# Could anyone give some tips/basic rules for completing measures with rests?

I'm currently studying music theory and this is a big gray area for me. Whenever I do practice problems and my answers are marked incorrect, I'm introduced to a lot of new concepts/rules. Some examples which I wrote down:

• any incomplete pulses must be treated separately when adding rests

• in compound time, a dotted rest is preferable when notating a complete beat

• a whole measure of silence is always filled with a single whole rest

• et cetera.

In short, I'm looking for some basic rules like the above for completing measures with rests.

I'm currently studying RCM Level 7 Theory. If anyone could take the time to explain some basics rules for me on completing measures with rests, it would be really helpful to me!

(Note: I have no problem with the mathematical adding rhythms to figure out how many beats need to be filled with rests part, if that makes sense.)

• Seems like you have the basic rules already. Do you have any examples where you are still not sure how to complete the meaure and the rules you listed don’t help? Commented Jul 26 at 10:30
• I was wondering if there were more of/a list of such 'fundamental' rules like the ones I listed. Commented Jul 27 at 4:31
• At least one example would really help us help you. Commented Jul 27 at 11:56
• "Whenever I do practice problems and my answers are marked incorrect, I'm introduced to a lot of new concepts/rules": this seems like a frustrating and perhaps old-fashioned way to learn. Commented Jul 27 at 13:01
• @phoog Yeah, I agree it's not the best way to learn. I'm trying to fix this myself too. :) Commented Jul 28 at 0:22

Your question has to do with Music notation style that is less binding than the rules that, if broken, could make a reader / performing play the wrong notes or play badly (wrong phrasing, wrong articulation, etc.) because a rest is a rest (there is nothing going on). So this is similar to how universities or a journal or a newspaper have their own writing style, although most follow venerable standards such as the Chicago Manual of Style. A venerable one for music notation which is VERY complete (and is frequently referred to in this forum) is Elaine Gould's Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation but it is prohibitively expensive unless you can find a copy in a library. (Maybe someone in this forum who have access to a copy can kindly write another answer with extracts from the book on the topic of completing measure with rests).

Stylistic rules evolved over time and are not set in stone and the minor convention can vary. Since you're studying for an RCM exam, ideally it should be coming from RCM; if I can find one for RCM, I'll edit my answer. But for now let's pick a modern style guide, such as Indiana University Bloomington's Composition Department Music Notation Style Guide. If they don't say it, then it's not that important. I think you have covered all the bases, but it would be good to do a keyword search for "rest" in the above notation guide to discover unique situations which requires special handling.

Doing precisely that, here's what I found, helpfully organized under a principle for each heading (there's always an underlying reason behind a rule):

• Rests involving complex meters should follow consistent metric division that also should be adhered to when writing notes. Example:

• Rests Reinforce Meter:

• Rules for Dotted rests:

The guide line I follow is the same rules for how you would beam notes. A musician should be able to see the middle of the measure clearly. So if you have an impartial first half of a measure, add rests to completes the first half of the measure. Then add a half rest to complete it. In complex time signatures where you can't equally divide a measure with whole numbers like 5/4 time each beat should be clearly visible to the musician.

• Partial could be a better word than impartial.
– Tim
Commented Jul 27 at 14:16