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Victoria Williams

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5. Time Names of Rests

Grade One Music Theory - Lesson 5: Time Names of the Rests

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 

In this lesson the note names used in the UK and Australia are in black. USA note names are given in orange. You do NOT need to learn both systems - learn the names used in the country where you live.


Rest Shapes

In music theory, rests are symbols which tell you to stop playing, and how long to stop for. Rests come in different shapes depending on how long they last for, just like notes do. Rests take the same names as the notes of the same length. 


Crotchets (Quarter Rests)

Crotchet (Quarter) rest.

Crotchet rest in music theory

The crotchet (quarter) rest is a kind of squiggle which isn’t easy to draw nicely. If you find it difficult, you might prefer to use another version, which looks like this.

Alternative crotchet rest in music theory


Quavers (8th Rests)

Quaver (8th) rest.

Quaver rest in music theory

The quaver (8th) rest looks a bit like a number 7, with a circle at its tip. If you look again at the “easy” crotchet (quarter) rest, you’ll notice that it is, in fact, a back-to-front quaver (8th) rest.


Semiquavers (16th Rests)

Semiquaver (16th) rest.

Semiquaver rest in music theory

The semiquaver (16th) rest looks a lot like the quaver (8th) rest, but it’s got 2 tails, just like the semiquaver note (16th note) has.


Minims (Half Rests)

Minim (half) rest.

Minim rest in music theory

The minim (half) rest is a small, coloured-in block. The minim (half) rest sits on the middle line of the staff.


Semibreves (Whole Rests)

Semibreve (whole) rest.

Semibreve rest in music theory


The semibreve (whole) rest is about the same size block as the minim (half) rest, but its position is different - it hangs off the second line from the top. 

If you find it hard to remember the positions of the 2 and 4 beat rests, remember that that 4 is a higher number than 2, so a 4-beat rest is higher up the staff than a 2 beat rest. 

Semibreve (whole) rests are also used as “whole bar” (whole measure) rests. This means that the whole bar should be silent, even if the bar doesn’t contain exactly 4 beats.