What is a Quarter Rest?

A beginner’s music class can feel a lot like a math class because there are so many fractions. You’ve got to worry about things like 4/4 time, whole notes, half notes, and more.

One especially puzzling term is “quarter rest.” If you just tried to picture a coin taking a nap, think again. That’s not what “quarter rest” means.

Keep reading to find out more.

Time Signatures

Before we talk about quarter note rest, let’s talk about time signatures. When you get a new piece of sheet music, one of the first things you should look at is the time signature, because it contains vital information.

Music is played in measures, or chunks of time. Measures are also known as bars, which is helpful because a measure exists within the confines of two barlines.

The top number in the time signature tells you how many beats are contained within the measure. The bottom number tells you what kind of note is equal to one beat. By far the most common time signature for beginners is 4/4, which means you should play four quarter notes per measure.

The Length of a Quarter Note Rest – Quarter Rest

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If a quarter note is one beat, how long is a beat? Tap your foot once. That’s a beat.

In fact, if you know nothing else about music, you can spot a band full of beginners by the way everyone taps their foot as they play. You can also probably spot a band full of beginners by the way they sound, but that’s another matter entirely.

Remember that a quarter note is the same amount of time regardless of if you’re playing or resting, although the latter always feels shorter.

Quarter Rest Is Still Rest

If you’re resting for one-quarter note, you’re not resting for long. You don’t have time to get a drink of water or wipe your brow.

In fact, it’s fair to wonder what the point of a quarter rest even is. Think of rests as a time-out in sports.

A rest that lasts multiple bars is almost like halftime. If you’re playing a reed instrument like a clarinet, that gives you enough time to wipe the spit off your mouth and even apply some chapstick.

By contrast, quarter rests and half rests are more like 30-second timeouts. The silence gives you just enough time to catch your breath and recenter yourself before you start playing again.

Even the smallest amount of rest is critical to helping musicians build up endurance. Without rest, even a relatively short piece of music can feel like a 639-year concert [1].

In short, the rest sign in music is always a welcome sight. If you encountered the whole rest and grand staff? You also need to learn this.

Your Next Challenge

The more someone practices music, the more natural it seems to divide time up in terms of beats and measures. Before too long, you’ll even be able to recognize songs that aren’t in 4/4 time [2].

Once you feel comfortable with the quarter rest, it’s time to move on to bigger and better challenges. That could mean buying an instrument of your own.

If you feel ready to take that step, check out our buying guides.

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