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I'm learning to tap my foot to the pulse but my foot does a jerk when I accent a beat while strumming. Is this okay or should I try to keep my foot as steady as possible and how can I do it?

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    When I was trained in classical music as a boy, I was told never to do foot-tapping or any other physical manifestation of rhythm. Rhythm should be in your head.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 14:29
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    Addendum: I don't want to discourage you, though. Foot-tapping is completely all right in some genres. Look up Willis Alan Ramsay, who was known for it, and had a box made to tap his foot on.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 14:35
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    Classical musicians don’t tap their feet (for good genre-specific reasons) and classical students that do it are told to stop (but not before they can do it) because eventually they should feel the pulse internally. But tapping your feet is an excellent intermediate step (or good habit if your genre allows it) because if your feet-tapping is still unstable, jumping in one go to an internal feeling of pulse is not going to happen. It’s a bit like arithmetic on your fingers; it shouldn’t become a crutch, but as long as you’re still having trouble with that, doing it mentally is too difficult.
    – 11684
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 18:34
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    thats normal, only practicing it very, very slowly and deliberately will give you a good result. Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 8:37
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    @Wastrel in classical music foot-tapping is frowned upon – but in most other genres it's perfectly accepted, and in folk music it's almost mandatory. IMO it can also make sense to tap in a classical ensemble for certain kinds of music, just not for those where there is no steady beat and the ensemble needs to dynamically follow the conductor and/or soloist. Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 10:15

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Tapping is a two way thing - foot down, foot up. Pretend your foot is between the floor and something above it, so it hits both ways. Then, you'll have the 'up beats' covered as well, which will revel to you that some of the notes you play are actually when your foot hits the upper whatever it is.

Counting at the same time will be a great help, and that will eventually be omitted, when the foot becomes more automatic. Combine that with a metronome, particularly one with a ping and a click, and you'll get there quickly - with use.

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  • I have a follow up to this question. I have had issues with rhythm since forever, even dancing or anything rhythm related causes issues for me. I'm one of those guys who have been playing for years and still can't rock a party with wonderwall. Recently though, I have started to work on my core rhythm issues, and I would love to know what else apart from the 'foot-tapping' can I do to get good at rhythm, in general. I'd love to dance with my guitar and all those things yk
    – Anant
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 11:13
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    @Anant I think there are already questions here about how to improve rhythm and time keeping; I would search for them. At least one of them will suggest metronome practice, for which there are many good strategies. One is to start out with a metronome clicking every beat. Then change it to clicking every other beat: Are your notes still matching up with the clicks? Once you have that, change it to clicking just once a measure: Are you still in sync? Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 19:01
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It's a normal beginner trait. Anything not 'right where you expect it to be' can cause both limbs to work together instead of each at their own time.

You're trying to learn limb independence, which is a new skill right now.
I'm not sure if you do mean accent, or if this is an off-beat event which makes you want to tap the off-beat rather than waiting for the next on-beat.

Practise makes perfect and don't worry, it will come to you, but you could try tapping double time, which could mean your accent or off-beat also lands on a tap, making you less likely to 'invent' a new one at the same time.
If you're seated - harder to do whilst standing, but not impossible - rather than 'flap your foot' to keep the beat, try bouncing your heel instead, so your toes stay on the ground, but your heel lifts. This might be easier to generate a double-time feel & you can also accentuate weak & strong beats more easily this way. [These are actually the two different techniques drummers use for their kick pedal.]

In your spare time, practise the old 'pat your head & rub your tummy' trick (yeah, it will make you look silly, maybe do it when no-one's watching;) - then swap hands. Eventually you'll be able to swap hands any time you like, without breaking the action.

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The idea behind and benefit of tapping your foot when you play is to internalize a steady sense of time while you’re playing, as if you were playing with a metronome. The steady tapping of 1,2,3,4 (or 1,2,3 if it’s a waltz, etc.) helps you anchor yourself and internalize the time. The rhythms you play on the guitar will fall on or off the beat depending on whether the notes are syncopated or not. If the foot jerks are unintentional you must try to keep the foot tapping completely independent of the playing.

I can’t hear you doing this but if you are actually trying to accent beats with your foot while you play it is very possible you are also tapping your foot on notes that fall in between the beats, either accidentally or on purpose. For this reason, keep your foot tapping as steady and even as possible and always on the beat. Some of the notes you play will fall on the taps and some will fall between them. Accented notes can fall either on or in between the taps, get your foot to stay steady and ignore them. Get a free metronome app for your tablet or phone and practice tapping and playing to it at different tempos. Eventually your foot becomes independent of your hands providing a steady pulse that your guitar (and vocal maybe?) can play to.

One possible exception might be if you are playing songs with a backbeat you may want to try accenting the 2&4 a bit but only after the steady tapping becomes second nature. Some people including myself will sometimes tap only on 2&4 depending on the feel and tempo of the song.

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    Something just occurred to me at mention of 'choosing your tap frequency' in both answers - I never tap at all unless I'm drumming - which is all taps;) I can, but I just don't. I internalise it all. Just my way of doing it, I guess. I once was sessioning on a track I of course didn't know beforehand. The engineer said 'you come in when I nod my head' then proceeded to nod the entire way through the track. We got there eventually;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:43
  • @Tetsujin Yeah but you’re actually producing sound so you’re not tapping, it is all playing! That means you never tap, even on the drums . :) Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:46
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    Yup, it's all internal. Always have done it that way. I'm pretty decent at getting my timing right, but it's only at the me/instrument interface, nowhere else. I've done it so others can follow something intricate, but I don't need it just for me.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:47
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    @Tetsujin If I think about it I rarely if ever tap my foot but depending on the style I might subtly subconsciously rock my shoulders or upper body to the beat but more because I’m feeling the pulse, almost like micro dancing while I’m playing. +1 for your good advice BTW. Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:51
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    Agree - there can definitely be 'movement' which is just kind of 'hitting the groove' rather than being a metronome. The track I mentioned above was a reggae track. You have to be dead not to move to reggae;))
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:55

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