Here’s a little tip that many of us already know but can really be helpful especially when sight reading.

I think we can all agree that it is essential to create and maintain a pulse to use as an internal metronome while playing.  We were taught to tap our foot to the beat and play along with the pulse created by our foot tapping.* (I have a problem with this but will get into that in a minute.)  My suggestion is to use BOTH feet when keeping time.  Here’s why.

Most of us have at one time or another marched while playing trumpet.  For some reason it seems to be universal that you always step off with your left foot.  You know, ”Left…Right…Left, Right, Left.”  So, keep that ingrained rule and use your left foot for 1 and 3 and your right for 2 and 4.

In the early stages of getting to know a piece or sight reading, it is VERY helpful to be able to look at a measure and divide it in half.  (when in duple meter)  In using this mark-time method your left foot is always defining the downbeat or mid-measure. (1 or 3)  This can be especially helpful when counting through ties or long, sustained notes.

Cut-time can also be tricky to count.  Now with this method your left foot is always on the bar-line and your right foot is showing you the half-measure.

I have found that my pulse is more consistent and steady when I am alternating my feet rather than relying on just one foot.  Plus, it is easier to keep up with fast tempi.

* There are a couple things to keep in mind while creating your own musical pulse; I.e. tapping your foot.

  1. Do not make any noise with your feet.
  2. Do not tap your foot in a way that is distracting visually.

Your movement or noise can influence others’ attempts at keeping their own pulse.  What works for me is either wiggling my toes inside my shoes or rocking back and forth from my instep to the outside of my foot.  Both of these options are silent and not terribly visible and yet they give me the physical movement I want in order to feel the pulse internally.