Now, today’s topic is something that is one of my most favorite things to try out on students and something that held me back rhythmically for years, without me even noticing it, which is being able to tap my foot on beat two and four , a.k.a. the backbeat.
Now let me tell you, that I have met a lot of good players over the years who never ever even thought about practicing this and they just did it naturally, but on the other side I also experienced a ton of people (including me) who were not able to tap their foot on two and four at all times and it is kind of like a boat anchor to your rhythmical feeling. I always wanted to improve my rhythms from an early age on, but didn’t quite know what to practice and nothing really seemed to work until I found out about myself, that I wasn’t able to tap my foot on beat two and 4 while I was actually playing a rock riff, a lick or a jazz standard. Ironically, once I handled this , everything else like Chords , scale practicing, etc, fell into place and was working all of a sudden. A lot of things that I practiced which didn’t work, all of a sudden did work.
I just startet to hear and feel everything in a much “bigger frame,” which gave me also a lot more confidence, calmness, freedom and space for playing. Once it clicked with me, it was like riding a bicycle. I mean think about it, a drummer will learn to tap his foot on beat 2 and 4 (independently to what his other leg and arms are doing rhythmically at the same time by the way…) probably from his very first drum lesson! ….and we as guitarists are so caught up in tapping, bending and crushing things, that we don’t pay much attention to rhythms at first.
It’s simple , but wasn’t easy at first. So try it out. Pick one of your most favorite riffs, can be anything like Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze,Metallica, ACDC, WHATEVER comes to your mind and set your metronome to a fairly slow tempo like 40-50 BPM.
Now you are going to tap your foot simultaneously to the click of the metronome, try to be as accurate as possible. Feel the rhythm.
And now play your favorite riff.
How did it go? Where you able to keep your foot tapping independently to what your hands were doing? Did it throw you off?
If the answer is yes and you had trouble with this exercise, I would recommend an even easier exercise. Take a Miles Davis record and check if you are able to snap your thumb and middle finger on 2 and 4 or take your most favorite Rock/Pop record and see if you can clap your hands together on beat 2 and 4.