Fast Strumming and foot tapping

I’ve been working on a couple songs lately which have fairly high tempos, but I’m really struggling on how best to keep time.
Songs in question are Little Talks, and Basket Case. Tempos in question are ~205bpm and 168bpm.

205bpm I can strum fairly easily, but I’ve been struggling to keep in time, as I’m generally getting ahead of the beat.
168bpm with pumping 8s is definitely pushing my strumming ability, but again timing is an issue. I know I’m struggling with the speed, but I also struggling with where the beat is.

The underlying issue is I have no idea how to lock into the metronome or drums. I’ve pretty much trained myself to tap my foot to the beat, with my strumming following my foot, but at these tempos, the foot tapping is just not happening.

With Little Talks, it’s not so critical, as there are large sections with single strums, so there are gaps to get back on time, but Basket Case is continual and I’m continually chasing the beat.

So what tips do people have?

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First thing I can think off sounds very lame but: slow down.


That’s why.

First you need to develop a sense of rhythm and start to actually FEEL that rhythm.
My guess is that you need to slow it down and start to get in touch with the drum.

“drum only” backing tracks like these can really help you LISTEN.
It will feel like you and a drummer in a rehearsal room


I think it could be I’ve taken the foot tapping a bit too far, so now once I loose the foot tapping aid, I’m kinda lost as to what to lock into.

I suspect this is going to take quite a bit of practise :confused:

Do you mean you can strum the same chord at 205 bpm or play changes as well?

I’d say go back to somewhere 80 bpm and work your way up from there, otherwise you’ll just keep messing up and get frustrated.

I’ve got no issues with the strumming or changes, although pumping 8s at 168 is certainly pushing my limits.
It’s just the whole how to lock the strumming into (on to?) the beat.

Slow down first imo on specific songs to help get the rhythm, not just the tempo but the feel as Lieven refers to above.
Basket Case is an awkward song to play with where chords changes sit and with the strumming pattern so having that basic feel for the song ust come first which is best done slowing it down.

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Try tapping your foot on beats 1 and 3 and see how you go. You can still lock into the beat that way.

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@LievenDV is on the money, get used to locking in with a drummer.

Stuff like basket case I don’t foot tap, it’s the chugs that are locking into the beat.

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Have you tried Justin’s “disappearing metronome” exercise?

Can manage that perfectly, provided it’s slow enough I can still tap my foot!

Things generally fall apart somewhere around 150bpm

So I played it last night… I’m wrong, I do foot tap on basketcase, just didn’t realise it

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Quick update, after spending some time concentrating on the Basket Case intro/first verse chord sequence.

I spent some time with a basic online drum machine set at 150bpm, and doing my best to concentrate on the beat, and not my foot.
Head banging on 1 & 3 seems to work well, although I’m trying to work that into my foot instead, as the headphones have a habit of falling off :smirk:

I can mostly keep that consistent for a reasonable amount of time, but do find myself seemingly just losing the beat, not being sure if I’ve got ahead or fallen behind it, and then the strumming falls apart.

I was going to do a quick recording, but I’m using an online drum machine, with no easy way to do an audio loopback from the audio interface (I’ve been keeping it simple for practise lately, and only using a drive pedal direct into the interface), and I’ve still not figured out how to add a simple drum track in Live.

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Finally watched a tutorial on how to add drums to Live, so here’s a couple recordings from tonight’s practise.
First is at 150bpm, which I’m now finding reasonably comfortable-

And then I had a go at the Justin TAB tempo of 168bpm-

It’s definitely pushing my limits, and I’m well aware it’s very ragged, but it’s better than what I was managing when I started this thread.

First one sounds quite solid to me.

My suggestion would be to bump it up 1 or 2 bpm each time you practice, over a period of days.

Another trick that has worked for me is to bump up by 2 bpm, and then bump down by 1 bpm…rinse and repeat. Do that for 3 to 5 minutes each time you practice.

It’s always better to play more slowly in time than faster and out of time…make sure you end you session at a bpm that you can comfortably maintain. Even if you have to back off a bit from your max during that session.

Often, the next time you practice, you’ll be able to start at a higher bpm, because your brain will have internalized the practice while you were doing something else.

Also, you didn’t say if you are tapping your foot or not, or if it helped or hindered.

For me, foot tapping often makes things worse at higher bpms. It tends to emerge naturally only after I can strum comfortably at that tempo.

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In terms of tempo, that’s roughly what I do.
Start where I feel comfortable (150bpm felt good), then I’ll generally go up in 5bpm increments.
Then if I’m feeling it, I’ll have a try at full speed (or even beyond full speed), just to see how it feels, before dropping back to somewhere I’m comfortable so I finish with a good run through.

I think I’m tapping my foot on beat 1 & 3, but I’ve been avoiding thinking about what my foot is doing.
Nodding my head on 1 & 3 to the kick/bass drum is what I’ve been more concentrating on, and I feel it’s helping me lock in to the drums better.

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