Shaping Lines Rhythmically — Changing Rates: 8ths, Triplets, and 16ths

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Staying in one rhythmic zone – whether it be eighth notes or double time sixteenth note lines – can sound monotonous over the course of an entire solo. A way to bring about rhythmic freshness is to alternate between eighth note, eighth note triplet, and sixteenth note phrases. The key is to make the transition seamless, in a flowing manner.

Below, we are going to look at an example of Fred Hersch demonstrating this concept over the changes to “Whisper Not”. He alternates from an eighth note phrase to an eighth note triplet phrase to a sixteenth note phrase, and repeats that cycle, leaving a short space in between each phrase:


Click Here for the Whisper Not Changing Rates – Part 1 pdf


You can also alternate rhythmic values within a single line. Here is an example of releasing from sixteenth notes to triplet eighth notes to eighth notes within a single phrase over the changes to “Beatrice”:



These rhythmic variety exercises – of alternating between eighth notes, eighth note triplets, and sixteenth notes as separate phrases and within a single phrase – are best to implement over medium swing tempo tunes (around: quarter note = 120). This is because medium tempos afford you the creativity and flexibility to explore changing rhythmic rates. Some good medium tunes to experiment with changing rates include:

  • Beatrice,
  • Whisper Not,
  • In Your Own Sweet Way,
  • What’s New




Bijan Taghavi is a pianist, composer, and educator currently based in New York, NY. For more information visit: BijanJazz.com.

Brenden Lowe

Brenden Lowe

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