An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

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An introduction to music theory

4.2 Grouping rests

When grouping notes, we saw that the main aim was to achieve ease of reading. The same applies when grouping rests, although there are some exceptions to this rule, which are explained below. Generally, however, the rule of showing each beat still applies. Thus, in a bar of 3/4, a crotchet is not followed by a minim rest, but by two crotchet rests, as shown in Example 34 (a). And a crotchet and quaver are followed, not by a dotted crotchet rest, but by a quaver and a crotchet rest, as shown in Example 34 (b). Each beat is shown clearly.

Example 34

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Grouping rests: the exceptions to the ‘show each beat’ rule

In a bar of 4/4, if two crotchets are either preceded or followed by two crotchets-worth of rests, then a minim rest can be used – as Example 35 (a) shows. This rule reflects the rule for beaming four quavers in 4/4, since, as we noted in Section 3.6, you can beam together a minims-worth of quavers.

In 4/4, you also cannot group rests across the middle of a bar. Crotchets at each end of a 4/4 bar are separated by two crotchet rests and not a minim rest, as shown in Example 35 (b). This is a similar concept to the rules for beaming quavers in 4/4 – you cannot beam across the middle of a bar.

Example 35

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Where rests are included that total less than a beat, you need to group in half-beats. Therefore, two semiquavers at each end of a crotchet beat should be separated by two semiquaver rests, not a quaver rest, as shown in Example 36 (a). And a single opening semiquaver should be followed by a semiquaver rest and then a quaver rest, as shown in Example 36 (b).

Example 36

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Again, as with the previous discussions of grouping note values, this grouping of rests might seem unnecessarily complicated. But the overall aim with grouping both note values and rests is to try to ensure that the graphic layout on the page is as easily readable as possible (once, that is, you have learned the rules and the exceptions to the rules!). Therefore, the design of staff notation has evolved so that the reader can recognise not only each individual note, but ‘blocks’ of information, such as that contained in each beat, or even in each bar. This helps to facilitate the reading process, which is particularly important in fast tempos.

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