I notice that while it is still very difficult for me to wrap my head around a new rhythm, the time it takes to 'get it' is getting shorter and shorter.
Last night I learned a new Sounou part and I was fumbling all over the place. It is almost as if I can't learn it while my teacher is sitting there. Rather, I need to write down the handing, tape it, then sit with it privately for awhile. The rhythm that so confounded me last night is well within my grasp today. When my teacher comes back for my lesson on Friday, I'll be ready.
Another thing I notice is that the handing and the rhythm pattern are, for me, separate endeavors. First I must learn the basic movements. Then I am ready to give those movements life.
I have read that one shouldn't 'grind in' one's mistakes. But I haven't found that to be a problem. Even if I am practicing something incorrectly from memory, it still seems to help when I meet up with it again. I may have gotten the details wrong, but something of the essence of a part has seeped through and seems to make it easier to grasp when I learn the correct way.
I'd love to hear how others tackle a new part. What is your process?