Most students learning jazz are working on the harmony and the scales and trying to hit the right notes. This is of course very important but often you find yourself realizing that you need to develop your rhythms so that you don’t only play endless streams of 8th note lines.
In this lesson I am going to go over one exercise that you can do to help develop more rhythms and quickly get them into your playing.
If you are trying to learn a new arpeggio or a scale you are not immediately going to try to play it all over the neck in the middle of a tune. You are more likely making smaller goals so that you first learn the arpeggio in one position, maybe only one octave and then later more positions while trying to make lines with it and using it over easy progressions.
The same approach can also be applied to a rhythm. To make it easy to learn we take one rhythm at a time. Learn the rhythm, practice making lines with it over one chord and then try to play with that rhythm through a simple F blues.
The 1st rhythm
The first rhythm, shown in exampe 1 is a really simple 3 note pattern. The first thing you want to try is to just play the rhythm on the guitar. Once that feels comfortable you can expand it so that you start working on making melodies with the rhythm. Start with one chord and take it from there. If you need to slow down or even to stop between phrases that is ok, it is part of the process.
Once you have the rhythm under control and can easily play it and can make lines over a chord in time with this rhythm you can take it through a progression that you are familiar with.
In example 2 I have written out an improvised chorus over an F blues that I played using the rhythm. You can hear the solo in the video.
Of course the next step after being able to play through the F blues with this rhythm is to try to open up so that you don’t use the rhythm all the time but still try to use it and get it to sit well in the rest of your melodic ideas.
The 2nd Rhythm
The same of course goes for this second rhythm, so first get comfortable with playing the rhythm and working on making lines over one chord at a time.
When first taking it through the blues it can be a good idea to play one bar and then take a break to hear the melody that you play in the next bar so that they are somehow related. This is of course not only useful for playing with this exercise but is soemthing you might want to work on in general to get better at playing solos that have a larger context and is not only a bunch of notes strung together over some chords.
In example 4 I have written out the chorus I improvised with this rhythm.
To demonstrate how you could take the two rhythms and try to use them more loosely in a blues I improvised a chorus where I am using the rhythms but not so strictly, so that they are allowed to melt into the rest of the solo in a natural way.
In my experience this a very direct and easy way to work on rhythms and also to not only work on an aspect of your playing but also still work on making music at the same time which is why I use this approach with a lot of different topics when I practice and when I teach.
I hope you can use this exercise to develop your rhythms and rhythmical ideas.
If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:
Rhythm exercise on a Jazz Blues
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