How To Create Catchy Rap Melodies in 5 Easy Steps
In today’s video, I’m going to show you how to create catchy rap melodies in 5 easy steps. To get started let’s first discuss what a melody is.
What’s a Melody?
A melody is a musical pattern that’s made up of varying up and down movements in pitch as well as varying amounts of sustain on each note.
In other words, a Melody uses the two main types of notes found in music. Rhythmic notes and Melodic Notes.
The Two Types of Music Notes
Typically a rap cadence uses a combination of different rhythmic musical notes such as 8th notes, 16th notes, and 32nd notes.
Rhythmic notes get their name based on how long they’re held or sustained within 1 bar.
For example, an 8th note takes up 1/8th of 1 bar which means you can fit eight 8th notes within 1 bar.
A Melodic note is based on pitch. Pitch just means how high or low something sounds. There are 12 melodic notes in music and they’re named by letters and are sometimes followed by 1 of 2 symbols. Sharps which look like hashtags and flats which look like lowercase b’s.
C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A# B
Each sharp (#) note can also be considered a flat (♭) It just depends on if you’re going up in pitch or down in pitch when you hit those notes.
For example, C# can also be considered Db depending on if you’re stepping up from C or Stepping down from D.
C, D♭, D, E♭, E, F, G♭, G, A♭, A, B♭ B
C is the lowest pitch and B is the highest pitch.
Now again, Rap Melodies use both Rhythmic and Melodic notes which is what makes them sound so good!
Now if you look at a keyboard, it may seem like a bunch of random keys but it’s just those same 12 melodic notes I already shared repeated over and over again.
These are known as octaves.
So for example on this picture of my keyboard, there are 5 octaves.
If I were to play a C from the 1st octave and then play a C from the 3rd octave I’m technically playing the same note just in different octaves. This is why sometimes you may notice a melodic note may have a number by it because it’s identifying which octave that note is being played in.
In my case I played C1 and C3.
Rap Melodies = Both Worlds
Now when it comes to creating catchy rap melodies you will be creating patterns with your Rhythmic Notes and your Melodic Notes at the same time!
All you have to do is follow these 5 easy steps.
1 Pick The Right Instrumental
Not all instrumentals will sound good with a rap melody. This is because each instrumental will put off a specific vibe and it’s your job as a rapper to interpret what that vibe is so that you can match it accordingly.
Melodies typically sound and feel (mellow) and some instrumentals may feel too aggressive for a melody.
Also some instrumentals just may not have a lot of melodic information in them and may use rhythmic note patterns more dominantly.This sometimes may prevent something melodic from sounding or feeling good.
There’s no way to know for sure if a rap melody will sound right over an instrumental until you just try some melodies out. But after you get in the habit of trying out Melodies over instrumentals it will become much more instinctual on which instrumentals will feel right with a melody and which ones will not.
2 Detect The Key of The Instrumental
The 2nd step to creating catchy rap melodies is you need to figure out the key of the instrumental so that you know which melodic notes will sound good over the instrumental.
Remember those 12 melodic notes I showed you earlier? Well in music there’s these things called Keys.
Each Key only uses 7 of the 12 melodic notes because all the notes don’t sound good together.
So if you’re wanting to create a catchy rap melody you need to know which key the instrumental is in first!
And then you need to put the key information into AutoTune and adjust your AutoTune settings so that it corrects your pitch as fast as possible.
This is a must even if you don’t want an Autotune fx on your vocals because it lock you into the key so you’re never using any of the notes that don’t sound good. Autotune also helps you learn to control the pitch of your voice better.
For an in-depth look at how to get, install, and use autotune check out my video called “How To Use Autotune For Rappers”
I also like to detect the tempo of the instrumental and align it to my DAW’s grid so that I can create a perfect loop on the section of the song I’m working on.
For an in-depth video tutorial on how to do this watch my video on “How To Loop Beats”.
3 Scatting Melodies
Now that you’re all set up it’s time to have some fun and zone out and start scatting! Scatting is the real sauce for coming up with catchy rap melodies. Scatting isn’t just for creating a dope rap flow, it’s also for creating catchy rap melodies.
If you’re trying to improve your scatting skills I made 2 really in-depth videos full of gems called
Everything I teach about scatting rap cadences in these videos also applies to scatting melodies.
When you’re scatting melodies it’s like a musical freestyle. It’s very similar to when you have a conversation with someone.
What I mean is typically the words you’re using aren’t premeditated and it’s like a stream of consciousness or what is known as a flow state. But here’s the thing, when you’re speaking to someone you can only use the words that you’ve already learned and are fresh in your mind.
This applies to scatting catchy rap melodies as well. The more melodies you learn and practice implementing into your scatting routine the more melodies will be fresh in your mind and the more fluent you will be with scatting melodies.
And here’s the thing, you likely already know many melodies that you’re just not aware of so take a moment to see how many melodies you can remember from pieces of your favorite songs and this will help give you some melodies to start off with when you’re scatting.
For example one of the first melodies you likely learned was when you learned your ABCs. So theoretically you could use that same type of melody in a song of yours if you don’t mind sounding like a nursery rhyme.
This is exactly what Lil Yachty did in his song “1 Night”.
Also, this is the same really basic pattern I used earlier with the bar full of 8th notes. Small world huh?
4 Record your ideas
The next step to create catchy rap melodies is to do it in steps of iteration. Or in other words, your rap melody doesn’t always come fully to you at one time. A lot of times you get your rap melodies, especially for hooks, piece by piece.
As you come up with ideas, go ahead and record those ideas in your DAW if you think there’s some potential there. You may or may not end up using them, but you don’t want to lose them.
When I’m coming up with rap melodies I’m constantly recording ideas down and If I’m undecided about an idea I will just mute it for the time being and keep playing around with other ideas and see if I can beat it.
And then I’ll come back to it later to have a shootout between my initial idea and my newest idea. There have been many times when my first idea wins and I would have forgotten it if I had not recorded it!
So the moral of the story is, record your rough draft ideas so you don’t lose them!
5 Comp Your Vocals
And the 5th and final step to create catchy rap melodies is something known as vocal comping.
You know all of those rough draft ideas I just finished telling you to record?
Well, vocal comping is when you use pieces of multiple recordings together to make it sound like one complete piece.
So for example, let’s say you’re working on a 4 bar melody and you recorded each bar separately so that you have 4 different recordings
Not only that but you have 3 different ideas for each bar. So that’s a total of 12 recordings.
Vocal comping allows you to make a decision on which idea you like the best for each bar.
Now after you finish picking your favorite takes for each bar you may still wish to re-record just to focus on the quality of your recording and delivery to ensure everything sounds cohesive so that you can’t tell you recorded each bar separately.
I did a really cool video on how to do this called How To Punch In Vocals Like A Pro.
And just to clarify you don’t always have to record 1 bar at a time. I just used this as an extreme example. Record your ideas down as they come to you however long or short they may be and then you can piece them together and pick from your favorite recordings later.
When you’re trying to come up with catchy rap melodies the secret sauce is in scatting for however long it takes. Sometimes you may come up with the perfect melody within a couple of minutes. Sometimes you may be scatting for 30 minutes to an hour before you find out the perfect combination for a melodic rap hook.
Just try not to overthink the process. Find an instrumental that feels good with melodies and then stay out of your own way throughout the creative process and just zone out with scatting and expect awesome things to happen! And as they do record those ideas down so you don’t forget them and then you can comp your vocal records together later.
And I’m curious to know, are you someone who struggles to create catchy rap melodies and if so which one of the tips that I shared today do you think is going to help you the most?
And if you’re someone who’s really good at creating catchy rap melodies, do you have any tips I didn’t cover that you would like to share with the community? Please so do in the comments section below.