I am playing a piece and wondering, what the heck is this rest doing here above this note?

One measure of piano music on a grand staff.  The bass part has a quarter rest above a half note, another half note, and then a quarter note.

The piece is in 3/4, so I see no purpose in the 1/4 rest.

I've been googling around but did not find any proper explanation. Most answers says that the piece has more then one voice. It obviously does, but I still don't get it.

  • 14
    You have two voices there (signified by the different stem directions). One voice has a half and a quarter note, the other a quarter rest and a half note.
    – Joey
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 10:57
  • 2
    @11684 It is the Menuett in G major from Christian Petzold and you are actually right :), it was attributed to Bach, as it is located in BWV 114. It is the 25th verse(?)
    – Samuel
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 13:53

4 Answers 4


Let's look at what going in the bass clef. You are playing a B for beats 1 and 2 and then playing another B on beat 3, but you also play a D for beats 2 and 3 in the bass. Because you play the D on beats 2 and 3 and the B is also being played on beats 1 and 2, the rest is used to show you what beat to start playing the D.

Without the rest in, the notation would tell you to play the D for beats 1 and 2 instead of 2 and 3. The rest is necessary to show where to play the D. It looks odd, but it's the best way to notate what is happening.

If the lower staff was written as two separate parts in the bass they would look like this:

V:1 clef=bass
V:2 clef=bass
%%score 1 | 2
z  D2  |
B,2 B,  |
  • 20
    A way to think about this is that there are two voices on the bass clef: the lower plays 1/2 b, 1/4 b; the upper plays 1/4 rest, 1/2 d. The voices are distinguished by the directions of the note stems.
    – Dave
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 20:26
  • 3
    The description of what everything means is correct, but I don't think it's entirely accurate that "Without the rest it, the notation would tell you to play the B for beats 1 and 2 instead of 2 and 3. The rest in necessary to show where to play the D." I think it'd be more accurate to say that "the rest makes it explicit where the D should be played." If every implicit rest were included, much printed music would be much more crowded. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 21:13
  • 3
    In this case, the fact that the D half note in the bass clef aligns with the the G eighth note on beat two of the treble. Even if the quarter rest weren't marked, it'd be rather strange to notate the B and D half notes in the bass clef starting on the first beat in this way. That said, I don't think that including the quarter rest here is uncommon for piano music. In handbell music, though, where all players are reading from the same score, but are only responsible for a few bells, the rests (where a player needs to damp a bell) are very often left implicit. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 21:24
  • 2
    @JoshuaTaylor, you are right. In most music that has multiple voices on a staff, unless no voice at all plays at a particular point, most of the rests are left out. Otherwise the music would be so cluttered as to be unreadable. The Minuet in G by Bach the OP is working on is a beginner piece, so I wonder if the rest is left in to help explain the idea of voices to a beginning player. Otherwise, it would look to a beginner like there are 5 beats in that measure.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 10:44
  • Because this is the accepted and most upvoted answer to the canonical "multiple voices" question, consider updating to make explicit that it applies to "double note" examples as in music.stackexchange.com/q/133043/70803.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 5:25

It's effectively written as three parts. The treble clef is one line. The bass notes with stems going down is the bass part, comprising B minim and another B crotchet. Then there's the 'middle line', played with the left hand. Obviously it's a D minim, stem up, but that leaves the first beat of this bar with nothing to play. Thus a crotchet rest. You can't mark a rest with an up stem or down stem!


First, it's 3/4: a crotchet note counts for 1 beat, a quaver counts for 1/2 beat and a minim counts for 2 beats; the bar contains 3 beats in total.

Second, there are 3 voices in this bar: 2 voices for bass clef, 1 voice for treble.

A diagram showing how the bass part can be broken down into two distinct parts.  One is a quarter rest followed by a half note.  The other is a half note followed by a quarter note.

Third, how to play with your right and left hand:

  1. The right-hand plays a crotchet (d2) count for 1 beat.
    The left-hand "plays" the crotchet rest and half of the minim (b) simultaneously count for 1 beat.
  2. The right-hand plays 2 quaver notes (g1 and #f1) count for 1 beat.
    The left-hand plays half of the minim (d1) and the left half minim note (b) simultaneously count for 1 beat.
  3. The right-hand plays the last crotchet note (g1) for 1 beat.
    The left-hand plays the left half minim (d1) and the crotchet (b) simultaneously count for 1 beat.

There are two separate "layers" of music occurring on the second staff. As you can see, the notes with downward stems already fill the bar, making 3 beats. The rest is part of the upper layer of notes, which begins with one beat of rest and continues with 2 beats on the D.

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