"Without The Music Rest What's Left?"


The music rest is one indispensable charm, for sure.

There's a musical concept I love that actually has a meaning that goes far deeper than just music itself, but its message is so very significant for our purposes here. It goes something like this:

It's not the notes that make the music; it's the space in between the notes that makes it.

Claude Debussy said it more simply:

Music is the space between the notes.

It's so very true. Just reflect a little right now on some music you're already familiar with - a favorite song, sonata, prelude, whatever it be... now imagine hearing that music with no space in between the notes...

Wow! The concept is an easy one to grasp.

Okay, musical silence is noted in specific ways, depending on the duration of that silence. That's why, in music notation, we use different music rests that designate each duration.

We can easily associate these rests with their corresponding note values. If you have any doubt as to how to count a rest, simply refer to these values here

Just as a whole note typically gets held for four beats, a whole rest receives four beats of silence. Here is what a whole rest looks like:


Notice that the whole rest "hangs down" from the fourth line of the staff... it looks a little like the half rest, but this is what identifies it. Think of this: a whole note "points toward the ground" or "whole (hole) in the ground." That should help.

Since a half note typically gets held for two beats, a half rest receives two beats of silence. A half rest is illustrated here:


A quarter note typically gets held for one beat, so a quarter rest receives one beat of silence. Here's a quarter rest:


Since the eighth note typically gets held for one-half beat, the eighth rest receives one-half beat of silence. The eight rest illustrated here:


Just as a sixteenth note typically gets held for one-quarter beat, the sixteenth rest receives one-quarter beat of silence.


Yes, there are more... note values and rest values can be cut in half again and again, but the above will serve most situations. We'll take it one more step for our lesson here...

A thirty-second note receives one-eighth of a beat; therefore, a thirty-second rest receives one-eighth of a beat of silence. It's shown here:


A point that needs to be acknowledged here: just as the dot adds half of a note's value to itself, the same hold true for a rest. So, whenever you see a dot after a rest, you want to multiply that rest times 1 1/2. For example...

A dotted half rest typically gets three beats of silence:


It's not difficult to explain how to "play a rest" as you probably already figured out - silence is the strategy! Simply don't play. But it goes beyond that, really. You see, as you play and listen more and more, you can really appreciate the purpose of rests in music - you get to really understand the significance of silence in certain areas of a song.

Have you ever listened to a good speaker? And on the flip side, have you listened to one that totally bored you to tears? Well, chances are, the good speaker made pretty good use of silence in between his or her words and phrases. The thoughtful usage of pauses (silence) goes hand in hand with good communication.

And, by the way, what is music? Communication!

Okay, I think you've got a good handle on the music rest and its role in music, so let's be on the lookout for them as we continue our journey together.

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