Rhythm is not only about working with notes played, but also about notes not played. These are called rests. That is you take a break from playing and allow silence to enter into your playing. Let's explore.
Triple Pattern with Rests
In the following example, a triplet pattern a rest occurs at the “and” of every beat. Also an accent occurs at the “a” of every beat. Many of you will recognize this as a swing pattern. However, rather than hold the downbeat the inclusion of a rest creates a more staccato or sharp rhythm pattern.
When you clap this pattern you will hear this sharp pattern. When you play it on your instrument you should hear it as well. You can contrast it by changing the downbeat notes (1, 2, 3, 4) to quarter notes where the the rests would not be used. Then you would hear a tone all the time.
Learning a Rest Pattern
Slowly clap the notes and count the rhythm. That is you only clap on a number and the letter “a”. For off you will bring your hands apart to represent not playing.
Next you will clap louder on the “a” and softer on the downbeat. This will take practice and is counter intuitive to the classical accent being on the downbeat (number).
When you get this it will sound like BA da . Loud soft silence, Loud soft silence.
Play with this rhythm and accent the downbeat. da BA, doing these types of exercises help you feel the music as well as read it.
Silence is a Part of Music
Although you don't normally think of silence as part of music, you hear it all the time. It's what makes phrasing easy in music. The silence is a natural break point.
For those that play a horn or sing, this is a natural break point to take a breath.
In many rock songs you feel like your being bombarded with sound all the time. But you find that the drummer, and all the other instruments are using silence as part of their part of the song. Probably more so with the lead player, but all will utilize it.
I got some Pink Floyd on the radio the other day, and it struck me that they are masters of using silence in many of their songs.
Change your focus for a few days and listen for silence in music. It'll give you a new perspective on your playing and learning.