Rest Symbols in Music



What Do Rest Symbols in Music Represent?

Rest symbol in musicRests are a common sight within music. A rest indicates a break in the music or more appropriately an interval of silence in the music. A rest can come in several different forms each indicating a different period of time a rest should be taken. Rests date back to the 1600’s when the first musical notations were made. These rests may look different from the rests musician see today but they hold the same meaning.
There are as many rests in music as there are types of notes.

Each look a little different the quarter rest, which takes the place of a quarter note and has the same amount of silence a quarter note should be played, looks very similar to a z on top of a c. A whole rest, which means you should remain silent for that entire measure, looks like a solid rectangle hanging upside down from the second from the top line of the staff. Often a whole rest is referred to as a hat that is full hanging upside down. This description is often given to new musicians in direct relation to the half rest, which means you should rest for half the measure. The half rest, which resides on top of the third line, looks very similar and is often described as being a hat resting on the line.

There are some specialized versions of rests that are rarely seen these days. The long rest, which looks like a thin rectangle that stretches from the second line to the fourth line of the staff, is a rest that lasts four times the duration of a whole rest. The Breve rest, which looks similar to the long rest but half the length, is a rest that lasts twice the measure of a whole rest. Both of these rests are rarely seen because they are used in musical pieces that are not divided into bars.

For music that is divided into bars there are still long rests. However they look much different from the long rest used in music not divided into bars. These rests are long rectangles that fill up the space between the third and fourth (from the bottom) lines and are bookended by two straight lines. Above the rectangle is a number. This number corresponds to the amount of whole measure the musician is supposed to rest. This rest type is traditionally referred to as the Multiple Bar rest.

Rests can be dotted just as a note can be. The implication is the same being that the dot on the rest stands for half of what the rest itself means. Since a quarter rest typically stands for one beat (although it may differ depending on the piece) a dot on a quarter rest would be for half a beat meaning that that rest would last for one and a half beats.