Rhythm primer (part 5): Rests and the guitar

Welcome to the fifth tutorial in the guitar rhythm primer series. Today we're going to take a look at rests. Up to now, all the notes we've learned were notes you played. But rests are notes where you don't let anything happen. They are completely silent. So lets dive in. Just like a whole note is a note worth 4 beats, a whole rest is a rest worth 4 beats. Similarly, a half rest is worth two beats, and a quarter rest is worth one beat. Here is what each look like:

Whole rest:

Half rest:

Quarter rest:

For the first example let's use a half rest. We'll play a half note worth two beats and a half rest also worth two beats, to make a a complete measure worth 4 beats total. Most likely, you will have to actively silence your guitar, by putting either the palm of your right hand or the fingers of your left hand on the strings. When muting with the left hand, you have to be careful not to press down too hard, otherwise you could accidentally make an unwanted note.

So here's the example (with a 4 beat lead in).

Description: Exercise using a half rest

Click Arrow to Play | Which guitar chord is played?

This example is similar to a whole note because you are actually only striking one note with your pick for the entire measure. But the fact that two beats are completely silent makes it different.

Here's an example using quarter rests:

Description: Exercise using quarter rests

Click Arrow to Play | Which guitar chord is played?

compare how that sounded to how this sounds:

Description: Exercise using half notes (c0mpared to using quarter rests)

Click Arrow to Play | Which guitar chord is played?

Did you hear how the example with the quarter rests sounded a little choppier than the example with half notes? The chords were played on beats 1 and 3 in both examples , but the chords were allowed to ring across beats 2 and 4 only in the example using half notes. The quarter rests made it so that the notes did not ring on beats 2 and 4 in that example.

So what's the point? Though it's not a part of music you think about when listening to music, silence in music makes a huge impact on a song. This week as you're listening to your favorite music, listen for silence (either from a single instrument or from the whole band together). Notice how those silences impact the song. They make the song much more interesting. Creative use of silence is one thing that often separates a national level band from a local one.

Here's a couple more examples using rests for you to practice with. Each example is four measures long and has a four beat lead in.

Description: 4 measures using different kinds of rests

Click Arrow to Play | Which guitar chord is played?

Description: Exercise for learning subdividing beats

Click Arrow to Play | Which guitar chord is played?

One last thing about rests, you try to use the largest rest possible to cover the silence. In other words, there is no reason to use two quarter rests in a row instead of using one half rest. Silence is silence, so there would be no difference in sound between the two, but it's a little more confusing to look at two quarter rests instead of one half rest.

Hope you found this lesson useful!

Click here to go to the next lesson: Using Eighth Notes

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