In this example of Banjo tablature, what should happen with the B's and G's during the rests? Should they be allowed to ring during the rest, or should they be dampened in some way?

Banjo tab in 4/4, there are either four quarter notes in each bar, or three quarter notes (the third being G or B) followed by a quarter rest

If they should just ring, why not have a note that extends across the whole thing? If it shouldn't ring, what's the correct way to dampen it?

I should have also noted that Track 25 references a downloadable (with the code from Hal Leonard Banjo Method - Book 1: For 5-String Banjo) audio clip. In that clip, the player does allow it to ring.


4 Answers 4


It should not ring. Sometimes silence is just as important or more important as the notes you play. Listen to a song of any style and see if the instruments play the entire time. (Hint: they don't).

As far as how to silence the strings that depends on the instrument as well as the context of when the rest happens.

As a beginner I'd say use you picking or strumming hand to stop the string from ringing by placing it on the string.

  • 1
    This is incorrect. ring or not ring depends entirely on the piece in question and the mood or style the performer wishes to project. Nov 21, 2018 at 14:24
  • As an analogy - consider use of the Sus pedal on a piano to extend notes into a rest. Again, performer's option -- tho' obviously not thru the entire rest. Nov 21, 2018 at 14:27
  • @CarlWitthoft - Note the edit I just made to the original question. Care to add your own answer? Also, btw, the link to your resume (witthoft.com/resume) 404s for me. Nov 21, 2018 at 14:59
  • 1
    @carlwitthoft based on the complexity of the piece and what I assume to be the OP's playing ability I would teach this player that rests are for silence. As the player improves and grows, yes, I agree there is room for interpretation.
    – b3ko
    Nov 21, 2018 at 15:13
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    @DonBranson oops -- comcast long ago killed their personal web services. One of these days I'll update to my box.com location. In the meantime, what job would you like to offer me? :-) Nov 21, 2018 at 18:41

Just as the note tells you how long it should last, a rest tells you how long the silence is for. But that's the problem with a lot of tab. It doesn't actually tell you how long each note is. Ironically here it does say the rest is for one beat.

That's where real music scores (sic), and is added to good quality tab.

So, rests need to be 'played' in silence. To make that silence, mute the string after playing the previous note, by touching it gently with a finger, or palm, from either hand. Whichever is more convenient.

You're right - if the writer wanted that G or B to ring, he'd have written it as a minim (2 beat note). He didn't. Think of it like a trumpeter. Playing all those notes, but somewhere he has to breathe in for the next lot. That rest helps, and there's no sound while that happens!

Having said all that, there is plenty of guitar music - some very old, which has chordal playing but the chords are arpeggiated. Here, the notes are written out individually, and look like they need to each play for a specific short time. Do that, and the piece sounds stilted. What needs to happen is for each chord note to continue ringing. To write this on the stave gets to be, and look, complicated. So it's simplified. One has to listen to what's being played, and make a judgement. But for accuracy's sake, play any music exactly as writ.: that's (presumably) the way the composer wanted it. Rests and all.

  • Again, I disagree -- not only with guitars, but with any string instruments. the amount of hold or fade into a following rest depends on the piece of music in question . Nov 21, 2018 at 14:26
  • @CarlWitthoft - quite happy for you to express your disagreement! However, the composer should have in mind how long each note - and each rest - will be. It's his baby! Interpretation is another thing. But with a tight band, it's important that each player keeps to an agreed timing on notes and rests, especially in intricate phrases.
    – Tim
    Nov 21, 2018 at 16:26

A good guitar tablature would show a Let ring marker above the note (e.g. see here). By the way, the tab you posted puzzles me a little, since it seems to keep tablature and standard notation together, while they usually stands one over the other, as you can see here.

  • I've seen the tablatures where one stands over the other. Those are further on in the book, so I take it that they're starting with simple things and adding on as the student progresses. Nov 21, 2018 at 15:03
  • Ok, so I guess they want you to silence at the pause (not ring).
    – p-a-o-l-o
    Nov 21, 2018 at 15:06

Tablature is not as rigid as normal note notation; in particular whether a (typically bass) note should be left to ring is often left open. One way of disambiguation is putting standard notation in parallel for reference.

For standalone tablature, a half note without other simultaneous notes would typically be notated by doubling the stem. For an explicitly written rest, however, there is not much other interpretation than silence. That silence will typically be achieved by inconspicuous dampening, letting the note end in an organic rather than sudden manner.

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