The purpose of this article is

to notate and strum rhythmic figures which consists of
quarter-note, half-note, and whole-note combinations


Quarter-Note Feel

In “Quarter-Note Feel” the focus was to define every event by strumming. In “Feeling The Pulse” you were introduced to the idea that the beat could either be defined by counting or by being silent. Defining some of the beats/events by strumming and some by not strumming is what creates the specific rhythmic groove, or “rhythmic figures” for each song.

Quarter-Note Rest

The notational markings used to ask you not to strum are called “rests“. These have similar names to slashes except that they are called rests instead of slashes. A “quarter-note rest” looks like this:

In the following example you are being asked to define every beat by not strumming (resting).

In the following example you are being asked to define beats 1 & 3 by strumming them and to define beats 2 & 4 by not strumming them. Resting now becomes another option for distinguishing beat 1 & 3 from beats 2 & 4.

A rest is asking you to be silent. Therefore, in the above example, you need to stop the strings from sounding when you get to beat 2. You can do this by relaxing the fingers of your fret hand that are holding notes. Open strings can be silenced by lightly touching them with a finger, or fingers, of you fret hand. You can also silence strings by touching them lightly with some part of your pick hand, usually the side of your palm.

You can also distinguish beats 1 & 3 from beats 2 & 4 in the opposite way – rest on 1 & 3 and strum on 2 & 4.

Half-Note Slash

Sometimes you will want to define one beat by strumming it and, instead of defining the next beat with a rest, define it by letting the chord continue to sound through it, without strumming it again. This is notated using a “half-note slash“. A half-note slash is an unfilled slash with a stem attached. In the following example you are being asked to define beats 1 & 3 by strumming them and to define beats 2 & 4 by letting these strums continue to ring. Said another way, you are defining two beats with the half-note slash – the first one is defining both beats 1 & 2, and the second is defining both beats 3 & 4.

Half-Note Rest

Of course, you could also be asked to rest for two beats. the notational marking for this is a “half-note rest“. A half-note rest is a solid rectangle drawn on a line – it looks like a hat.

Dotted-Half-Note Slash

It could also be the case where you will want to define 3 beats with only one strum. This is notated using a “dotted-half-note slash“. This is a half-note slash with a dot after it. In the following example, you are being asked to define beats 1, 2 and 3 with one strum on beat 1, and then to define beat 4 with another strum.

Another example of a dotted-half-note slash. This time you are defining beat 1 with a strum, and defining beats 2, 3 and 4 with one strum on beat 2.

Dotted-Half-Note Rest

If there is a dot after a half-note rest, it becomes a “dotted-half-note rest“. This has the same value as a dotted-half-note slash except that you are being asked to not strum.

Whole-Note Slash

To define 4 beats with one strum, a “whole-note slash” is used. A whole-note slash is an unfilled slash without a stem. In the following example you are being asked to strum on beat 1 and to allow this strum to also define beats 2, 3 and 4.

Whole-Note Rest

A “whole-note rest” has the same value as a whole-note slash. Visually similar to the half-note rest, it is also a solid triangle but with the line on top. It is also a little larger than a half-note rest. In the 4/4 time signature, a whole-note rest will always mean to rest for the whole bar. For this reason, even though the resting begins on beat 1, the whole-note rest is drawn in the middle of the bar.


The most important thing when it comes to notating is to make it as readable as possible. There a few rules, really long established conventions, that help with this goal. One of these is “always visually represent beat 1” or, said another way, the “show beat 1” rule. This means that, if you want to define beat 4 & 1 with one strum, you can’t just draw a half-note slash on beat 4.

To adhere to the “show beat 1” rule, a “tie” is used. A tie is an arced line joining two notes together. It acts as an addition sign. Only the first note of the tied group is strummed. It is then held through the beats that are visually defined by the second note.

Rests are not tied. There is no reason to tie rests because you are just continuing to be silent. You still have to draw a quarter-note rest on beat 4 and another quarter-note rest on beat 1 if you want to rest for both these beats but, you do not have to tie them together.

Now this is really important…

You always want to think in a way that produces the most musical result. Note values are often taught as: “hold a quarter-note for one beat”, “hold a half-note for two beats”, “hold a whole-note for four beats”, etc. Thinking this way is NOT conducive to good musical thinking. This is because it keeps your mind on what you just did. Music always, and constantly, moves forward. You have to keep your mind moving forward.

This is a much better – i.e. more musical – way to think:

  • “a quarter-note tells me the next event is on the next beat”;
  • “a half-note tells me the next event is two beats away”;
  • “a dotted-half-note tells me the next event is three beats away”;
  • “a whole-note tells me the next event is four beats away”.

In other words, think of note values as a way of telling you what is coming up, not what just happened. This keeps your thinking moving forward with the music.

Practice Loops

Strum all down-strokes for these practice loops.

Practice Loop 1

Practice Loop 2

Practice Loop 3

Practice Loop 4

Practice Loop 5