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Elisabeth

The length of a whole rest.

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For much of my childhood, I heard elementary school music teachers say that a whole rest means "four beats of silence". It wasn't until I was a teenager that my violin teacher explained that a whole rest can mean an entire measure of silence, REGARDLESS of the time signature. I wish that I had known that earlier. It would have saved some embarrassment. I remember being in a group where we were playing something in 3/4 time. I came to a whole rest and was silent for 4 beats. When I came back in I was a beat behind everyone else.

When theory books talk about this, the mention is very fleeting and in small print.

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Yes, this is an interesting use of the semibreve rest. Here is the definition of the usage:

The Whole Bar Rest

While, in general, every bar will contain the number of beats set by the time signature, in the form of beats, notes or both, there are two occasions where a bar might appear to have an incorrect number of beats. The first of these is where a whole bar rest, identical to the semibreve rest has been used. The time value of a whole bar rest is set by the time signature.

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