When should I tap my foot?

I always play with a click track, but now I also want to teach a foot to tap. Is it best to have a foot tap on the 1? I have seen people tap on 1/4 notes at low speeds but I am looking more for a permanent good habit. Thoughts?

I think the pulse really is the foundation of music and something I want to be totally aware of while playing. Therefore I tap on every beat when I can, at low-medium speeds. When that start to feel uncomfartable i tap on 1 and 3. (But when I do that my brain change the way of thinking. I group something as triplets when I tap on every beat and sextuplets when I tap on 1 and 3.)


try tapping on 2 and 4

Or put the click on 2 & 4 and tap on 1 & 3.

What do people suggest for 3/4?

On the down beat. Every down beat. I tell my students all the time this is crucial for developing internal rhythm.

Are you concerned that each beat doesn’t differentiate the start of the measure (the “downbeat” on 1) and that it therefore might not be “precise enough?” Do some people use both feet somehow, a bit like a drummer? And how do people tap at higher metronome speeds?

No why would that matter, you’re just keeping time. Idk, I mean I tap my foot to everything. Isn’t that what musicians are supposed to do?

Interesting topic. I find it very difficult to do anything whilst playing. I don’t have any significant timing issues, but unless I’m playing a very simple riff and the tempo is pedestrian, tapping the foot is difficult and talking/singing is near impossible! Funnily enough, marching on the spot to the beat is possible if I’m playing standing up. I find it so frustrating to try to improve my tapping but have also wondered whether I should persevere with it for the benefit…

In general, I teach my students to tap their foot on the beat (1, 2, 3, 4 in the case of 4/4 time), but with more rapid combinations of tempo and time signatures, you may want to switch to the pulse, as previously mentioned.

As an example of this kind of situation, tapping your foot on the beat of a fast 12/8 time would be pretty exhausting, so I recommend tapping the foot on beats 1, 4, 7, and 10 to give it the “long 4/4” type of feel.

In addition, I also recommend that if you want to develop a really solid sense of time, you should work on counting the subdivision of notes you are playing out loud. Here are the sounds I normally recommend for the most common subdivisions:

1/8 notes: “1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND”
1/16 notes: “1 EE AND AH 2 EE AND AH 3 EE AND AH 4 EE AND AH”
Triplet 1/8: “1 AND AH 2 AND AH 3 AND AH 4 AND AH”
Swung 1/8 (Shuffle) : “1 AH 2 AH 3 AH 4 AH”

Try to do all three of these things (play guitar, foot tap beat, count out loud) is really awkward at first, but once grasped can make a tremendous difference to your timing.



I asked some friends playing violin and learned that nobody taps their feet, but perhaps that is bad behavior in an orchestra. Is tapping mostly a guitar thing?

Also orchestral conductors mark the first (downbeat) and last (upbeat) beats, that seems relevant to me but I don’t know why…

I guess that I will just continue to run a click track but not tap a foot for now.

Tap the pulse. Whatever it is, with your feet or however you keep time internally or externally. Some people just have intrinsic rock solid rhythm, some have to practice and count it out. The pulse is the rhythm you feel when you listen to any piece. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s a bit harder to find. Trust your instincts.

For straight 4/4 rock feel free to tap out those quarter notes. Like someone said before here you should know the subdivision too.

3/4 is a Waltz! It’s a a dance rhythm with 3 moves! So tap on all beats. Not too many rock tunes in 3/4 but “Piano Man” is one.

6/8 is the only other real popular one. Has a very particular feel which if you hear once or twice you can identify. “Norwegian Wood”, “Nothing Else Matters” , “We are the Champions”. It feels like 2 moves but broken into 3 parts each!

As an ex violinist, I wouldn’t say this is strictly true. I was encouraged to do so in practice, but in a 100 piece orchestra setting, everyone tapping would create quite a noise! I do agree that it would be considered bad etiquette/behaviour. You also have the conductor to follow, who will speed up and slow down for stylistic purposes.

For 4/4 time each beat is often marked beat 1,2,3 and 4 are marked down, left, right and up, respectively. That being said, if the tempo is fast, they might opt as you say for a different subdivision. There are some crazier conductors that do some rather extravagant gestures to control the whole thing, which I always found hilarious!

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