Regardless if you have just began learning how to rap or if you’ve already been at it for an extensive length of time this one tip I’m about to share with you will make you a better rapper and there’s several reasons for it. So let’s just get straight to it shall we?
Building From The Ground Up
Now if you’re familiar with most of my previous work you know that being a skilled rapper first starts with your rhythm which I define as your ability to stay on beat. And secondly your cadence which is the way that you dance to the music with your syllables on beat. The complexity of your rhyme schemes and the wittiness of your punchlines will never shine to their full potential if you’re off beat and if your cadences are too repetitive. And being off beat isn’t just a beginner thing. I’ve witnessed people who’s been rapping for well over 5 years who are still off beat!
Why is that? Are they rhythm def? Where they not born with the innate ability to pop out their mothers womb spittin like Eminem? Well.. No to question #1 and in response to question #2
Eminem didn’t even come out his mothers womb spittin like Eminem! LOL!
The truth of the matter is that either (A) They never learned how to stay on beat properly, (B) In addition to learning how to stay on beat they haven’t practiced identifying beats enough or (C) They have friends who don’t love them enough to tell them the truth or they’re too conceited to fathom the notion that their rap skills could use some tweaking.
Now I’ve already created this awesome video tutorial on how to establish rhythm which if you haven’t already checked out I highly recommend it!
The Missing Link!
But even beyond my establishing rhythm tutorial some people still struggle with identifying the beat count correctly. Meaning which beat is the 1st beat, the second beat etc.. This is due to their inability to identify the beginning and ending of each bar which is SO IMPORTANT!!!
Why You Should Be Able To Do This
1. You can’t count your bars properly.
If you’re collaborating with other rappers you may deliver to many or not enough bars. Bar counting is how we measure the length of different sections within the song structure such as a verse or a hook. So being able to count bars properly allows you to speak the same musical language with other artists, producers & mixing engineers that you’re working with.
2. You can’t structure your rhyme schemes properly.
Rhyme schemes is all about relationships. The closer a rhyme is in time from one bar to the next the stronger relationship or connectivity they will have with one another and thus will make a stronger impact to the listener. If you don’t know where you’re rhyme scheme was started in bar #1 (for example on the 4th beat) then you likely won’t be able to closely match it on bar #2 (on the 4th beat) which can cause your rhyme scheme to have less impact on the listener.
3. Difficulty learning new cadences.
I taught in my Creating Cadence video tutorial that a great way to take your flow to the next level is to learn cadences from other rappers so you can add those “dance moves” to your arsenal. This makes you a much better rapper as it enables you to move around the bars in many different ways. I actually used 3 different cadences from 3 different rappers and I was able to apply them all to the same instrumental.
The reason I could do this in addition to being able to stay on beat was because I was able to identify by ear how their cadences was lining up with the beats. For example Andre 3000 started his cadence on the 1st beat while Eminem’s cadence used one syllable at the end of the 4th beat of the last bar (of the intro section of the song) before his verse section began and then he hit his second syllable on the 1st beat of the 1st bar of his verse section. Also check out my tutorial on 3 ways to catch the beat.
This sounds complex and it can be but again this was all by ear. Once you learn to stay on beat and count the beats properly these types of complexities are more about feeling and you don’t have to think to deeply about them after you learn them. It’s no different than you being at a party and pulling out those funky fresh dance moves you learned from watching Breakin’ and Bring It On.
4. Visual learning
If you’re more of a visual person being able to identify the correct beat number also helps with reading cadence charts such as this one (much more of these to come!)
5. Relying to much on the drums!
It’s bound to happen at some point. You know that moment when the drums or the entire instrumental drops out for a moment? If you can’t count the beats properly then you may end up dropping off with the beat as well! Using kicks and snares is a great way to learn how to stay on beat but you need to be able to stay on beat without them. Again properly counting beats enables you to know where the beginning and ending of each bar is. Even when an entire instrumental drops off because it’s done in the length of musical time for example for 1 bar or for 2 beats.
So if you’re counting your beats properly and are maintaining your body movement to the beat as I teach in my Establishing Rhythm video then you will be fine and be a much better rapper for it!
Now that you understand some of the major benefits of being able to identify the beginning and ending of bars here’s a few techniques on how you can begin to actually do it!
Ear Training Tips
1. Most of the instruments in a song are loop based.
Meaning they play a particular pattern and then repeat over and over again. Pay very close attention when you first start playing a song or instrumental and listen for when an instrument first
begins. Pay attention to it’s pitch, volume, and groove (movement) and take a mental note so that once it returns back to the beginning you will be able to identify it. Loops usually repeat on the 1st beat of a bar. This is a powerful hack that will help you start to hear music as repeating patterns instead of a bunch of random noises.
2. Not all loops are the same length.
It’s important to note that not all instruments loops are the same length. For example a pianos loop may be 1 bar meaning it’s unique pattern is played for bar #1 and then repeats back to the beginning of it’s pattern on bar #2. While the guitar may have a 2 bar loop. Meaning it’s unique pattern lasts for the length of 2 bars before it repeats again for another 2 bars.
3. Listen for the patterns
When your first practicing this technique it may be easiest for you to listen for a 1 bar loop. This may be a drum arrangement where the kick lands on the 1st and 3rd beat and the snare on the 2nd and 4th beat and then repeats or it could be a cool guitar loop. It could really be anything! It’s okay if you don’t know what the instrument is called just listen for the patterns beginning so you can identify once it loops back to the beginning.
4. Understanding musical arrangement
It’s also important to note that most instrumentals change throughout the course of a song. This is called arrangement. For example the song may start out during the intro with just a dreamy sounding synthesizer and then 4 bars later those heavy 808 kick drums come in. Once again the hack here is that most loops begin on the 1st beat of a bar. So whenever you hear a new instrument introduced into the song it’s highly likely that that’s an indication of where the 1st beat of a bar is.
If you apply this one tip which is to train your ears to hear the beginning and ending of bars it will not only make you a better rapper but it will change how you hear music forever! Now the next time you listen to any kind of music just remember this one thing…LISTEN FOR THE PATTERNS!! If you can identify where they begin you can identify where they end!!
Let me know if this article was helpful by dropping your 2 cents in the comments section below. If you have any questions I’d be my pleasure to answer them for you there as well. Here’s to being a better rapper NOW!!