Musical Rests

Musical Rests

OK… we know when to make sound and when to be silent. Do we write these notes on regular notebook paper or blank typing paper???

No. Musical notation is written on:

The staff always begin with a clef sign. The most common is the Treble clef. (Don’t worry too much about this now. We will look at this more closely as we study note names.)

Now, we know that…



BUT… There is one more element of musical notation that must be discussed before we begin to learn to read music, write music, and then play! (great) music.


To organize sounds and silences,

you must play them IN TIME… or with a steady TEMPO.

Simply put, music rhythm must be ORGANIZED IN TIME.

This is why you hear someone “count off” a band when they begin. Usually, the drummer yells, “1 … 2… 3… 4…” to tell the rest of the band – ” HERE IS THE TEMPO, LET’S PLAY!”

Much of the music you hear maintains a steady tempo. So, every rhythm must be played IN TEMPO.

A steady beat or tempo is your friend. I repeat, a steady beat or tempo is your friend. A steady beat is… OK, OK, you got it.


It is not enough to just play a quarter note, half note, or any type of note when you see it. You must play it in relation to a Tempo.

In musical notation, we have a Counting Police.

This Counting Police is none other than

It’s his job to enforce counting rules for each measure.

I can hear him now…

“Hey, there’s supposed to be 8 eighth notes in that bar, not 9.”

He never sleeps or slumbers. His job is never finished. He is the unsung hero of every composition. He defends the faith of Rhythm Section Players everywhere…respecting no note or rest more than others, treating all rhythms with tolerance and …

I’m a percussionist, what can I say….

The Time Signature is very important for EVERYBODY who wants to learn to read music or play it. You must understand it.

It has 2 parts…2 numbers that are there for a reason. Commit this to memory, ASAP.

Counting Lesson #1 gave an example of 16 quarter notes without a Time Signature. It is so much easier to read those 16 notes when they are divided into 4 groups of 4. The counting police just keeps reminding us that only 4 quarter notes per measure will be allowed when the time signature says 4/4.

Please note that in musical notation the BAR LINES do not indicate stopping, breathing or pausing. They are only a visual aid for counting.

Have you gotten all this theory in your brain? CONGRATULATIONS! This is what I call LEFT BRAIN STUFF. These are the ABC’s of music notation. The stuff needed to learn to read music and notate it. It is not the music itself… only the tools for capturing it on paper.

My experience has been that even college graduates with degrees in music can have faulty understanding of the tools of music notation. My advice… Be honest with yourself. If you’re uncertain, there’s no time like the present to clean it up.

If you are just beginning to learn to read music, that’s great! You won’t have to unlearn any bad habits.

But just remember:

Music Rhythm is your starting place!

When you feel like you have mastered the material here, you are well on your way!

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