You’re Going to Learn to Tap Dance

You can ABSOLUTELY CAN learn to tap dance!

I’m the perfect teach to SHOW YOU HOW!

Rod Howell Tap Dancer

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Hi I’m Rod, and after 25 years of teaching tap I have plenty of guidance and advice about learning to tap dance.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me - - I respond to every email, usually in less than 12 hours!


YOU’RE NOT TOO OLD!  I taught some wonderful ladies in their 80’s and frankly they learned pretty quick, which isn’t surprising because adults learn faster than kids.

That’s right, adults learn faster, hands down, no contest. Now they may not have the endurance of the younger ones but they have the brain power, and tap dancing does require some brain power.

I often hear “I don’t think I’m coordinated enough.” If you can walk and know your left from your right then yes you are coordinated enough. I’m not saying you’re going to be as smooth as Fred Astaire or as elegant as Ginger Rogers, but if you can walk you can tap dance. It’s not rocket science - it’s actually much easier and much more fun!

I also hear “I don’t have a sense of rhythm.” Neither did I. No for real I didn’t. I took a rhythm test as a kid so I could play the drums and failed. Yep failed it! I couldn’t find count 1 of the music until I was 13. Rhythm can be taught (I’m living proof of that!) - If you can count, I can teach you rhythm.

And by the way you don’t have to have tap shoes to start. But yes it does help a lot and makes a big difference, so if you can swing it, buy a pair (more on that later).

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You start the beginning of course. The best way to get started is to have someone explain everything from the very beginning starting with the parts of the tap shoe. I have received so many emails from people who took an adult beginner tap class and came home completely discouraged because they were utterly lost and everyone else was so far ahead of them.

So if you can find a true adult beginner class that starts from the very beginning and explains everything in detail, jump on it! They’re rare. If not you have two choices:

1.  Take that adult beginner class that doesn’t feel like a beginner class at all and cross your fingers.


2.  Learn on your own through a video (of course I’d prefer you use mine, but there are other decent ones out there as well).  

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Can you really learn tap from a video?

Yes and no. I can teach you the parts of a tap shoe, all the tap steps, combinations that put all the steps together, and I can predict most of the technical issues you’ll face and even tell you how to solve them (hey after 25 years of teaching, I better be able to do this!).  

In fact you can even email me if you have a problem and 99% of the time I can tell you how to fix it! The one thing I can’t do is stand right beside you and tell you every time you do something wrong. If you really want to be great, you’re going to need that immediate feedback, but if you just want to have fun while learning some solid tap technique than yes a video will do just fine.  

Also there are 2 more things you should know about learning to tap:

1.  There are different approaches to tap technique. I teach a more controlled ankle technique. The other popular approach focuses on initiating movement from the hip with loose ankles. Each has it’s strengths and weaknesses. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details, just suffice to say if my approach doesn’t work for you, you may want to try the loose ankle/from the hip approach.

2.  There is often more than one name for each step/move. I may call something a scuffle step heel while others call it a paradiddle, or paddle and roll, or dig brush toe heel. That’s right, 4 different names for the same step/move. Sadly you will just have to get used to this. There is no definitive tap step names repository - that’s largely due to tap dance growing up on the streets in a less formal environment. That’s one reason I try to give you the alternate names in my lessons and in my dictionary.

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Do you need tap shoes?

If so what brand or style?

What type of floor should I tap on?

Is tile okay?

How about concrete?

 Let’s take those one at a time:

1.  Tap Shoes - It’s okay to do your first lesson in tennis shoes, or dress shoes, or even socks or bare feet. But if you continue on you really should get some tap shoes. I have a detailed PDF file about choosing tap shoes (it comes with my beginner, advanced-beginner, and intermediate bundles) that’s just too big to put right here so I’ll boil it down to a few important points:

- Comfort is King. Yes I would rather you buy a $50 pair of low end shoes that are actually comfortable than the super duper $250 pro shoe that hurts your feet. Just like tennis shoes, everyone likes something different. Some like thick soles, some like thin. Some like the shoe to be super flexible, others like it a little stiffer. Find what feels good to you. Just like with tennis shoes.

-  If it makes a sound, the sound is fine. Some will disagree with me on this, but I’m not fussy about how the taps sound coming out of the box (what we do with those taps is another matter!). Taps are like drums, some are higher pitched, some are lower pitched, etc. It doesn’t matter. Can you hear the sound when you tap? Great then those shoes sound fine. The only exception I have is that I personally don’t like loose taps because I feel you can’t control the sound they make as well as tight taps.

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2.  Tap Floors

- NO CONCRETE EVER. Unless you like ankle pain, and back pain, and knee surgery.  

- NO TILE OR WOOD LAID DIRECTLY ON CONCRETE. This almost as bad as tapping on concrete (especially the tile). Remember tap dancing is literally banging your feet on the ground for an hour or more at a time with your full body weight on top of them.

- Wood is best, but any hard surface with some cushioning underneath will do just fine. I personally use stick on linoleum tile (so easy to replace when I wear them out) on top of laminate flooring (the stick on tile is not as slippery as the laminate and holds up about as long) on top of 2 layers of interlocking exercise mats on top of concrete. It works for me. Everyone is different. Yes a real hardwood floor would be ideal. If you can afford it, go for it (please note it will get scratched and beat up).

How many lessons should I do a day/week/month? How much should I practice?

- Unless you are in great shape and super gung-ho about it, I recommend no more than one lesson a day. After that lesson you need to practice the skills introduced in that lesson. There are two ways to do that:

1.  Go through all the steps and combinations taught in given lesson and practice them on your own.

2.  Just watch/take the lesson again. You’ll find little things you missed the first time and you’ll be reinforcing the step names by both seeing and hearing them. You’ll also have the sound of my taps to follow along with and to use to compare your own sounds to.

I spend a lot of time explaining the details of properly executing a step. Each detail is important. Make sure you are applying everything I say to your footwork. Practicing without concentrating and without attention to detail can actually make you worse.

When you can do the steps as well as I demonstrate them in the video and the lesson has become “easy” you’re ready to do the next one. Some people learn fast and are naturally talented. They might master everything from lesson 1 in one day. Others will need a week or two to feel comfortable with the material.  

The more you practice the better you will get.  Shorter practices more often are better than longer ones less often. 20-30 minutes a day would be great. Anything above and beyond that will definitely help - the more you do something, the better you get.

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What if my knees, ankles or muscles hurt after I tap?

That depends. There is the type of soreness caused by using new muscles in new ways that goes away once your strength increases. A little of that soreness is no big deal, just don’t overdo it!

Then there is the “there’s something wrong with my knee” and it’s not getting better over time type of pain. I’m not a doctor and I’d recommend you see one but there are a few things you might want to try:

1.  Stretching. Yes simple stretching. It literally saved my teaching career. You see for a while I had tendonitis in my both of my ankles so bad I had to teach holding on to the back of a chair. I tried ankle supports, using different shoes and nothing worked. Eventually I figured out that some serious stretching before and MORE IMPORTANTLY AFTER I tapped made all the difference in the world.  

I used to tap for 5 hours straight then go home with no stretching. So my calf muscles would be as tight as rocks and stay that way all night long (walking in the morning did NOT feel good). Those muscles pulled on the tendons in my ankles, thus the tendonitis. Serious stretching fixed it all and I still stretch to this day to keep my ankles working well.

2.  Fixing muscle imbalances.  I’ve occasionally had minor knee issues and again stretching, this time combined with some muscle balancing, helped fix it. My quad muscles are like trucks. My hamstrings on the other hand, are more like bicycles. When you have a huge strong and tight (especially if you don’t stretch it) muscle like a quad on one side of a joint and weaker looser muscle on the other side (my hamstrings) the joint can become very painful due that imbalance. Simply strengthening the weaker side and stretching the stronger/tighter side can make a real difference. But as with anything your mileage may vary.

3.  Choosing different shoes/tap floor. If you’re tapping on concrete and your back hurts I’m not surprised. Try a floor with some cushion. Also it’s possible if your ankles or feet are disagreeing with you that the shoes you chose are not right for you. Maybe you need a little extra padding (I add cushioned inserts to mine) in the shoe, or maybe the heel is too high (I have mine cut down). It’s at least something you might want to consider.

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Need some help deciding on any of our products or just have a tap-related question? Email me at I not only answer all my emails, I do it pretty fast.  

And the same goes for after you make a purchase. My typical email response time is less than 12 hours. Sometimes it’s as fast as 5 minutes! Since I personally make everything we sell I stand behind it 100%. If you’re not happy with your purchase, we refund 100% no questions asked. Let me show you how it works:

CUSTOMER: Hi Rod. Unfortunately the lessons just didn’t click with me. I’d like a refund please.

ME:  No problem. I’ve initiated a refund and you’ll get a confirmation notice of it in the next 24 hours. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.

That’s it. I also handle all the support. So if you have any issues you’ll talk with me directly not some call support person who doesn’t know the products.

In the end I want you to have a great tap experience. I’d love it if it was with me but regardless of who you learn tap from I want you to have a great time and to keep tapping for many years to come.  

Oh and one more thing...when you buy from us you help us continue our outreach program. I won’t go into details here, but you can find out more about it on our outreach page.

Thanks for stopping by and happy tapping!

Rod Howell

Start Tapping Right Now with our Fun Beginner Lessons

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Rod Howell

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