I'm learning to play the guitar using notes, but there is something I don't completely get (and I haven't seen explanation anywhere).

What is the difference between: a note and a rest of a certain duration vs a note and a tie?

Because usually if you have a rest note the previous note isn't muted, right? So it seems to me that the rest is equivalent to the tie.

Can you you clarify this for me.

4 Answers 4


The tie adds duration. A note tied to another note equals both added together. No stopping. (e.g. Two quarter notes tied together equals a half note.) A rest between the two notes means you stop (mute, I guess you could say) and then play it again. It has different purposes.

For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tie_(music) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rest_(music)

  • Thanks, I've read the wikipedia pages. But I don't think I've ever saw that you supposed to stop/mute the sounding strings when having a rest note. Although now, after doing another google search it looks like that's what needs to be done.
    – sega_sai
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 0:39
  • sorry I was little confused with your terminology, so I just explained what I could. btw it's just called a rest. Do you happen to have any sheet music in particular you're wondering about? Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 1:06
  • 1
    Just want to clarify here that a tie does not add duration, it merely links two notes together such that the pitch or sound is sustained through the full duration of each note. A dot adds duration. Also, a guitarist can still play notes while muted, so if you see a rest, that means to be silent for the appropriate duration. In that sense you are stopping the strings from vibrating instead of merely muting them. Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 18:32

Generally there are three places in written music where a tie will be needed.

  1. Where there is no note shape for a particular note length, as in duration one and three quarter beats. This could be written as a one beat tied to a half beat tied to a quarter (crotchet - quaver- semiquaver).(Yes, I know about double dots, but that's not my point).
  2. Where a long note lasts more than a whole bar. This could be a 6 beat note in 4/4 time, where a semibreve will be tied to a minim.(4 beat - 2 beat)
  3. Sadly going out of fashion, where there's for instance, a 2 beat note lasting from beat 2 to beat 3 in a 4/4 bar.This bar may be written crotchet - crotchet tied to crotchet - crotchet. The idea being in 4/4 any bar can be split visually into half. This idea shows up 'push' notes.

Rests, on the other hand, are exactly what they say - a 1 beat rest is 1 beat's worth of silence and silence is so important in music.

With guitar, sometimes the rest is superfluous as the note played previously has decayed to silence anyway, and the same thing in reverse with long notes shown with ties.

  • 2
    In my experience, double dots are pretty rare anyway. Theoretically they're useful, but if you're sightreading at speed a tied note is much easier to follow.
    – Faelkle
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 12:40

With a percussive instrument like a guitar, there tends to be some leeway in the execution of note ends: the score reflects an abstract idea of music that the execution reduces to the perspective of a particular instrument.

Rests may often not be explicitly executed in guitar play. Depending on what other notes are sustained or played and whether the harmony changes, muting the string at a rest might be appropriate when the sound from that string is not otherwise masked.

A tie, however, is a rather explicit instruction to let the string ring on. You don't mute, and most importantly, you don't unfinger the note.


In music notation a note means "make sound" a rest means "don't make sound". Guitar is not granted an exception to this!

  • 2
    The question is about the rest and the tie. Not the rest and the note. Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 13:44
  • We start with a note. We either prolong it by tying over to another note or we don't, hence leaving a rest.
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 14:08

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