Is there a rest symbol that means "rest until the end of this measure"?

e.g. I've put a 16th note in the beginning of the measure and I don't want to bother calculating duration for the remaining rests. Is there some symbol I can use to mean "just don't play anything until the end of the measure"?

hard to read measure - a sixteenth note at the start and then various rests of increasing value to complete the measure

The motivation behind this is twofold:

  • Sometimes the remaining rests make the measure difficult to read. A beginner musician might struggle to read it.

  • It saves the author the time needed to calculate the remaining rests. For a 4/4 time signature it might be straightforward but depending on the time signature of the score it might be challenging to calculate the remaining rests.

Please correct me if I'm missing something.

  • 1
    Is this at the end of the piece? How can you get away with not calculating the measures unless it is the end? Are there still bar lines on the staff? Therefore, the player knows how many bars to count, you just don't want to write anything? Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 9:02
  • Reading again, it seems you are using software. Is that the case? Can you specify? Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 10:26
  • @WilburWhateley I am using musescore, yes. Musescore does it automatically for you but the measure still looks cluttered with rests. I'm sorry I had written staff instead of measure. I have edited the answer to reflect it.
    – Jubei
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 16:13
  • 1
    Personally I would use a whole rest, which ought to be understood thanks to the fact that it is already variable (used to represent the length of a bar irrespective of the time signature in most cases), but I don't think that's common practice.
    – user28
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 17:30
  • 3
    But, the whole rest in 4/4 would be worth 16 16ths, like you said its value is dependent on the time sig, so you would have 17 16ths. I would raise my hand in band class and ask if I saw that. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 19:27

4 Answers 4


Be explicit about it. Time signatures can change rapidly in modern music, so we need to see all beats accounted for. If I'm reading a piece by Mozart and the end of the bar is empty, I'd feel okay about just assuming the rests, but if I'm playing Stravinsky and I see a measure with the wrong number of beats, I don't know what the hell is going on. There could be a missing note or rest somewhere, there could be a missing tuplet, or there could even be a missing time signature change.

Don't worry about readability. With even a tiny bit of experience, we quickly learn to see that the remainder of the bar is rests and move on mentally (as long as everything lines up!), and as long it's notated properly we quickly get used to seeing the patterns.


No, there's not a conventional rest you can use for that. But you have a couple of options here, depending on what effect is intended. Remember to always go with the simplest solution that accurately represents your intention.

  1. Staccato: In this case (and many others), a simple staccato over an eighth note will make this far more legible, especially for beginners. Staccato means "play this for 1/2 of its normal value"*, so staccato eighth note == sixteenth + sixteenth rest.

  2. Dotted rests: I would use a dotted eighth rest here to complete the quarter note. Filling out the beat in as few symbols as possible makes it easier to follow if you're watching another part (for example, piano music). The others can be grouped into a quarter and half rest, as you have there.

Always group the beats so that the division of the measure is a simple as possible (half measure rest instead of two quarter-measure rests, or dotted quarter rest in 6/8 time rather than quarter + eighth). Though a triple dotted half rest is possible here, it's hard to read and not the simplest way to express it.

*maybe not always. see comments.

  • "Staccato means "play this for 1/2 of its normal value"". Agreed that a staccato marking might make sense in this case, but that's definitely not an accurate definition of staccato. Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 20:05
  • @BruceFields I first heard that definition at college when I was playing something too dry on timpani. Here's some literature to support it, but I was surprised at how hard it was to locate a source for that definition. 3rd paragraph here, regarded as common knowledge. Second column, first line here, especially referring to early classical interpretation.
    – Josiah
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 20:23
  • I realized that might be an archaic definition. So here's a question discussing that. music.stackexchange.com/questions/33186/how-long-is-staccato
    – Josiah
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 21:41
  • 1
    Oh, neat, thanks for the followup. I'd still argue though that even if there was an accepted convention that staccato notes should be about half-length, that wouldn't necessarily staccato eighth note have the same meaning as a sixteenth plus sixteenth rest; the staccato still leaves the player some discretion. (In the same way as does, say, a fermata, or "swing" eighths.) So I'd say "a staccato mark might be an acceptable substitute if that's what you mean", rather than that it's equivalent notation. Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 16:13

In the case of the example, the readability might be improved by using a doubly-dotted quarter rest instead of the sixteenth, eighth and quarter rests. Technically, all the rests in the measure could be replaced by a triply-dotted half rest, but I can't recall ever seeing that in print.


No, but informally you can just leave blank space. As long as there are no other notes on that stave, it will be perfectly clear what you want.

Please note, though, this is informal, and not theoretically correct. It would be fine if you were quickly writing down a score or part for somebody; best not to do it in a music theory exam!

If you use a music notation program, such as Sibelius, it will automatically work out the correct rests for you.

  • 3
    Leaving bars entirely blank to signify "all rests" is becoming more accepted even in printed scores nowadays. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 6:57
  • 2
    I would find that very confusing and think it’s a an editing error.
    – Édouard
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 18:27
  • @Édouard so what would you write instead?
    – Jubei
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 5:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.