In looking at how to read music we’ve talked about duration and how rhythm is built upon knowing what notes to play and for how long; but what about knowing when not to play? It is vital to be able to know when not to play. Thankfully, this is pretty straightforward.

Note Rests

In the same way that there is a symbol for every note length there are corresponding symbols that show when not to play something. These are called rests. Every available note duration (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, etc..) has a corresponding rest duration:

Table of Sheet Music Rests

This means that we can combine notes and rests into the same bar. Let’s take a simple example, a combination of quarter notes (crotchets) and quarter note rests….

Quarter Note Sheet Music Rests

      Play Quarter Note Rests Example

Notice how each of the quarter notes is held for a beat and then there is a beat of silence where the quarter note rest is. We can make it more complex by combining different rests….

Combined Sheet Music Rests

      Play Mixed Note Rests Example

In this example the combination of quarter note and eighth note rests gives a syncopated and funky groove to the music.

Whole Bar Rests

If an instrument should not play for a bar then it will be written as follows….

whole note sheet music rest

If an instrument should not play for more than one bar then it will be written as follows…..

Multiple Bars Sheet Music Rest

The above instrument should not play for the first 5 bars.

Hopefully this is fairly straightforward. As always, the best way to learn any sort of rhythm is to have a go at clapping/playing it. If you’re looking for practical ways to learn how to read music then check out all the FREE content on my site – there’s videos, articles and worksheets to help you out. It’s all TOTALLY FREE!
Good luck!!

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