I had a professor once tell me, in terms of playing the piano, that he would rather see me use my brain for a metronome, rather than my foot. I understand this, and when I'm just playing or recording I typically will use my brain to keep time, but I'm not sure I understand the harm in tapping my foot. Does anybody have any opinions on this?

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    I used to know a guy whose foot tapped completely & utterly out of time to what he was playing. I took it as a warning sign & we never worked together again. I like musos who can feel where they are. – Tetsujin Jan 31 at 20:27
  • I would tend to agree with that, my friend! I like to go by feel generally, but when it comes to sheet music, I do feel the need to tap to decipher some of the more complicated rhythms. – Bworlz Jan 31 at 20:30
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    How did the professor prove that you are syncing to your foot instead of the foot syncing to you? What if your foot was just dancing? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jan 31 at 20:37
  • Frankly, I'm not his biggest fan. That being said, he's an amazing jazz pianist, and I think his point was about too much multitasking at once, playing an instrument is inherently multitasking (for the most part). So, he was saying that tapping my foot could end up messing with my rhythm and with the rhythm of the notated score. – Bworlz Jan 31 at 20:40
  • I guess in general it would be okay to tap sometimes, but one wouldn't want it to become such a habit that you have a hard time playing without tapping. Also, I've seen some people involve the whole body with the tapping, and then their energy was diluted. But I think this is actually too individual a thing for the question to be answerable, and I am therefore voting to close. – aparente001 Feb 1 at 7:49

One obvious potential problem is tapping the beat with your foot interfering with various pedaling needs.

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  • Left foot works well most of the time! – Tim Feb 1 at 4:53
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    Tell that to an organist... – Andrew Leach Feb 1 at 9:01
  • OK, but the question is about piano not organ. – Michael Curtis Feb 3 at 16:15

I've watched people who tap their foot while playing; I've stood next to people in choirs who do it. I don't remember one person who did not experience problems keeping time that way.

It's an extra movement to co-ordinate, and co-ordination can suffer. When these people reached a more complicated section, their foot-tapping slowed down to accommodate it. And they didn't recognise that that had happened. "But I was tapping my foot to keep time!"

With a "mental tap", or merely feeling the beat, there's no additional movement to do and it's far easier to match the movement you have to make, or to realise that you haven't managed it.

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  • When they slowed down, were they at least rhythmically accurate? – Dekkadeci Feb 1 at 12:29
  • @Dekkadeci No. It was individual beats which were slowed down. – Andrew Leach Feb 1 at 12:30
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    By "rhythmically accurate", I mean "still played the proper note lengths in the correct proportions". Despite them slowing down, did they still achieve that? Or did they possibly start playing strange tuplets instead of straight 16th notes, or triplets instead of 16th note-8th note-16th note like they were supposed to, for example? – Dekkadeci Feb 1 at 12:34
  • Well, within each beat, I suppose; but then "beat" is a little subjective. Quavers in 2/2 could end up different if it's beaten out as 4/4. But I'm not sure what the relevance of these comments is: the timing of the piece was not accurate. – Andrew Leach Feb 1 at 13:03
  • I'm mainly wondering whether they slowed down so they could get the note value timing right or they still messed up the note values and so their slowing down was more pointless. – Dekkadeci Feb 1 at 14:00

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