Can one expect to find a semibreve rest in 6/8 compound time?


3 Answers 3


A semibreve rest CAN be used in 6/8 time - or ANY time (apart from 4/2 - quite unusual)) to represent one bar's rest. At that point, it isn't actually a 'semibreve', but represents just one bar of that music. It's become a shorthand way of saying "one whole bar rest".

  • I've seen this before. It's more common when you're doing multi-bar rests, then the semibreve/full bar rest will have a number over it denoting the number of whole bars to rest.
    – Paul
    Jun 2, 2015 at 16:03
  • Why is 4/2 time not allowed for this?
    – corsiKa
    Jun 2, 2015 at 21:00
  • @Paul That's not quite correct -- multi-bar rests are a thing, but they will have a different symbol, not a semibreve. Also Tim, any time signature (including 4/2, or 6/2, or 8/2) can use a semibreve in the middle of the bar to indicate a full bar rest.
    – NReilingh
    Jun 2, 2015 at 23:50
  • @corsiKa in 4/2 a semibreve is only half a measure long, so using a semibreve rest as a whole-bar rest in 4/2 can be seen as confusing. The impression I get is that some people are fine with it, while others prefer to write a breve rest.
    – hobbs
    Jun 3, 2015 at 5:04
  • So can I place a whole bar rest anywhere in 6/8 time or are there certain areas?
    – Lschk
    Jun 3, 2015 at 6:00

A semibreve rest is the symbol to be used for "whole-bar rest", regardless of the meter. A whole-bar rest is also distinguished by being written in the middle of the bar rather than being aligned with beat 1 in other staves or voices.

This exalted central bar position is otherwise only used by "bourdon" notes carrying multiple syllables in free meter, like in Monteverdi's Vespers on phrases like "ex utero ante luciferum".


The correct rest to use in classical music theory for a full bar rest is the semibreve rest. This is always the case, regardless of time signature.

This is to aid the reading of the score. If you are in a orchestra and your instrument has to rest for five minutes, your life is going to be much easier if there isn't several rest in each bar.

There is of course one exception, when you are in 4/2 time the double whole rest is used, or as it is known in the commonwealth the breve rest.

  • 1
    It's not going to make much difference for serial bars' rests. They are usually marked with a number of bars to rest for, aren't they? Maybe not in a full score, but for individual instrument's parts. But, yes, they're easier on the eye. Would you use a minim rest for a full bar rest in 4/4?
    – Tim
    Jun 2, 2015 at 7:23
  • The grouping of rest work differently than notes. With rest you always want to use the least rests possible. The grouping of rest does not effect the silence. All it aims to do is ease the reading of the score.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 2, 2015 at 8:01
  • 2
    More importantly than helping the players, using semibreve rests makes it much easier to read the conductor's score. Parts that are silent are notated with mostly empty whitespace, making it easier to focus on parts that are actively playing something.
    – Kevin
    Jun 3, 2015 at 2:25

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