Tapping Your Foot

There's a reason why we tap our foot (or nod our head!) when we listen to music. Learn how this can help you play better guitar!

View the full lesson at Tapping Your Foot | JustinGuitar

I realized I already pretty much do this naturally, though with the wrong foot and I like stomp instead

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I find that if the strumming pattern changes, though the timing of the song stays the same, my foot (or heel) adds an extra tap in between to match the extra strums in between the main beat strums, if you get what I mean! Should I try and correct this?

Hi Steven and welcome to the community.

I would say that yes, you would want to correct this. You should only be tapping (or stomping) your foot on the beat.

It’s totally natural for your feet to want to follow the strumming pattern of your hand, but that will cause problems, especially as the tempo increases or the time signature changes.

I would recommend that you try playing with a metronome and tapping your foot at the same time. Start with just a single down strum on each beat, tapping your foot with each click of the metronome.

Once that feels natural, then try the “old faithful” strum pattern of D DU UD while tapping to the metronome. It will feel really difficult at first because your foot will want to follow your hand, but after a while, you will start to notice that your foot is going up on the up strums and down on the down strums. You will also get a sense for how it sounds and feels when you’re not doing a down strum on the 3 beat.

For me, this was a big step in starting to feel how different strumming patterns sort of fit “around” the beat and has helped my rhythm out immensely.

I hope it helps you too.


Hi Steven, great to hear from you. I similarly found tapping my foot to the beat to be a challenge especially in the early years. I agree with what @Rider2040 rob says and don’t be too worried if it takes a while. I’ve got some songs that I just couldn’t keep up the tap all the way through and now even when I don’t deliberately mean to start tapping my foot it just does it on it’s own.

Don’t trust the foot tap. The metronome speaks the truth. Feet can be fooled. And if playing along to the metronome proves too much of a challenge, don’t worry about it and try it again in a few months or longer, you’ll get there.


Ain’t that the truth. There have been times when I have been using the metronome on my phone that I have almost convinced myself that a glitch in the app was causing the metronome to be off and that my timing was right. I think my foot was lying to me.

Also, you bring up a really good point that playing to a metronome is really hard at first. I sort of abandoned it for several months in my first year of learning and then finally went back to it when I realized how bad my timing was. I wish that I had stuck with just a couple minutes of metronome work each day while I focused on learning other things and I am sure that it would have clicked a lot earlier.

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Thanks for all the advice guys, I will try the metronome - I’ve been playing for three years or so now and have probably got myself into some bad habits!

I usually use my right foot to tap and use the top of my foot (toes) rather than the bottom (heel), also use that foot to use my pedal board while I’m playing bass at church haha so I definitely can understand the logic in using the opposite foot since it’ll jerk the guitar as I am trying to tap my foot if I am sitting down. Definitely will start developing the muscle memory of tapping my opposite foot. Thanks for the lesson!

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So I understand in theory the idea of tapping to the beat of music when listening to music, but im not sure how to figure out WHERE the actual beat in the music im listening to is. I favor Metal, Electronica, Alt rock ect. that all have odd time signatures OR so much noise/multiple things i could tap my foot to that i dont know where to tap in a majority of the things i hear. I assume trying to pick out the drums is my best bet, but i find myself tapping my foot at various speeds. maybe im just overthinking things?

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@Malkali In my experience
I found that tapping my foot on the beat was not an easy or natural thing. I learnt to do it. Start with songs where the drums clues are clear and when they won’t be challenging anymore try different things. I don’t know much about the genres you’ve mentioned and can’t help with those. Follow Justin’s Lesson’s advices and be as much consistent as you can - everyday everytime there’s some music on. And most importantly have fun! It’s only good practice, don’t aim to do perfect!


Same here.

In fact, trying to tap my foot as well as play the guitar actually made my rhythm worse…it was one more limb to co-ordinate for my poor un-co-ordinated brain.

These days , foot tapping just kind of emerges naturally as I get comfortable playing a song.

I would say that the most important thing is to be able to reliably move some part of your body to the beat. For me, that usually means tapping a finger, or nodding my head.

Tapping a finger on a hard surface with an audible sound is better…I get aural feedback whether I’m on the beat or not. (Though I guess literal head banging would work :slight_smile: )

My suggestion would be to practice along with some slow, simple 4/4 songs, and try to tap (or bang, or whatever) for all 4 downbeats. Even better would be a simple kick-snare-kick-snare basic rock drumbeat

IME, it’s best to do this away from the guitar, as a separate exercise. But strumming muted strings can work too.

If you aren’t sure you are succeeding, record yourself, yourself and listen back, and try again. If that fails, maybe post it here and ask for more help.

Once you can do that, I would focus next on accenting the 1 beat, and after that - accenting the backbeat - beats 2 and 4.

At that point you should be well on your way to better rhythm.


Relatable :see_no_evil::sob::woman_shrugging: But that feeling…when for the first time you realize it’s happening on its own and you’re doing it without thinking of it! I’ll never forget that, it felt amazing…I was soo proud :blush::grin::sweat_smile:


Don’t try to start by tapping your feet to Soundgarden or Tool, just way too hard with all the time signature changes and stuff like 6/4 or 7/4.

Yes drums are the easiest way to find it. Try 4/4 songs with easy beats Enter Sandman or Whiskey in the Jar by Metallica, or Back in Black by AC/DC. The drums will do fills, guitar will play on and off the beat, but it’s the time signature. All the instruments are playing in time. Generally bass drum is beat 1 & 3 and snare 2 & 4.

These songs are too hard to play for grade 1, but hopefully give you a bit of a feel of the beat in music you like.


Ha - yeah.

I transcribed the bass riff of The Day I Tried to Live last week, based on Ryan Lendt’s video done in standard tuning.

As far as I can tell, the time signature is 15/4.

However, it’s quite satisfying to be able to kinda sorta play it now, and understand why it sounds slightly off kilter. That’s what I love about Soundgarden, they have a unique rhythmic sound…even when it’s in 4/4.


Thanks for the advice. I listen to music almost ALL the time because i work from home so rather than trying to tap whenever i hear music i think my best bet is to set time aside or create a playlist of stuff than i CAN find the beat to and tap along until im more comfortable. The advice to get used to it away from the guitar is relieving, as i was all kinds of uncoordinated trying to tap while playing and thought i was doing something wrong. Im sure it will come eventually, just gotta keep at it.


Actually, that’s a good way to practice what I call “rhythmic mindfulness”.

While working, you may find yourself unconsciously engaging with the music - tapping something, nodding your head in time, swaying, or just feeling some internal pulse that is connected to the music.

Try to notice that consciously, and take a minute to engage more directly…focus on tapping along in time, or whatever.

I did this on the advice from a keyboard teacher, every day for about a month, and it really seemed to help my rhythm…I started to "feel’ it in a way I never had before.

The other good tip he gave me was to get a shaker egg, and practice playing rhythms along with music, because tapping can get pretty boring!

Another thing I did was to try to tap in time using all four limbs - first individually, and then in various combinations.

Before I did all these exercises, I never felt I had good rhythm, never liked listening to my own playing, and think this was one of the main reasons I tried and gave up on learning keyboards, guitar, and drums over a period of many, many years.

Still think I’ve got a long way to go, but that was a turning point.


Hello @Malkali and welcome to the Community.

To begin to learn how and when to tap your foot to the beat, I would suggest you do it as you play simple four strums per bar chord progressions. If you’re trying to find the beat in dense and loud recorded music it can be more difficult - especially if you listen to bands who consciously use multiple time signatures, not just 4/4.
You are right that listening to the drummer is a key ingredient.
I have created three audio tracks for you to listen to with a steady 4/4 beat, first the drums + hand claps, then a four chord progression comes in, then just the drums and hand claps again. Listen and move your body in time to the clear 1 2 3 4 of the rhythm.

I hope that helps.
Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

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Hello. Unsure whether this is the best place for this question but will give it a try…
I’m getting better at recognizing the 4 beats per bar patterns and even strumming on the down beats. Where I’m having trouble is counting the beats and bars and at the same time singing the song lyrics while playing the right bits at the right time. Any tips for this or is it just practice and familiarity?

For example - I’m learning the song “3 little birds”. I can pretty much play the basic chord changes through at the right time with some dodgy changes but it gets there. I can kind of sing the lyrics through and understand where the chord changes are occurring with the lyrics - but I’m pretty sure my timing is off. Like it’s no longer a 4 beats per bar rhythm once I go with both guitar and lyrics. Hope this post makes sense :thinking: :grin:. Thanks all.


Hi Andrew - now that you have got chord progression under your fingers, I would suggest work at playing along with a backing track of the song tapping your foot to the beat or along with a metronome. Start at a lower BPM than the actual BPM and gradually increase the tempo until you can play in time with the actual BPM for the song. With practice your playing of the song will become automatic and singing along won’t throw your playing off.


I am an absolute beginner and tapping my foot helped me so much with strumming in the right time! Thank you very much for such a perfect tip. And thank you for the whole website as well as for the app.