Piano Rests

Rhythm isn’t all about sound. In fact breaks, or silence, play just as vital a role as does a percussive beat. In music, breaks and silences are known as ‘rests’. Just as there are different note lengths, so there are difference rest lengths – each represented by a different symbol as you can see in the graphic below.

quaver, crotchet, mimim, semibreve

In this lesson, we are going to see how rests are used in music, and become familiar with the different types and how they are used.

Tip: When you are learning the piano (and even when you are professional!) it is really helpful to count out the beats to help you learn the rhythm.


Write the counts underneath the corresponding notes and rests with a pencil (just like I have done for these pieces) to help you keep time. Then, before you even play the piece, clap the rhythm so it becomes familiar. Although this might seem a lot of fuss, you will find it saves a lot of time later on.

I have found that if I don’t think about the rhythm before I start learning a piece (particularly if it is a bit tricky), it is very easy to learn it incorrectly. And it is unbelievably difficult to relearn a piece. Once you think of it a certain way, and then find it’s wrong, you have to retrain your brain, which can be really tough!

Note the key signature of this piece. One flat (signified by the small b shape just before the time signature) means that this is the key of F major. The key signature tells you that the majority of notes in this piece will belong to the F major scale. This means that whenever the note B is shown, you play a B flat. Remember that the ‘flats’ are always the black notes to the left of the white note, while ‘sharps’ are the black note to the right. This is easy to remember when you understand that flats literally ‘flatten’ a sound, the pitch goes down, while sharps brighten a piece, literally ‘sharpening’ the pitch. We will look more closely at sharps and flats in the following lesson.

Before you play the exercise, have a look at the F scale below and trying playing it so that you become familiar with the notes in F major.

In the second exercise, there are two different types of rests: crotchet rests and minim rests. You have already played crotchet rests, but minim rests are pretty easy too: they are just a silence worth 2 counts.

[7 EXERCISE 2 + play button]

To finish the lesson, this piece combines crotchet, minim, AND quaver rests. Quaver rests are a bit trickier to play because they so short. Try practicing them by playing a C note for four beats, lifting it off for the ‘off’ (a quaver beat):

E.g. 1 off 2 off 3 off 4 off.

Glossary of Terms

Percussive: A strong beat.

Rests: Musical notation indicating a silence of a specified duration.