Foot Tapping

Foot Tapping

alright, so I got my flame retardant coveralls on and I’ve braced myself, so now I’m ready to ask a question about foot tapping….

we have had quite a bit of discussion about foot tapping in regard to using foot taping to indicate whether something is in cut time or common time, but my question is much simpler than that

I don’t tap feet, do you?

I actually had a teacher break me of that habit. He told me that I was wasting mental energy that I needed to put into my instrument and not into my shoe leather. Made sense to me so I stopped doing it and played many years without tapping any feet at all

So how much importance do you place on foot tapping in your playing?

Do you ever actually practice foot tapping?

do your feet just tap without you thinking about it? (this was me before I was brainwashed, I mean "studied music at a university")

and finally, if you were helping someone play this music and they didn’t tap their feet, would you recommend it? would you go so far as to demand a student of yours tap their feet? or would you do like a teacher I had did and try and break them of the habit if they did tap their feet?

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I always tap my foot while reading these discussions !

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cheers, Dan! 🙂 that was a good laugh, thanks!

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I play with people who tap their feet to a rhythm that is not being played.
I play with people who use their entire leg to "tap".
I don’t tap .

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As a drummer i spent a lot of time learning to tap my feet as they are connected to bass drum and hi hat or double bass drum. Up till i learnt to play the kit id never really tapped or thought about it. It was this understanding plus as a guitarist on spanish guitar the whole percussive aspect of podo rhythms and guitar percussion combined , but this was after 30odd yrs as an obsessed musician that i reached this understanding and incorperated it into my playing as a conscious extension of the guitar.
Regarding your questions, i wouldnt encourage or discourage it as a general rule , however iMO its important for musicians to be able stand out from the crowd if they choose (and to blend in and become invisible too. )So if they had a particular dynamic approach to playing then focusing on the accompaniment ( foot tapping) might be worth while.
Music is not about technique , its about spirit, Ki, power, aspects of our humanity. Yes some technique is handy but without human energetic dynamism its just an empty shell, like computer music . Ultimately rather pointless IMO but hey some folks like it.
I view all drumming and percussion, in a sense , as dancing to the music. Just as the dancer might put down a wooden board for the footwork to be amplified.
This is foot tapping at a master level.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=svZvAfGQ3J4

And these lads can kick it alright, sorry about the music…..https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gSIMbqVP4ns

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I was reading this conversation, saw the second post and realized I was also tapping my foot. Personally I do both, I don’t tell myself to tap my foot, or force myself to do it. My legs have minds of their own.

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How does one STOP ones feet tapping?

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Of course I’m a foot tapper and most of the time I even tap in the same rhythm I’m playing. It’s been my experience that with many the foot often follows the fingers. Just watch the feet around you and you’ll see what I mean. Those times when I can’t seem to stay with the beat with my foot, and by that I mean that I can’t seem to get the melody and foot together, are a big red flag for me. It means I have to stop and figure out why I’m not getting the melody right. My foot almost always is. Full disclosure: I’m lifelong bassist, 50 + years, and have always assumed responsibility for dynamic and rhythmic control in the half dozen bands (various genre) I’ve been a part of. I trust my foot, and yes, I still often practice with a metronome even when I’m in the woodshed.

If a player has the rhythm to tap in time, do it, toe, heel, whole foot, heck whole leg if you’re moved to do so. Not only can it help keep in time but it can add to dynamic feel and observable enthusiasm. My observation is that while this is not true for all non-tappers, when I hear someone put down tappers I’m doubly cautious about their ability to stay in time and play with dynamic variation. The more vehement the put-down the more suspicious I get. Like I said, that’s not always the case, just more times than not, often enough to make me believe it. Oh, just to be fair, there are a lot (really, a lot) of tappers who can’t tap in time. I guess it works both ways. If you can’t…don’t. Try and sit next to the one with the best rhythm. Best to be honest about where one fits on the curve.

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I am in favor of foot tapping because I believe it helps you keep your beat.

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I have tapped my foot, and tended to ignore what is written on the sheet music, all my life. Musical professionals have attempted to break me of those habits over the years. One of the joys of traditional music is that I no longer get nagged about such things…

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I wouldn’t recommend that one taps one’s foot for orchestral or "classical" ( I’m never sure what that is) music. That’s a place where there’s too much fooling around with rhythm to make it work and besides, conductors have to have shake their stick for some reason. It’s a genre where too much rhythm seems to get in the way. Maybe that’s why the classical instructors try to break student of that useful habit. Meh…just sayin’.

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I tap my foot without thinking about it on most tunes. I’m aware that it can be obnoxious if done too heavily in a session, so I try not to be a stomper when I do it.

The foot just wants to, and I see no reason why it can’t have a little fun that way. When playing seated, it’s the only way we get to dance a little bit while playing. Just watch Liz Carroll play when she’s seated… both feet dancing.

The only time I do intentionally avoid it, is on a few tunes with odd syncopation or broken runs where I know foot tapping in regular meter will throw off my melody playing. Tunes like the Tolka Polka’s B and C parts, for example. I stop myself from tapping on those tunes, or I’ll stop just for the tricky bits and then pick it up again. That’s probably an indication of something I should work on. I should be able to tap through those tricky bits without it throwing off the timing of the melody line.

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Yes I’m a tapper, I do it to the clock ticking, windscreen wipers, train rolling over tracks, even wake up sometimes with a foot tapping away. I’m thinking about giving up the fiddle and concentrate my skills on becoming a pro tapper, I have certainly put in the 10,000 hours.

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Ive been a bass player for 40 yrs , not as long as Ross, but long enough to trust my foot as he put it. I keep time for/with the drummer and he keeps time for the band . I dont tap my foot, i dance and the crowd dances with me. Thats what does it for me, thats what its about. The dancers and their enjoyment of the music. Yes I love to play anyhow but im there to provide a service and I deliver.I also play better when the crowd is with me, when the floor is rocking im alive in a way that gets me going and I pull out all the stops.

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Ya know, I was playing on stage at an event. My leg was shaking hardcore from nerves. Lady off stage who saw it thought I was keeping time :P
I never tap my feet to keep time. I keep time in the music.

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I don’t tap at all. Too busy concentrating on what I’m trying to do with my hands! However, I do tap along to anyone else playing 🙂

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There’s some interesting stuff here. It does seem like there is a conspiracy among music teachers to break us all of this foot tapping stuff. Al, you’re a role model. They never broke you. I shattered like cheap dinnerware in the face of their nagging, and never tapped a foot past the age of 20.

And while I don’t do it normally, like Will said, there are times that I do consciously stomp my whole leg for show. Like playing yee-haw tunes on banjo out on the front porch in the summer for the kids…give them the "full effect" sort of thing

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I played for years with an old Irishman who had moved to Boston in the 1950s.

He would lead sessions and keep everyone in rhythmic order by bashing out the beat on the floor with his feet.

The sound and fury of his foot would increase depending on how poorly we were playing in rhythmic unison with him.

Years later and I can’t seem to stop doing what he did.

Now all who know me know that when my foot gets loud, something bad is rhythmically happening.

This useless story brought to you by senile reflections from ancient fiddlers…

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I love this! Talk about foot tapping? Ok!

I only tap my feet when playing upbeat dance music. I’ll foot tap playing any instrument, but I won’t foot tap unless I’m playing dance music on that instrument. I also always consciously tap my feet.

Now, about wasting energy. I don’t know if you’re an Anime fan, or have watched Dragon Ball Z, but this question reminds me of a scene from Dragonball Z.

Goku, a main character, could reach a higher form by increasing his energy level. The catch? This higher form used a lot of energy and would run out, so he couldn’t fight at this form for long periods of time. Further into the series, Goku figures that if he practices being in this form, just being, eventually he will become accustomed to being in this form and wil be able to fight at this level at will.

So, Goku in this higher form would go walking, go fishing with his son, eat with his wife and family, even sleep and nap. Eventually, he mastered this form. But not even just that, he was able to each an even higher form. Because what was once a challenge became 2nd nature and made room for new heights.

I said all that to say, I wouldn’t say foot tapping is a make or break style or technique. But it’s important to me personally because it helps ME keep rhythm while my body is pulling and pushing and jerking in all different directions. Yes I do practice foot tapping, as I feel it makes a tune more challenging to play. If I can tap my foot through the tune without hiccups, I’ve reached a higher level, and more freedom, with the tune.

I would only recommend my students tap their feet if I noticed they had an inconsistent rhythm, or had problems maintaining tempo. This is assuming they don’t have problems with the notes or variations. That they have already mastered the tune in one sense.

Naturally, if you’re feelin’ the music, you’re probably gonna tap your feet. Cause if you’re feelin’ yourself, you’ve probably reached that higher level. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone that didn’t tap their feet though. To each his own. The music is for them to enjoy. With that being said, if your student likes to tap their feet, teach them how to take advantage of it. If they don’t wanna tap their feet, give them the tools to break the habit in a way that doesn’t negatively effect their music.

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now on the energy, I’d say that I agree with you there. I want to be as sweaty and the dancers, and if I’m on bass, I want to make sure the dancers are pretty sweaty to start with.

Now I got broke of this habit of foot tapping in college, as I said at the start, so I don’t tap my foot and if I’m really playing something really demanding, I’m not moving much other than my hands anyway. And this is what my teacher who broke me of this habit was trying to teach me…that if I had the extra mental energy to be tapping my feet, swaying my upper body, dancing around standing there playing, …then I still had more mental energy that could be going through my axe.
That’s where he was coming from, and that was the line I bought into, whether there is anything to it or not, I believed it and it helped me and it made Rich happy and so my semester went smoother

Jerone, if you’re interested, it was Rich Matteson who saw all this wasted energy and wanted to get me to channel it through my axe instead of my hips. I don’t drop names, but Rich died 20 years ago, so he’s past caring.

Now another aspect of this foot tapping stuff is that in the threads about 4/4 vs 2/2 foot tapping is entered as evidence that it is one or the other. Now one thing I’ve seen all my life is that when players tap their feet to a tune, its sort of an unconscious thing. But then I’ve been around jazz musicians most of my life and I was curious if folk musicians would have a much different outlook on the subject and it doesn’t really seem like that is the case. Its the same "do what you feel" sort of thing that I’ve found among musicians of all styles in my life

and its an interesting thing about musicans…you can get some very deep thoughts on what to the untrained eye appear to be insignificant topics

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I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t tap when playing, and I wouldn’t recommend starting it if you are learning to play an instrument.

Why? It’s counter-productive and it distracts from the task in hand, and simply adds yet another motor function that the brain has to deal with.

For those who do tap the foot/feet, it’s additional noise that I can do without, thanks. There’s enough to fill the entire frequency spectrum without adding dull thuds (or clatters on a stone floor). Worsens in inverse proportion when there are more than one going at it.

Yes, it’s fine if it’s part of the act (eg John Hartford), but not if the focus is supposed to be on the melody.

It’s often argued that people tap their feet to ‘help keep the beat’, but in reality it’s because their own internal clock is not properly developed.

"I don’t need a metronome to help me keep time. I just tap my foot. That’s my metronome." Another fallacy. Yes, and everyone but you knows you’re not keeping good time.

For some, I know it’s an instinctive thing to do, when playing diddly music, where by and large the beat is regular and unfaltering. What about playing something with an irregular or complex beat, or with strong syncopation? Still a need to tap the feet?

OK, now can someone tell me the advantages of foot-tapping, please?

And Nate, may I borrow you asbestos gear and plane ticket, Sir? 🙂

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I’ll send a pair of flame retardant coveralls your way, Jim, but trans-Atlantic freight being what it is, you might just want to duck for now. I just hope these get to you before its too late

" it distracts from the task in hand" this is exactly how Rich got the point across to me

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I agree that it distracts from playing, which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for a student still learning the notes or the phrases…

…With that being said, too many professional world-class musicians tap their feet, during performances, in all kinds of ways, for it to be completely insignifcant or even damaging to playing. Not even just that, if some people tap their foot naturally, isn’t it more distracting for them to focus on not tapping their feet?

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I suppose someone could argue that at first it does distract them more to have to pay attention to not doing it, but then in the end it will pay off when they have broken the habit. Just like breaking any bad habit in your playing

I’m not going to make that argument, though. But that’s what someone might say if they were

I tend to agree more with Will, though, that its the spirit going through the axe that is more important than the technique, so I’m fine with people doing whatever helps them play with more fire

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@Jim:
"OK, now can someone tell me the advantages of foot-tapping, please?"

I don’t claim it as some advantage that enhances my playing. My foot follows the music I’m playing; it doesn’t lead the rhythm. It’s fun and it feels good. As I said above, it’s a minor form of dancing along with playing a style of music that is, after all, dance music!

And besides… I don’t have a lot of control over that foot when the music is lively enough. It will start off on its own, even when I’m not playing and just listening to another musician. As long as I don’t think I’m distracting anyone else (and I do try to be sensitive about that), I imagine I’ll keep doing it.

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Jerone, never let it be said that I don’t admire your playing and value your insight, I do. Now, I could argue that students should be taught to foot tap right from the start! Yeah it sounds seditious but there is a reason. The most common way to learn a tune is to break it down into components, I don’t mean phrases, I mean the notes, the rhythm, tempo, phrasing, bowing, picking, breathing, ornamentation and so on and then "putting them all together" later. I feel that leads to thinking of the individual parts as somehow separate from each other. I would agree that it might take more time to learn tunes at first but by the time a tune is learned it’s complete and the skills learned on one, that first tune, carry over to the following tunes until learning a new tune automatically includes them. Foot tapping helps a lot to re-inforce timing and rhythm and as such could be included in the skill set. (By the way, I’m a fan of using the metronome from the first note, but that’s a discussion for a later time if it hasn’t already been beat to death). I’m not sure that the "bare bones" first method is all that productive. Oh, and foot tapping then, like anything else can be included, left behind, leaned on, to any degree during the actual playing of a tune. I’d hate to see such a fun and useful thing left out completely, or overdone.

Maybe someone would like to start a thread about the various paths one could take from beginning to learn a tune to total mastery of it. I’m sure that there are more than one and each has it’s champions.

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Ross, we all have our reasons and logic behind our methods. As Nate implied, it’s a wonder we even have opinions on something as… unintrusive as foot-tapping 😉

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I wouldn’t recommend trying to tap your feet to "Ripples in the Rock Pool"! 🙂

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Moving on from those you tube clips earlier this is foot tapping taken to the extreme 🙂
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B2SnKk-m6g

I can certainly see the point of the no foot tapping approach in that it focuses on the sound alone. My disagreement would come from studying martial arts and reading Yehudi Menuhin and other masters on playing Fiddle . He probably got it from Yoga.
Basically the concept is that based on the big toe and foot you move in a wave motion, like rocking back and forward gently , then minimizing this till it becomes invisible , but you are still gently, invisibly swaying.
The body has to be relaxed and fluid to attain the highest levels of any skill set . Music included. Any unnecessary residual tension is going to interfere, with speed and performance.
Weve all no doubt found our heads interfering with our playing, whatever it might be, job ,worry’s reciprocated love whatever.
An invaluable skill is to be able to meditate and remove all thoughts from your head , empty and calm. Concentrate on the job in hand., forget your worries and your strife.
I remember Martin Hayes Telling us years ago about feeling the audience ,catching their attention with the music, if he could feel himself losing their attention he would really focus on transmitting his feelings and love for the music, the excitement the exhilaration.
Reminds me of Michele Thomas and his teaching methods.
Anyhow, by loosening up physically we not only get the oxygen into the blood, toxins out through sweat , getting really into the music, tapping feet , dancing, whatever will all help in attaining a relaxed fluid state. Any residual tension is like driving with the breaks on .
Let loose, be wild. That energy will lift a room, everyone buzzing . Like reaching another gear, that is really truly what its like, another level . As a musician you can take a crowd with you , but first you have to get there yourselves.
Think of any big sport for example , or stand up, whatever ,the high level players ,when they get going, bring the house down, the crowds cheering. Its because not only are they a witness to an amazing experience , but the energy lifts them too. For a moment the whole crowd can feel uplifted ,released , free.
There is a certain buzz in the air when this kind of event happens. That fulfills everyone involved.

Foot taping is us using our energy, sometimes nervous energy , its as natural as dancing, keeping time yes that too, but when your in the groove its impossible to lose it anyhow, its a bit deeper than that. Yes its a method of communicating as employed by Iain and myself and many of us no doubt, telling the neophyte audience (and players)where the beat is. Its a part of the communication system weve been given, like facial expressions.
Its a good idea probably to be able to play like the guys say, with no extraneous foot tapping. Just as part of the art in communication is to be able to keep a straight face, self control. But its only a part of the picture. When you hide behind a false face any sensitive person, thats most of us, will subconsciously notice it. Some of us are trained to bring that unconscious awareness to the surface and learn to use it. But the more aware you are , the more in contact with who you are, the more you live your life true to your ideals, the more power you will have. Not in a negative sense but just in the sense of finding yourself. knowing and stretching your limits. Constantly expanding beyond your ‘comfort zone’ .

The more we get into what we are doing, the more focused and as Connor Mc Gregor said the other day, the more obsessed , the more understanding we have the deeper we go , its all just adds up.

Zen and the Art of tapping your feet. 🙂

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"feeling the audience ,catching their attention with the music, if he could feel himself losing their attention he would really focus on transmitting his feelings and love for the music, the excitement the exhilaration" - yea, I pay attention to this a lot. I never liked set lists, I like to feel the temperature of the room and pick something for the next tune that will hit the spot rather than whatever was arbitrarily next on a list we drew up beforehand.

"Its a good idea probably to be able to play like the guys say" this is a good observation, Will, because the general theme of your post was to animate oneself. You should be able to play it "strait" and then when you animate yourself in performance you are simply entertaining the nice folks. You are making a conscious choice in the context of a performance. If you could only play while stomping a leg or gyrating your torso or whatever, that would probably indicate a weakness and sooner or later that weakness would become a limitation

I’ll tell you boys, I sure got my money’s worth out of this thread about tapping our feet.

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As a child, when I was being trained up to be just another automaton in the 2nd violins, my teacher was absolutely adamant that you must not tap your foot. If you needed to keep time you could clench and unclench your toes within your shoe, but if the shoe moved at all you got a repremand.

These days, as a listener I’m a compulsive tapper - I’ve caught myself tapping to a capella singers if there is any trace of rhythm in the song. But when I’m playing I never tap - I can be dancing in my chair, but both feet will be flat on the floor. However, as part of the launch sequence I very often tap a couple of bars of lead-in, just to make sure I don’t set off at a pace I can’t sustain, or so slowly everyone is asleep by the B part.

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I want to able to tap my foot to the music when I play, but I can’t, I just start losing focus and make a hames of it. I can play in time without tapping, but it feels like I’m "missing out"… on what exactly, I’m not sure, but stomping your foot does look fun!

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I can’t play in time if I’m tapping my foot as well.

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Add me to the "can’t play while tapping" club. I can’t focus on both at the same time. But if I’m listening, just try and stop me from tapping…it’s a subconscious thing I just do without even realizing it.

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Yes, I tap. I got the habit drilled into me from Highland piping. My piping instructor trained me to "play to my foot". I learned to tap my foot with a metronome, and then to follow my foot while playing, so my foot became the metronome. It did not go over well with my classical guitar teacher, who had to retrain me to tap my toes inside my shoes instead. Now I only play Irish Trad, but the habit is so ingrained… I can choose to hide it, but some part of me, somewhere, will be keeping the pulse, even if it’s just twitching my toes.

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"My piping instructor trained me to "play to my foot"." - so there ARE teachers who teach students to tap their feet! That you even went as far to practice with a metronome and everything is significant. People wouldn’t be passing that along to their students unless they felt it was an important part of playing properly

And go figure it was the classical teacher that hated it and tried to break you of it. But it is interesting that instruction in the piping tradition not only allowed it, but taught you to "play to your foot" as part of the fundamentals

that is interesting

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Thanks for those Dragonball examples, Jerone. They made me smile, as I am fan of the old Dragonball cartoons. Never thought I would see someone mention Goku in a discussion of Irish music!

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Hey Al! What I really appreciate about Japanese animes is that once you get past the *ahem* "lack of discretion", there is a lot to be learned. Dragonball and DragonballZ offered PLENTY. Amazing works of art, and far from overrated(as you may know they’ve been regaining popularity with a few new series, movies, and their latest video game).

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Not a musician, but a singer, and with some songs, I do tend to tap my foot, to keep myself in time (some unkind folk might suggest that I’m never in time but, however….). My pet hate though is people who clap along with a song or tune, as they are rarely in time ….ever!

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"OK, now can someone tell me the advantages of foot-tapping, please?"

Because you can’t lead a session, conduct and keep time for the rhythmically challenged while playing fiddle.

Thanks feet!

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…I mean, if your hands are busy with the fiddle your feet and the floor are the conductor’s baton.

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Well, it’s a double-edged sword. Foot-tapping is part of the culture in this music, and it’s here to stay. So be it.

@Ian - good point on the session leader tapping to keep time - that does makes sense, although if you can’t hear the leader’s fiddle then it could be argued that you’re playing too loudly / you’re not in close enough / not listening properly / the session is too big.

Not you personally, I mean "one" 🙂

Then there is the irritation of the persistent tapping foot, which may be quite loud and as annoying as a metronome to someone who doesn’t use one. Particularly if it’s your musical neighbour 🙂

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I wouldn’t say the Ashley MacIsaac example is typical of Canadian music per se, but foot tapping is very important here, and lends a rhythmic underpinning that emphasizes that this music is for dancing. So much so that in Quebecois music, the band for a dance will have a podorhythmie person whose job is not only to play their instrument, and possibly singing, but to act as the rhythm section as well, signaling changes to the band and driving the rhythm. Playing the music without the podorhythmie almost impoverishes it.

Quebec foot tapping is trained and practiced. Sabin Jacques, an accordionist of note says, "If you can have a conversation on the phone with your mother while tapping les pieds in rhythm, you are ready to join it to the music."

As such it is like any other ornament to the music. You learn it to the point it is automatic, and then it can add to the musical experience. And like any other ornament it can be inappropriately (over) utilized, inexpertly done, and distract from the music, but when done well, is indispensable.

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I foot tap when I play in a session!!!! It helps me!!!!