Basic rests


Note values show us how long to press keys.
Rests have values too. They show us how long not to press keys, and they also show us when to release keys.
  1. A whole note = a whole rest
  2. A half note = a half rest
  3. A quarter note = a quarter rest
  4. An eighth note = an eighth rest
(Note to more advanced students: the whole rest is an exception. It is also used to indicate a measure of silence, no matter what the time signature is: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, etc. In addition, when a measure contains more than one “voice”, either voice may be silent for a whole measure, and again a whole rest is used.)
In elementary music, a whole rest is immediately recognizable; it is placed in the center of an otherwise blank measure. You will never see this with a half rest.
  1. Whole and half rests both look like little black blocks when they are written in elementary music. The whole rest is written hanging from the fourth line (counting up), and the half rest is written sitting on the third line.
  2. The quarter rest looks like many things. For me it looks like a “Z” that is slanted with a “C” hooked on to the bottom. However, many of my students think it looks like a snake, a black lightning bolt, etc. The only important thing is to remember what it looks like and that it is a quarter rest.
  3. The eighth rest is the first rest that may be connected logically to its corresponding note. Single eighth notes have “flags”, and these flags always point to the right, no matter what the direction of the stem is. It might take a bit of imagination to see the connection, but the top of the eighth rest is a bit like a flag “blowing to the left”, in the opposite direction from the flag of the eighth note, which “blows to the right”.

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