How To Rap: Structuring Lyrics

One of the most common issues I see up and coming rappers face who are learning how to rap is not having structured lyrics. In this article I will explain what structured lyrics are, why they are important and how you can ensure your lyrics are structured from here on out.

The Importance Of Structured Lyrics

So let’s start off with what the word structure means in the first place. Structure: coherent form or organization. 

let’s also take a gander at the word “Coherent”. Coherent: logical and well-organized : easy to understand. able to talk or express yourself in a clear way that can be easily understood. working closely and well together.

And also a look at the word “Organization” Organization: the act or process of putting the different parts of something in a certain order so that they can be found or used easily

Now that we have gotten that out of the way hopefully you can understand why having structured lyrics is so important for the following reasons.

  1. Your lyrics are well organized
  2. Your lyrics work closely and well together
  3. Your lyrics have patterns so others can follow along easily
  4. And so that you can rap your lyrics repetitively and consistently the same way.

Identifying Unstructured Lyrics

A few indications that lyrics are unstructured are as follows

  1. Lack of rhythmic pattern
  2. Lack of rhyme scheme pattern
  3. Bars don’t begin and end evenly or have any structured format of length in musical time
  4. Inability to rap verses the same way repetitively
  5. Certain parts of the lyrics are being crammed into each other and loose clarity

How To Structure Lyrics

Establishing 4 count

In order to have structured lyrics you must first establish your 4 count which is to say “1,2,3,4” in time with the tempo. Each bar contains 4 quarter notes. Within each quarter note section is 4 16th notes. Remember the kick typically falls on the 1st & 3rd quarter note and the snare typically falls on the 2nd and 4th quarter note. If you are having trouble getting the timing of your count right try saying 1 milly 2 milly 3 milly 4 milly. This technique allows you to fill in all 4 of the 16th notes of each quarter note section by sustaining the number being said for two 16th notes followed by milly which is two syllables which takes up the two remaining 16th notes of the quarter note section.

Maintaining 4 Count

Maintaining the 4 count is just as important as establishing it. Here are several ways you can achieve this.

  1. Moving a body part to the 4 count such as tapping your foot, bobbing your head, snapping your fingers, patting your hand on a surface etc.. This technique uses your muscle memory and is somewhat of a human metronome. What is a Metronome? It’s a device used by musicians that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular ticking sound. Many musicians use this technique in some capacity. The next time you watch a musician perform see if you can spot their technique of maintaining the 4 count.
  2. Another technique is using your own internal memory to say the 4 count in your head which still manages to free up your vocals so you can rap your lyrics. This technique is harder for most to do as it requires you to think of two things at the same time since you will be maintaining your 4 count while either writing or rapping your lyrics. But this is still highly effective and once you get good at it then it becomes almost apart of your sub conscience and you don’t really have to think about it.
  3. Depending on the beat you are rapping to often times the beat itself will have somewhat of a 4 count in it as discussed earlier. 1 Kick 2 Snare 3 Kick 4 Snare is one of the common ways you can listen for the 4 count but sometimes other instruments may play in a 4 count such as hi hats, bass lines, strings, keys, etc.. Just listen to the beat and see if you can hear any noticeable 4 count sections being played that can help guide you.

Scatting & Writing to the 4 count

Once you have learned to establish and maintain the 4 count “which is the foundation anyone making music must first lay in order to build upon it in a structured format” it’s now time time to start structuring rhythm and lyrics around it. I like to start off first by scatting aka “mumbling gibberish” in order to get a sense of the rhythm/cadence I would like to create with my lyrics for the track.

If you are afraid that you may forget some of your cadences that you come up with feel free to record them on a device that you have handy to reference to later. While I’m scatting I also like to try and place words with syllables that match certain parts of the cadence I’m playing around with. I typically will place these words at the beginning of a bar or at the end just to get me started.

Once I feel like I’ve come up with a particular cadence that I like I then begin to start coming up with combinations of words that contain the syllable counts needed to fill in each quarter note section of a bar. This is very important because It ensures that you are rapping in time with the beat and that your syllables that are supposed to be hitting on top of the kick and snare are indeed doing so which are typically the 4 quarter notes which we discussed earlier.

Bar Sheets

Now if you are having trouble doing this I’ve taken it upon myself to create what I call “Bar Sheets”.  Below is a screen shot of what they look like in use. Each of the 4 columns going down the page are separated in 4 sections which represent the 4 quarter note sections of each bar and are labeled 1,2,3,4 accordingly. And each line going across the page represents 1 bar. There are typically 16 bars in a verse and the bar count is labeled on the left side of the paged 1-16 accordingly. There is also a 8 bar section for the hook as well and this song format repeats 3 times to make up a full length song.

bar_sheets

The words and syllables that you see in bold is actually where the beginning of the quarter note section begins. The words that you see in italics are “Lead ins” which are said technically at the very end of the bar before them but are beginning a new thought which is leading into the next bar. I often like to give myself room to breathe on the 4th quarter note sections which also gives me room to “Lead In” to the next bar if I wish. And the words that you see highlighted in yellow represents parts of the rhyme schemes and the repetition of similar sounds that don’t necessarily rhyme.

If you would like to download these blank Bar Sheets just Sign Up to my newsletter if you haven’t already and I will mail you a copy immediately. My newsletter is where I share all my exclusive material for free such as practice beats, My eBook The #1 Fundamental To Rapping & now Bar Sheets! Sign Up Here

How Did I Do?

Did you find this article helpful? Have any questions? Please drop your 2 cents in the comment section below and I will make sure that I get right back to. Cheers to being a better rapper now. LET’S GET IT!!

Comments

  1. says

    Your a genius please don’t ever leave us / mr mize a man so wise there’s
    No room for other guys / to copy this
    Franchise unless you’re selling burgers and fries / #macd
    cole a rap legend who will be legendary for the next centuries to come especially among the United Kingdom…

    Always get 100 % from your video’s
    News letters and your book should not be missed this guy is an amazing lyricist peace …

    • says

      Hey Darren. Wow! Can’t thank you enough for all of your love and support! I’m humbled by your words and I sincerely appreciate them! I’m so glad that my content has been helpful to you, that’s what it’s all about :) Thank you again for your comment it was very inspiring and motivating to me! :) Keep up the great work on your end and I will continue to strive to do the same on mine! LET’S GET IT!!!! :) -Cole Mize

    • says

      Hey Fernando, lead ins is when your rapping during the transition between two bars. I use them often to smoothly move between one bar and the next. If you watch the video in this article I give you lives examples of how I use them. Thanks for reading and commenting! If you have any more questions let me know!

      • Fernando Acosta says

        Cole Mize what up! I just watched your video just one more question about this particular topic ….okay….doing the 1 millie, 2 millie,3 millie,4 millie technique is cool my question is how many words and or syllables should replace those four numbers? p.s I hope I was clear enough with the question.

        • says

          Hey Fernando,

          Good question. The 1 millie tip is for helping you get a feel for the beat so you can keep your rhythm and not be off beat. The trick isn’t to necessarily replace those numbers but to use them as anchor points to keep your rhythm and stay on beat before moving on to come up with cadences. You can fit as many or as few syllables within a bar as you desire and it completely depends on the way that you rap. But for starting off try using around 12-14 syllables in a bar and give yourself 1 16th note pause at the beginning of the bar and at the end of the bar which is pretty much what I was doing on this video so just follow along with the video and use the beat in this video to practice too which if your on my mailing list then you should already have it. Let me know if this makes since and if you have any more questions I would be more than happy to answer them. Keep up the hard work Fernando!

          • Fernando Acosta says

            Okay okay so it doesn’t matter how many words as long as it has 12-23 syllables right?

          • says

            Well words are simply made up of syllables so they both matter. For starting out I recommend using 12-14 syllables per bar. That will give you a nice speed while still giving you room to breath and to play around with you flow.

  2. cino aka joe says

    When Spitting the 16 bars where do you pause in between the 16 bars or each bar in particular Please help me out on this. I don’t know where to pause that part is kind of confusing.

  3. Brandon says

    Hey man i love your video, your obviously very gifted with music. I need your help, get back to me.

    • says

      Hey Damian, thanks for letting me know about you not receiving the bar sheets. I just sent you an e-mail with all the goodies. Glad you enjoyed the eBook and I hope you enjoy everything else as well! :) – Cole Mize

  4. says

    It’s finally good to hear a recommended amount of syllables. I’ve wondered for quite some time. I did write a piece where all the verses must have 10 syllables in each bar. I noticed a difference and it was fun to challenge myself in being creative to fit your message. Thank you as always.

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