follow the same note values and beats as the rest of the music notes.

For example, a semibreve rest (whole rest) lasts four beats, the same as a semibreve note. A crochet rest (quarter rest) is the same length as a quarter note: one beat.

Every type of note (semibreve, minim, quaver, etc) has a corresponding rest note. Let’s take a look at some of them now.

Quick Note About Terminology

We will use both the British and American names for the different notes in this article, since you will probably hear both terms.

The British terms are semibreve, minim, crochet, quaver, semiquaver, and demisemiquaver.

The American terms are whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, and thirty-second note.

What are the Types of Rests in Music?

Each music note has its equivalent rest.

Semibreve (Whole Note) Rest

Whole note rest on the staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A whole note rest (also called a Semibreve rest) looks like a little rectangle under the second line of the music staff.

The semibreve rest is worth four beats, just like a semibreve note. If you see this in your music, count out four beats of silence before you start playing again.

Minim (Half Note) Rest

Half note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A half note rest (minim rest) is a small rectangle, just like the semibreve rest. But instead of hanging from the second line, the minim rest sits on top of the third line, right in the middle of the staff.

The minim rest is worth two beats of silence.

If you have trouble telling the half note and whole note rests apart, remember that a whole note is longer and “heavier” than a half note. So the whole note rest hangs from the second line. The half note rest isn’t quite as long, so it balances comfortably on the third line.

Crochet (Quarter Note) Rest

Quarter note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The symbol for a crochet rest looks like a little lightning bolt with the letter “c” underneath it. It sits in the middle of the staff. It can be a bit tricky to draw, but it’s easy to understand.

The crochet rest has a value of one beat, just like a quarter note.

You also might see it drawn like a backwards seven, like this:

Alternative crochet rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

However, this isn’t very common any more.

How to Draw Crochet Rest

To draw the crochet rest, start towards the top of the staff, and draw a little lightning bolt shape, like Harry Potter’s scar. You could also try drawing a letter “Z” if that’s easier.

Then draw a little “c” right underneath it, reaching almost to the bottom of the staff.

Quarter rest (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

And voila! A crochet rest.

Quaver (Eighth Note) Rest

Eighth note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A quaver rest (eighth note rest) goes in the middle of the staff. It looks like a number 7, with a little blob on the tip.

Just like a quaver note, the quaver rest is worth 1/2 of a beat. It’s a quick rest, so make sure to count it properly!

Semiquaver (Sixteenth Note) Rest

Sixteenth Rest on a Music Staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Even quicker than the quaver rest is the semiquaver rest, or as Americans know it, the sixteenth note rest.

The semiquaver rest sits on the bottom line of the staff. It looks just like a quaver rest, but it has a second curly flick on top.

This rest is only worth 1/4 of a beat, so it goes by fast. As always, make sure to count it right.

How Do I Tell the Difference Between Quaver and Semiquaver Rests?

Every flick represents one flag on the music note.

So if you see only one flick, it’s a quaver note. Two flicks equals a semiquaver note, and three flicks is a demisemiquaver.

Demisemiquaver (32nd Note) Rest

Thirty-second note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

And last but not least, we have the demisemiquaver rest. This is also called a 32nd note rest.

Since this rest is so incredibly fast, you probably won’t see this in your music unless you’re a very advanced musician. However, it’s good to learn what it is and what it looks like.

Just like the quaver and semiquaver, the 32nd note rest also looks like a little seven, but it has two additional flicks on top, for a total of three flicks.

The demisemiquaver rest is worth 1/8 of a beat.

Dotted Rests

Rests can also be dotted, just like music notes. A dotted rest means it is one and a half times longer.

So a dotted whole note rest would be worth six beats (4 + 2 from the dot). A dotted crochet rest would be worth one and a half beats (1 + 1/2 from the dot).

No matter where the rest sits on the staff, the dot always goes in the second space from the top.

Whole Bars of Silence in Music

Whole note rests on the music staff

No matter what time signature you’re using, if you want to show a whole bar of silence, just use a semibreve rest.

If your music is in 2/4 time signature, you don’t have to use two crochet rest notes. Use one semibreve rest.

Same thing if your music is in 3/4 time, or 12/8 time, or just the basic 4/4 time.

To show a whole bar of silence, use a semibreve rest.

Rest Notes Summary

Rests are breaks in the music that tell the musician when to stop playing.

Remember, most notes have a rest equivalent. For a refresher on the types of music notes, check out our post on music notes [HERE].

Thanks for reading! We hope this post helped you learn more about the types of rests and their beat values.

Do you have any questions about music theory? Ask us in the comments below!

Music notes tell a musician what pitch and rhythm to play. But how do you tell a musician to stop playing? 

Sometimes, in an orchestra or a band, certain instruments only play at a specific time. They are silent until it’s their turn to play.

This is one reason why we use rests. A rest is a music symbol that tells the musician to stay silent and not play until the rest is over. 

Today, we’re going to talk about what a rest means, and then we’ll take a look at different types of rest notes and symbols.

What is a Rest?

Types of Music Rests (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

There are several types of rests in music. Rests are breaks in the music that tell the musician when to stop performing, and how long they should stay quiet.

Most music rests follow the same note values and beats as the rest of the music notes.

For example, a semibreve rest (whole rest) lasts four beats, the same as a semibreve note. A crochet rest (quarter rest) is the same length as a quarter note: one beat.

Every type of note (semibreve, minim, quaver, etc) has a corresponding rest note. Let’s take a look at some of them now.

Quick Note About Terminology

We will use both the British and American names for the different notes in this article, since you will probably hear both terms.

The British terms are semibreve, minim, crochet, quaver, semiquaver, and demisemiquaver.

The American terms are whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, and thirty-second note.

What are the Types of Rests in Music?

Each music note has its equivalent rest.

Semibreve (Whole Note) Rest

Whole note rest on the staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A whole note rest (also called a Semibreve rest) looks like a little rectangle under the second line of the music staff.

The semibreve rest is worth four beats, just like a semibreve note. If you see this in your music, count out four beats of silence before you start playing again.

Minim (Half Note) Rest

Half note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A half note rest (minim rest) is a small rectangle, just like the semibreve rest. But instead of hanging from the second line, the minim rest sits on top of the third line, right in the middle of the staff.

The minim rest is worth two beats of silence.

If you have trouble telling the half note and whole note rests apart, remember that a whole note is longer and “heavier” than a half note. So the whole note rest hangs from the second line. The half note rest isn’t quite as long, so it balances comfortably on the third line.

Crochet (Quarter Note) Rest

Quarter note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The symbol for a crochet rest looks like a little lightning bolt with the letter “c” underneath it. It sits in the middle of the staff. It can be a bit tricky to draw, but it’s easy to understand.

The crochet rest has a value of one beat, just like a quarter note.

You also might see it drawn like a backwards seven, like this:

Alternative crochet rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

However, this isn’t very common any more.

How to Draw Crochet Rest

To draw the crochet rest, start towards the top of the staff, and draw a little lightning bolt shape, like Harry Potter’s scar. You could also try drawing a letter “Z” if that’s easier.

Then draw a little “c” right underneath it, reaching almost to the bottom of the staff.

Quarter rest (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

And voila! A crochet rest.

Quaver (Eighth Note) Rest

Eighth note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A quaver rest (eighth note rest) goes in the middle of the staff. It looks like a number 7, with a little blob on the tip.

Just like a quaver note, the quaver rest is worth 1/2 of a beat. It’s a quick rest, so make sure to count it properly!

Semiquaver (Sixteenth Note) Rest

Sixteenth Rest on a Music Staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Even quicker than the quaver rest is the semiquaver rest, or as Americans know it, the sixteenth note rest.

The semiquaver rest sits on the bottom line of the staff. It looks just like a quaver rest, but it has a second curly flick on top.

This rest is only worth 1/4 of a beat, so it goes by fast. As always, make sure to count it right.

How Do I Tell the Difference Between Quaver and Semiquaver Rests?

Every flick represents one flag on the music note.

So if you see only one flick, it’s a quaver note. Two flicks equals a semiquaver note, and three flicks is a demisemiquaver.

Demisemiquaver (32nd Note) Rest

Thirty-second note rest on the music staff (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

And last but not least, we have the demisemiquaver rest. This is also called a 32nd note rest.

Since this rest is so incredibly fast, you probably won’t see this in your music unless you’re a very advanced musician. However, it’s good to learn what it is and what it looks like.

Just like the quaver and semiquaver, the 32nd note rest also looks like a little seven, but it has two additional flicks on top, for a total of three flicks.

The demisemiquaver rest is worth 1/8 of a beat.

Dotted Rests

Rests can also be dotted, just like music notes. A dotted rest means it is one and a half times longer.

So a dotted whole note rest would be worth six beats (4 + 2 from the dot). A dotted crochet rest would be worth one and a half beats (1 + 1/2 from the dot).

No matter where the rest sits on the staff, the dot always goes in the second space from the top.

Whole Bars of Silence in Music

Whole note rests on the music staff

No matter what time signature you’re using, if you want to show a whole bar of silence, just use a semibreve rest.

If your music is in 2/4 time signature, you don’t have to use two crochet rest notes. Use one semibreve rest.

Same thing if your music is in 3/4 time, or 12/8 time, or just the basic 4/4 time.

To show a whole bar of silence, use a semibreve rest.

Rest Notes Summary

Rests are breaks in the music that tell the musician when to stop playing.

Remember, most notes have a rest equivalent. For a refresher on the types of music notes, check out our post on music notes [HERE].

Thanks for reading! We hope this post helped you learn more about the types of rests and their beat values.

Do you have any questions about music theory? Ask us in the comments below!

Jessica Roberts
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