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Lesson 7: Rests

Lesson 7: Rests

In my last blog post, I discussed how the treble and bass clef staves are joined together to make lines of music read in piano scores, as well as how to read especially high or low notes on the staff. For this lesson, we’ll be looking at rests, which are beats of silence in music, and how rests are notated.
You already know from a variety of my previous posts that notes represent the pitches you play in musical scores. Notes are comprised of a note head that often also has a stem attached, and certain smaller notes also have flags. However, there are moments in music when the performer is not supposed to play anything. These beats of silence are called rests.
Rests are counted and named in the same way their note equivalents are, and the hierarchy of rests is the same as the one for notes. The only difference is in appearance, as rests look different depending on which note value they represent. Have a look at some of the main rests next to their note equivalents. I have used treble clef for all of my examples, but these rests are notated exactly the same way in bass clef as well.
Quarter Rest: This one looks like a squiggle with quite a few zigzags. Quarter rests are placed in the middle of the staff.
Half Rest: A small rectangle that sits on top of the third line of the staff. Because the half rest has a line underneath it, on its own it looks a little like a top hat. To help my students remember, I tell them to think “Half = Hat.”
Whole Rest: This one looks very similar to the half rest, so be careful! The whole rest is also a small rectangle, but it hangs off of the fourth line of the staff. Because it has a line above it, by itself it looks like a hole dug under the ground. For this one, I tell my students to think “Whole = Hole.”
Eighth Rest: Looks almost like a fanciful number “7.” The eighth rest is always placed so that it takes up the space between the second and fourth lines of the staff.
When I discussed note values smaller than the eighth note in a previous post, I mentioned that you could make a flagged note progressively smaller by adding more flags to it. The same is true of small rests. The eighth rest can be turned into smaller rests (16th, 32nd, 64th) by adding more little curves to the line. However, while smaller note values can be beamed together when notating multiple notes, there is no way to combine multiple small rests; each must be drawn individually. Below are the 16th and 32nd rests next to their note equivalents:
You may also remember learning about the double whole note, the one note value that’s larger than the whole note. The double whole rest is also a rectangle, but instead of being a horizontal one like the half and whole rests, it is a vertical one that takes up the entire third space on the staff.
Try drawing a few of these rests, especially the trickier ones like the quarter and eighth rests. The next lesson will explain dynamics, which are some of the various expressive markings in music. Make sure to subscribe to my mailing list for musical updates!