Question on swing, rhythm an tapping the foot

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    Ervin C Osvart

    Hi Richie,

    I’ve been working on and struggling with swing and tapping my foot, using the metronome and also trying to play in double time. My understanding has been that the hi-hat plays on the 2 and 4 so this is where I set my metronome and try to synchronize my foot with the clicks on 2 and 4, then of course when you double that, the click becomes the 3 as should the foot. I find extremely challenging to lock into for any length of time, but on the occasions where I am able to really lock in, it is an amazing, almost liberating experience.

    My question is, the Module #1 Rhythm Lab exercises suggest to tap the foot on the 1,2,3 and 4. Is it ok to continue with the foot tapping on 2 and 4?


    The reason I advice to start out tapping the foot on every downbeat is simply so you can learn to subdivide in 8th notes. It is a visual aid to be practiced at a slow tempo (as is the visualization of the alternate picking strokes for 8th notes). This allows you to visualize where each downbeat falls as you tap your foot, and where each 8th note upbeat lies as you raise your foot. Once this is mastered it is easier to move on to just tap on 2 and 4. So…it is a means to an end!

    The problem I have encountered as a teacher is that most students who first attempt to play swing 8th notes and try to tap on just 2 and 4, have a hard time synchronizing with their playing and quickly loose track of 8th note downbeats and upbeats within each beat. This in turn creates further difficulty when trying to learn how to play syncopated rhythms. For example, a quarter note which starts on the “and” or upbeat of 2 followed by another 8th note on the “and” of 3.

    Again, tapping on 2 and 4 is the ultimate goal especially when playing at a medium to high tempo! Keep in mind though that when doing so you are no longer subdividing in 8th notes, at least with your foot. That is, your foot is now accenting the 2 and 4 which are the quarter note upbeats. This means that when doing this you should already be able to simultaneously subdivide in 8th notes mentally. In conclusion, at this stage your mind is directing your foot to play quarter note upbeats while at the same time subdividing in 8th notes to be able to play the swing and syncopated rhythm figures. Trying to do this from the very start is definitely a challenging cognitive effort.

    Hope this is helpful. The bottom line is that only you can determine whether or not it will be advantageous to go back to tapping on every beat or sticking it out with 2 and 4.

    Ervin C Osvart

    Hey Richie,

    Thanks for that and it is very helpful.

    What you’re saying makes perfect sense and could very well be the reason why I struggle with it, putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. There’s a video of Al DiMeola where he talks about how the foot cannot sway from the beat whatsoever, and he actually calls it a “deep study” , which I believe to be true.

    I’ll follow your advice and adjust my practice regimen accordingly.

    Thanks again,


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