I've tried counting the beat in my head while tapping my foot, but I just can't seem to play if I do that because the multi-tasking does my head in. Do you have to keep playing badly while counting the beat, until you finally get it, or is there another way? I have to slow down considerably to count the beat while playing something, so I was wondering if practice would solve my inability to multi-task.

I was also wondering what happens at really fast speeds... How are you supposed to count when shredding?

Any help appreciated.
Practice helps everything. And if you're practicing a part then yes, it would be best to count. But if you're playing with a band, that's what the drummers for (it still wouldnt hurt though)
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i usually don't count, i kind of internalize the beat and it makes it easier for me.
Practice should solve it. It's like learning any instrument, you start with whole notes, then half notes and so on,
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Patience, young Jedi. All things will come in good time.

Seriously, you probably haven't been playing all that long and it's just going to take time. We all had to learn to crawl before we could walk, and so it is with the guitar. In time, you will learn to keep the beat with the best of 'em. Keep at it!!!
You don't necessarily have to both count and tap. Often times I'll just tap or just count while playing and it works fine. The only time I do both is when there's some kind of crucial timing like an intro or solo. Defenately practice both but don't feel you always have to do both at all times. Try to make the timing feel more natural, that's what the shredders do. They've practiced to a point that they 'feel' the rhythm without having to count/tap, but that takes years of solid, dedicated practice to be able to do effectively. Keep with it man, the more you do it with a variety of drum tracks/tempos, the more beats will start to feel intuitive and natural.
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Heck, try using a metronome. Practice with it. After a while it'll just kinda sink in with your brain.

One thing that helps me to keep the beat(I learned drums much before the guitar) is to put some passion into it. Move your body. Tap your feet. Shake your head. Whatever it takes for you to put your whole body into it. That'll keep the beat.
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I play drums so its become second nature to me to count in my head.

I'd recommend the next time your listening, not playing, but listening to a song start counting along with it.
- Try and get a feel for the beat by taping your foot on each beat and slapping your thigh on the 2 and 4 beat.
- Try counting the music out in quarter (1234), eighth (1&2&3&4) and sixteenth (1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a) notes

So yeah, start counting along while listening to songs to kickstart your internal metronome =)

Hope this helps