Eighth rests are those funny little symbols that consist of a stick with one flag on it. The flag always waves on the left side of the stick.
What Are Those Cute Little Things?
They are the silent twin of a single eighth note because they are also equal to half the value of a quarter rest. An eighth note represents sound while the eighth rest symbolizes silence.
Mathematically, a quarter rest is equal to 2 eighth rests or 1 full count. By dividing the quarter rest in half, we have each eighth rest equaling only 1/2 a count.
That means whenever you see an eighth rest, it will usually be accompanied by something else (like an eighth note) to bring the total number of counts to a whole number in a measure of music.
Eighth Rest Combinations
Here’s a few rhythm combinations you may run into that contain eighth rests:
Many times when you see a combination of single eighth notes with eighth rests, like in the example above, the eighth notes will be beamed or barred across the eighth rests. This is not to confuse you. It just makes the rhythm a bit easier to read.
You will still count the eighth rests recognizing them silently in time as only 1/2 a beat (either the number or the &, not both). The temptation will be to hop over the rests and play only the notes. Those eighth rests are there for a reason, so please recognize them in your counting!
Other times, a rhythm containing an eighth rest will be as simple as this. The rest is just hanging out by themselves with some eighth notes on either side. Notice how the eighth notes are not beamed across the eighth rest.
The above example also shows an eighth rest hanging out by their lonesome selves again, except it is surrounded by other note values. In this case, we have a quarter note on beat 1 and an eighth note on the “&” of count 2. The eighth rest lands right on count 2.
That can be unexpected for a lot of people and end up playing the eighth note late.
Here’s my advice: Always figure out if your rests are on the beat or off the beat (on the &’s) before you even start playing.
That way you will know exactly where the silence should go and when to play the next note. Write in the counting if you need to. It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the end.
Q: A quarter rest is equal to how many eighth rests?
A: Yep, 2 eighth rests equal a quarter rest.
Q: A half rest is equal to how many eighth rests?
A: A half rest equals a total of 4 eighth rests.
Q: A whole rest contains how many eighth rests?
A: Tough one. A whole rest is equal to a grand total of 8 eighth rests. Phew!
Eighth rests are like eighth notes because they each equal only 1/2 a count. Since we always need a whole number to represent the total amount of beats in a measure, an eighth rest will always be accompanied by some other note or rest.
If you see eighth notes beamed across eighth rests, don’t let this scare you. You still need to treat them in the same way by counting very carefully! You can also find eighth rests both on and off the beat. Oooooh…
My piece of advice is to always mathematically problem solve your rhythms before you start playing your music. Save yourself the stress and figure it out first!