Sheet Music 101: What is a Rest?

No rest for the wicked.

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Give it a Rest…

In our latest article, we looked at how to determine the rhythm of a piece of sheet music by looking at the time signature and the length of the notes. But what happens when you’re not expected to play? These moments of silence are indicated on sheet music using “rests.”

Rests are essential. Without them, music would just be a wall of sound and brass players would almost certainly be dead…

Just like notes, rests come in varying shapes and sizes depending on their length…

The crotchet rest

A crotchet rest has the same value as a crotchet. That means that we hold it for one beat, just as we would a crotchet. Take a look at this bar of music:

The squiggly line at the end of the bar is a crotchet rest.

The minim rest

Similarly, a minim rest (pictured below at the end of the bar) is held for two beats, just like a minim.

A semibreve rest

A semibreve rest (held for four beats like a semibreve) looks like this:

As you can see, a semibreve rest closely resembles a minim rest, so it can be quite confusing telling them apart.

Here’s a somewhat elementary, but surprisingly helpful, way of remembering the difference:

A minim rest sits on the line, so think of it as a “minim mountain”, whereas a semibreve rest hangs from the line, like a spider…so it’s a “semibreve spider.”

Adding to the value of a rest

Just as with played notes, you can add to the length of a rest by adding a dot. The same process of halving the value and adding it to the original note is applied.

A quaver rest

A quaver rest (pictured below) looks like a number seven. You hold this for half a beat.

All of the images used in this article were taken from the sheet music for “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin, available to download at along with our wide range of sheet music for piano, voice, violin and all types of instruments.

Check out our other guides on rhythm and the different clefs commonly used in music. With our handy guides, learning how to read music has never been easier!

Happy Practicing!




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