Join over 19,000 others and become a member of - it's free!

join for free

7th April 2022: Quizzes problem is now fixed!

This site is written by

victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

Learn more...

book cover notes

We have 2804 guests and one member online

Video Courses by MyMusicTheory

Please note: this website is not run by the ABRSM and is a completely independent business.

Next UK ABRSM Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 6-8:
Sat 18th June 2022 [Grades 1-5 now available online on demand]
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8 & diplomas:
from Sat 5th November 2022

Grade 2 Music Theory - Lesson 12: Adding Rests

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 2   Trinity Grade 2   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 


Rests Review

Do you remember how to draw each of the rests correctly?

Here's some quick revision: 


  UK Rest Name US Rest Name Tips
Semibreve Whole Hangs off the second line from the top
Minim rest Minim Half Sits on the middle line (think 'middle=minim')
Crotchet rest Crotchet Quarter Draw it like a backwards '3'
Quaver rest Quaver Eighth Like a '7' with a blob on the top!
Semiquaver rest Semiquaver Sixteenth A '7' with 2 blobs!


How to Add Rests to a Melody

If you get a question asking you to add a rest or rest to a melody, the first thing you need to check is the time signature

Here's an example question:

Add the correct rest(s) at the places marked * in this tune to make each bar complete.

Add rests to this melody


The time signature is 2/2, so we need to have 2 minim (half note) beats per bar.

Find the first bar with missing rests, and pencil in the values of the notes that you do have. Add small values together to make complete beats, where you can.

pencil in the values  

Here we can see that we only have one and a half beats in the second half of the bar, where in fact we need 2. So we need a quaver (eighth note) to complete the full minim beat. Here's the rest added to the bar:

First rest added to the bar 

Try to work out the other rests for yourself, in the same way. Remember that your rests need to make complete beats. Think carefully about the last bar - you need to complete the first minim (half note) beat first, then finish the bar off, so you'll need two rests in the last bar. Hover your mouse over the stave to reveal the answer.

The completed answer


Is this wrong?

Look at that last bar again. Students often wonder if it's wrong to write something like a dotted minim (half) rest, or a minim followed by a crotchet (quarter), in this type of bar. After all, it's just a silence isn't it, so does it really matter? 

Well, the short answer is, yes, it does matter! You must look carefully at the time signature, and you must make up complete beats before you do anything else. 

Here’s another example. In 4/4, there are four crotchet (quarter note) beats per bar. So how should you fill up a bar like this with rests?

4 4 rests problem

So far the notes in the bar make up a total of 3 beats (1½ +½+½+½). Since we need four in total, you might be tempted to write a crotchet (quarter) rest here, but you’d be wrong. The rests you choose need to make it obvious to the eye where the beats of the bar fall. If you write a crotchet (quarter) rest, the position of beat 3 will be hidden – somewhere in the middle of that rest.

4 4 rests incorrect

Instead, you need to write a quaver (eighth) rest first, to finish off the second beat, then another one to begin the third beat.

 4 4 rests correct


To Sum Up

  • Write rests that equal ONE BEAT and place them ON the beat (not between the beats).
  • Always combine rests that equal TWO, THREE or FOUR beats into longer rests, but ONLY if they fall on the strong beat of the bar. The strong beats are beat 1 (all time signatures), beat 3 in 4/4 (third crotchet/quarter note) and beat 2 in 2/2 (second minim/half note).
  • If a rest follows a note which is less than one beat, FINISH that beat first. 

Here are some examples of correct and incorrect rest writing.

rests examples correct incorrect

1: correct, 2: rest on off beat, 3: rest on off beat, 4: correct (half beat finished first), 5: rest on off beat.

1: correct, 2: combined beat rest on weak beat, 3: correct (half beat finished first), 4: half beat not finished first, plus rests on off beat, 5: correct, 6: rest on off beat, 7: correct (combined rest on strong beat).

1: correct, 2: rests not combined, 3: correct (rest combined on beat 3), 4: combined rest on weak beat, 5: correct (half beat finished first), 6: half beat not finished first, rests on off beat).

1: correct (rests not combined because weak beats), 2: rests combined on weak beat, 3: correct, 4: rests not combined on strong beat.

1: correct (rests not combined because weak beats), 2: rests combined on weak beat, 3: rests equal half beat in this time signature, 4: correct (2nd minim/half note beat finished first), 5: rest on off beat, 6: correct (rest combined on strong beat).



now on amazon topbanner normalamazon logo