How To Rap A Verse: Translating Cadence To Lyrics

Welcome to the 3rd installment of How To Rap A Verse. In the last lesson I discussed how to establish your flow and I came up with four cadences and broke them down for you. In this lesson you’re going to learn how to translate your cadences into lyrics and I’ll be demonstrating these techniques in the coming videos using the four cadences from the last lesson So without further ado… LET’S GET IT!!

Now before I dive in and start translating my cadences into lyrics there’s a few things you need to know.

Their Relationship

It’s important to understand the relationship between your cadence and the lyrics you will be translating them into. I like to think of them like a marriage or any relationship for that matter. The only way two people can be in harmony with one another is if they are in agreement. For example if I ask my wife if she would like to go out with me for dinner and she says yes then we are in agreement; we both want to go out to eat. But if I had my taste buds fixed on Chinese food and she wants Mexican then now there’s a conflict that needs to be resolved. Now I personally enjoy both of these types of food, the Mexican restaurant is closer and their food is cheaper plus there’s free chips and dip so I compromise from were I initially wanted to go and agree upon eating Mexican and as the saying goes happy wife happy life! :)

And just as there will inevitably be conflicts within any relationship the same applies to the relationship between cadence and lyrics. In the first lesson of this series on Establishing Rhythm I spoke about how focusing on something can cause other things around it to become blurred. While this can be ideal in some situations be careful about focusing primarily only on either the cadence or the lyrics. Focusing on one more than the other can cause them both to suffer.  Here’s a few of the conflicts that you can expect to encounter when translating your cadence into lyrics along with solutions to fix them.

In A Perfect World

In many cases you’ll be able to perfectly translate your cadence into lyrics. You simply count the amount of notes that your using in your cadence and you come up with a combination of words that has the same number of syllables so that they perfectly match each other. But this doesn’t always work out so smoothly.

To Focused On Lyrics

If you recall from the last lesson I touched upon how all syllables aren’t the same and some may require a little more space to be emphasized clearly. We refer to these as stressed syllables. So your word selection will determine if you are able to translate the cadence perfectly or not. Also if you’re hyper focused on rhyme schemes then you’re lyrics may lack the meaning and substance that you wish them to have. Focusing on lyrics too much and not enough on cadence can consequently cause your cadence to suffer by not paying attention to the amount of syllables you need to match the cadence as well as it’s timing.

One Scenario

establishing flow 1st cadence

For example for 1 bar your cadence is using 14 16th notes which gives you two 16th notes to pause or breath. And you come up with a combination of words that equal 14 syllables but your words contain 3 stressed syllables that each need to be held for the length of two 16th notes so technically your syllables are taking up more space than your cadence, 17 16th notes to be exact. That’s three 16th notes longer than the original cadence! This will likely cause you to smash syllables together to try and fit them within the bar causing some syllables to be unclear and your cadence to be much different than anticipated.

Ways To Compromise

In this scenario you’re going to have to compromise in one of these three ways; 1. pick different words without stresses, 2. Allow your lyrics to overlap into the next bar or 3. adjust the cadence to make room for the stresses by tweaking your timing or eliminating notes. You see how it’s either the cadence that needs to compromise or the lyrics in order for both to be in harmony with one another? A failure to do so will cause friction in their relationship and will cause your lyrics clarity and the flow of your cadence to suffer because of it.

To Focused On Cadence

If you are strictly trying to write lyrics to fit your cadence by any means necessary then the content of your lyrics may at times suffer and loose meaning if you’re not careful.

One Scenario

For example you’re finishing up your verse and are writing the last bar before the hook comes in. You match the cadence perfectly but your bars lyrics doesn’t have anything to do with the overall message of the verse and it doesn’t tie into the hook either. It sounds good but the lyrics make it sound out of place, random and causes your verse to not have a strong ending.

Ways To Compromise

Remember you’re cadence is just an idea of a way that you can flow to the track. It’s not set in stone and it can always be tweaked and adjusted as needed so don’t let it put you in a box. If you are able to translate your cadence into lyrics but the lyrics don’t make sense or convey what you would like try rewording that bar and adjust your cadence if needed to fit the lyrics. If you change the cadence and now it seems out of place then change the cadence of the bar before it to match. Typically things sound more complete when done in even numbers in music. So having your cadence last for two bars instead of only one will likely make it sound more complete and intentional. However if the first cadence you change isn’t drastically different from it’s original then you may not need to adjust the cadence from the bar before it. Just do what you think sounds best.

Equally Focused

As you can see translating cadences into lyrics is a balancing act. At this time you’ve established your rhythm, you’ve created cadences to the rhythm, and now you are trying to convert those cadences into lyrics so your technically juggling 3 things at once. They key is to not become totally focused on the cadence or the lyrics but rather give them both the attention they need to ensure they are in harmony with one another. Now let’s dig in and put these techniques into practice.

Translating Lyrics

Before I begin writing lyrics I usually will have already brainstormed what I want to write about using the storyboard method I teach in my article How To Write A Rap Song. So I’ve already decided that I want this verse to be an encouraging and informative message to my fellow rappers. I typically start translating my cadence by scatting it while trying to replace parts of the scat with words. I often will fill in the last few words of the bar first since I know it will begin my rhyme scheme and then I fill in the rest of the bar. Or I will start with trying to fill in the first few words of the bar. (there’s no set way you have to do this so do what works best for you).

1st Bar
establishing flow 1st cadence

If you’re a rapper then there’s something I must let you know

Here’s the first cadence I’m looking to translate. It’s using 14 16th notes with a 16th note pause at the beginning and end of the bar which I’ll be using to breath. As I begin scatting I come up with “If you’re a rapper” to place at the beginning and “let you know” to be placed at the end of bar leaving the middle needing to be filled in. So Currently I have a total of 8 syllables and only need 6 more to complete the cadence. I decide to feel in the rest of the bar with “then there’s something I must“. It fits perfect! Let’s move on to the next bar.

2nd Bar

Typically I like to keep rhymes schemes and cadences going for even amounts of numbers. For example, 2,4,6,8 and etc.. So I’m going to keep this same cadence and rhyme scheme going with that in mind. I first place “Just Let it flow” at the end of the bar to ensure I’m keeping the rhyme scheme going with “just” rhyming with “must” “let” rhyming with “let” and “flow” rhyming with “know”. I then place “Just be your self” at the beginning of the bar. So I have a total of 8 syllables and need 6 more to complete the cadence.2nd bar cadence

Just be your self, spit yo truth and just let it flow

But I’m already running into an issue. “Self” needs to be stressed to be emphasized clearly and is going to need more space than the original cadence allowed. So I simply take the room I need “in this case I need an extra 16th note” So now though i’m using 8 syllables I’m taking up the space of 9 16th notes. At this point I make an executive decision that I want the second half of my cadence to match the revised 1st part of my cadence.

 

So though I need to fill in the space of 5 more 16th notes I’m going to use 4 syllables and stretch one of those syllables for the length of two 16th notes. I’ve decided to fill in the rest of the bar with “Spit yo truth and” and I’ve chosen to give “truth” two 16th notes since it needs it anyways to be be emphasized clearly. Though I had to compromise my flow to say the lyrics clearly the change isn’t drastic and the cadence and lyrics get along just fine together. Even though I’m using less syllables in this bar compared to the first bar they both are taking up the same amount of space within each bar. Pretty cool huh?

3rd bar

establishing flow 1st cadence

“Don’t let the radio and television be yo goal”

So on the 3rd bar I’m continuing to try and match the cadence and rhyme scheme of the 1st bar. I first come up with “Don’t let the radio” to place at the beginning of the bar. and “Radio” is rhyming with “y0″. Nothing needs extra space for emphasis so I’m good to go. I then fill in the end of the bar with “Be Yo Goal” with “goal” rhyming with “flow” due to their oh sounds. So i’m using 9 syllables that don’t require any extra space and I only need 5 more syllables to complete the cadence. So I’ve come up with “and television” and everything fits together perfectly!

4th bar

4th bar cadence

“Cause all the mainstream media’s corporate controlled”

And of course for the 4th bar I’m still trying to keep the same cadence and rhyme scheme as the 1st bar. I first come up with “cause all the mainstream” to be put at the beginning of the bar. I already spot an issue here as I need more room to say “main” and “stream” so I’ve given them both 1 extra 16th note a piece. So now though I’m only using 5 syllables it’s taking up the space of 7 16th notes. I only need 7 more syllables to complete the cadence. I’ve come up with “Media’s corporate controlled” which is actually 8 syllables which would put me 1 syllable over. However tho “Corporate” is technically 3 syllables I’m going to only use two syllables to say it 1. because it makes it fit my cadence and 2. because I actually pronounce it that way in real life. I’m country! lol  And “controlled” and “goal” rhyme due to their ole sounds.

All Together

Here’s how they sound all together.

If you’re a rapper then there’s something I must let you know 14

Just be your self, spit yo truth and just let it flow 12

Don’t let the radio and television be yo goal 14

Cause all the mainstream media’s corporate controlled 12

Just The Beginning

Remember don’t let all these details of which syllables need two 16th notes overwhelm you when you’re writing your verse. This is just giving you an in depth look under the hood of how everything works together and how to fix problems you will likely face along the way. So far I’ve written 4 bars off 1 cadence and I’ve still got 3 more cadences I haven’t used yet. In next weeks video we’re going to pick right where we left off and continue translating cadences into lyrics to complete this verse and correcting all the issues that pop up along the way. So make sure you stay tuned as we still have much to cover and to learn!

How Did I Do?

Did you find this article helpful! Have a question or a comment! I’d love to hear from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below!

Comments

  1. VK says

    I love that you’ve written verses to give an example.Showing how to do it makes a lot more sense than just talking about it.

    • says

      Thanks VK! I’m glad that my style of teaching is getting through to you! That’s my biggest goal in every video! Thanks for watching and taking the time to let me know that my videos are helping you out. Keep up the hard work! :)

  2. Count says

    Love your in depth videos.Im still trying to do the 16 count.I think I’m just going to go by feel over the weekend on my beat.you have been very helpful.

    • says

      My pleasure Count! I’m really glad you are enjoying my videos! It’s always great to hear that they’re are reaching and helping others! That’s what it’s all about! Wishing you the best as you practice over the weekend! Thanks for the love and support! LET’S GET IT!!!! :)

    • says

      My pleasure Typhain! I’m really glad to hear that this lesson helped you identify some of your development opportunities. That’s what it’s all about! Keep up the hard work! Thanks for watching and commenting! :)

  3. Artur says

    Hi Cole.

    Thanks for yet another very useful video :-)

    I was wondering, do you have a video or are you going to make a video about how to adjust or what to change, fix or do, to be able to record perfectly in a home studio? What to do to make ones vocal sound studio recorded or at least very clean? Where to place the gain and stuff like that and, like you do in most your videos, demonstrate?

    I’m probably one of your many subcribers that have taken your advice on how to buy a home studio for $ 150.
    But after doing so, the next problem is what to do next. One thing is having the Kaotica Eyeball or any other type of sound isolating equiptment, to putt on the mic stand. But making everything sound good and getting rid of useless noize, eccos or whatever. Is a whole other ball game.

    There are many videos on you tube about some of this but not everything is well explained or demonstrated. And since YOU are doing such a great job teaching everything about rap and all that goes with it, AND demonstrating and making it understandable. I was hoping you had or are going to make a video about this part.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Very best regards from Denmark..

    Artur

    • says

      Hey Artur,

      Thanks for the positive feedback! I’m glad that you enjoyed this lesson as well. Yes I will definitely make a video going into how to get the best quality recording in less than ideal environments. Until then a really good video to check out on recording vocals is this one by Graham

      Thanks for the suggestion and I look forward to making the video and sharing it with you in the not so distant future. Keep up the hard work and if you ever have any more questions please let me know! :)

      • Artur says

        Thank you, thats sounds good. I’ll look forward to your video regarding this matter.
        I checked the video you recommended to check out in the mean time – Good one.
        He got some good advice too. Thanks :-) But still, look forward to your video aswell.
        You might mention something useful Graham did not ;-)

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