There are different ways to keep time. It is important to develop a reliable technique for keeping time that you can use in a variety of situations. Patting a foot is a standard method for keeping time. My grandpa used to say, “When you get both feet pattin’, then your really doin’ it.” Some people rely on chewing gum to keep time.
If you are playing with a group it may be important to watch the other members of the group to stay on the beat. In a situation where dancers are present it may be helpful to watch the rhythm of the dancers. Rarely, a group of vigorous flat foot dancers may hi-jack the rhythm and drag the band along with them rather than following the beat established by the band.
A metronome can be very useful in developing rhythm and timing. Playing with a metronome can be especially beneficial if you wish to flat pick tunes.
A metronome is a device that ticks at a set time interval. There are a wide variety of designs from pocket sized to desktop models.
To use a metronome, first find a tempo that is suitable for your playing. Work with that tempo until you find that you have mastered the piece you have been working on. Then, you may wish to turn up the tempo a little bit for a challenge. Many electronic tuners include a metronome function.