The Different Types Of Rests In Music

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

In music, we indicate to musicians when to play by using different types of musical notes. But what happens when we want to tell the musician not to play? It’s times like this that we used a type of symbol called a rest. 

In this post we’re going to cover look in depth at what rests are, how we use them and all the different types. Let’s get started.

What is a Rest?

A rest in music is a type of symbol that indicates that the musician should not play and that there should be silence.

Every type of note, like crotchets, minims etc, has a corresponding rest symbol that has the same time value.

The Types of Rests

Semibreve Rest (Whole Note Rest)

A semibreve rest (or whole note rest) is drawn as a small rectangle that hangs off the 2nd line from the top of the stave. 

It has a value of four beats, the same as a semibreve note.

Minim Rest (Half Note Rest)

The minim rest (or half note rest) is a small rectangle that is very similar to the semibreve rest but, instead of hanging from the second line it sits on the middle line of the stave. 

It has a value of two beats, the same as a minim note.

Side note: To remember the difference between a semibreve and minim rest I think of the semibreve rest being bigger (it lasts longer) than a minim and so because it’s “heavier” it hangs off the stave.

Crotchet Rest (Quarter Note Rest)

The crotchet rest (or quarter note rest) is quite complicated to draw.

It kind of looks like a skewed letter Z with a small letter C on the bottom. 

It’s drawn right in the middle of the stave in-between the top and the bottom lines of the stave.

It has a value of one beat, the same as a crotchet note

Quaver Rest (Eighth Note Rest)

Up next we have a quaver rest (eighth note rest) which looks like a small number seven with a little blob on the end.

Like the crotchet rest it sits right in the middle of the stave sitting on the 4th line from the top.

It has a value of ½ of a beat, the same as a quaver note.

Semiquaver Rest (Sixteenth Note Rest)

Lastly, we have a semiquaver rest (sixteenth note rest) which is very similar to the quaver rest but slightly taller and has two flicks. 

It sits on the bottom line of the stave.

It has a value of ¼ of a beat, the same as a semiquaver.

Dotted Rests

Just as you can have dotted notes which make the note last longer by half its time value, you can also have dotted rests which makes the rest last longer by half its time value.

One thing to note though is that the dot always sits in the second space from the top.

For example:

Dotted rests

One thing to mention is that unlike regular notes which you can tie together, you can’t tie rests together. Instead, you should use another rest.

What Rest do you use for a Whole Bar of Silence?

The last thing to mention about rests is to do with having a whole bar of silence. 

Whenever you want an entire bar to be silent you always use a semibreve rest.

This is the case even if the time signature is 2/4 or 3/4.

See the examples below:

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.