If you have been following my lessons here on Learn Jazz Standards, you’re probably familiar with my rants on how important it is for a musician to master rhythms. It’s just as important as it is to master scales, harmony and any other aspects of music.

A good, well-rounded musician has to have an in-depth knowledge of rhythm. More often than not I hear amateur non-drummers excuse themselves for not being good with rhythms because they don’t play drums or percussive instruments. But this is not a good excuse. Every instrumentalist needs a strong foundation in rhythm.

So, today I’m going to follow up with odd-grouping to give you more workouts in the rhythmic arena of music.

In the previous lesson “Accents and Odd Groupings: 12 Exercises to Spice Up Your Rhythms” I talked about using odd-groupings and accents to create intricate rhythms.

This time, we are going to use rests. Rests are another straightforward tool you can use to create cool exercises and rhythmic patterns in your playing.

So let’s begin. As I said before, rests are going to be our device to spice up our basic rhythmic exercises. With rests, we are going to create space in between the notes, but this time in odd places, which is going to generate an illusion of metric modulation.

Example #1

As you can see by using rest, I’m creating a group of three notes over the regular 8th notes. The three-note grouping is formed by one rest and two notes.

We can do the same at any rate. For instance, 8th note triplets.

Example #2

This time we are making a group of two notes over the triplets, which creates a polyrhythm of 6:4.

We now have an understanding of how rests are going to be used to create the groupings. So, let’s start working on some exercises.

Exercise #1

Groups of three notes over 8th Notes. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #2

Groups of three notes over 8th Notes. Rest on second note of the group

Exercise #3

Groups of two notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #4

Groups of two notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on second note of the group.

Exercise #5

Groups of four notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #6

Groups of four notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on second note of the group.

Exercise #7

Groups of five notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #8

Groups of five notes over 8th notes triplets. Rest on second note of the group.

Exercise #9

Groups of three notes over 16th notes. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #10

Groups of three notes over 16th notes. Rest on second note of the group.

Exercise #11

Groups of five notes over 16th notes. Rest on first note of the group.

Exercise #12

Groups of five notes over 16th notes. Rest on second note of the group. 

You can also keep displacing the rest and come up with different starting points. 

To practice these exercises, we are going to use the same steps from the previous lesson “Accents and Odd Groupings: 12 Exercises to Spice Up Your Rhythms” Here are them for you to remember:

How to Practice These Without Your Instrument:

The first way to go around these is trying to internalize these rhythms without using an instrument. For that, I like to do the following:

  1. First, clap the primary subdivision. In case of Ex. 1, we are going to clap 8th notes.

  2. Then add your foot, either left or right, and start tapping on the main quarter note pulse.

  3. Next, add the rest. For this, you are going to leave the space on where the accent is notated.

  4. Once you are comfortable with those first three steps, then add a count. I highly recommend you to count out loud: 1, 2, 3, 4.

This can be challenging. It took me a while to be able to count and play these exercises at the same time. But once you master it, you’ll notice how familiar they become and easy to incorporate into your playing.

Another thing you can do is, sing the exercises. You can add clapping on the rest to work on rhythmic accuracy. Check “5 Exercises To Improve Your Rhythmic Precision And Feel” for more ideas how to work on this.

Another thing I like to do when learning new rhythmic ideas is to play them along with songs on which I’m working. You can play your favorite record and start clapping over, or take any of the Learn Jazz Standards Play-Along tracks and do the same.

By doing this, you’ll start figuring out how the groupings fit within the changes and the melody. It is helpful when applying these ideas to real musical situations because you don’t want to get lost or turned around.

How to Practice These With Your Instrument:

Also, on your instrument, you can apply these ideas to your daily warm-up routines, like scales or arpeggios, etc. Instead of playing scales up and down, you can play them but stressing every third note or fifth note.

You can apply them to comping patterns, for instance, the 8th and 16th notes based examples are great to use over Brazilian music or another type of straight 8th notes styles. All triplet based ones work fantastic over swinging tunes.

Once you master this exercises using rest, you can combine them all. You can use rests and accents to spice up your rhythms.

Note: For exercises 13, 14, and 15 Cowbell plays the accents and conga the unaccented notes.

Exercise #13

Combining Accents and Rests. One group with accent, One Group with rest (Group of 4 over 8th notes triplets)

Exercise #14

Combining Accents and Rests. Accent and Rest in the same group (Group of 4 over 8th notes triplets).

Now, you can go through all the exercises and mix and match rests and accents. It opens up a new world of possibilities.

Also, you can use more than one rest or one accent to create your groupings.

Exercise #15

More than one accent and rest. Two accents one rest in the same group (Group of 5 over 16th notes).

Again, go through all the exercises and add more rest or accents.

Once you start combining tools like accents and rests, exercises can get incredibly challenging. So, be patient and practice slowly. Working this material on a regular basis will improve your rhythmic sense and vocabulary. Put effort into it.

Have fun and see you in the next one.

30 Stepsto Better Jazz Playing

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