Why Counting Your Rap Lyrics Syllables Isn’t Accurate



counting rap lyrics syllables

In this article, I’m going to share some advice that will help you the next time you’re trying to get your rap lyrics to fit within your bars properly.


Counting Syllables

I often get asked a question that goes a little something like this. “Cole, how many syllables should my rap lyrics have per bar?”

Pretty straight forward right? I usually respond with saying that 11-14 syllables are a good generic syllable count to shoot for.

The reason being is because rappers typically rap using 16th notes for the majority of the time while occasionally using 8th and 32nd notes. So even if you were to use fourteen 16th notes you would still have two 16th notes or one 8th note of flex space to either breathe or sustain a syllable. Check out this lesson for an in-depth look at musical notes.counting rap lyrics syllables 01


WARNING About Counting Your Rap Lyrics Syllables

But here’s a quick warning! Counting your rap lyrics syllables aren’t a precise way to determine how much space they will take up within the bar. Here’s why…

The number of syllables you will need per bar will be determined by several factors. Two of which are…

-The tempo of the instrumental that you’re writing too

-And the cadence that you’re going for


Tempo

The slower the tempo of the song is the more space there will be to fill in each bar. This is why faster rappers typically pick slower beats to rap too because they have more room to fit all of those rap lyrics within each bar.

If you would like to see me demonstrate how this works then make sure you check out this video on picking which rap beats to flow on.


More Factors

But there are two more factors that play a role in how many syllables you will use per bar and I already mentioned them!

– The first one is pauses and breathes. These technically take up space in the bar and you gotta take a pause for the cause at some point! I recommend taking a breathe every one to two bars.
– The second not so obvious factor is how long your syllables are held or sustained.


Inequality

You see all syllables aren’t created equal. For example, say “YO” and then say “TASK” out loud. Even though both words are only one syllable it takes you longer to say the word Task than Yo. This is because certain words or syllables require more space in order to be enunciated properly. This is precisely why counting syllables isn’t an accurate form of measuring your rap lyrics! It’s not to say it’s not a good general measurement because it certainly is it’s just not 100% accurate.


Delivery

As you’re filling in your bars with syllables make sure you’re giving yourself enough space to say everything clear and comfortably. It’s easy to be tempted to overload your bars with too many syllables to show off how skilled you are. But be careful because this can negatively impact the quality of your vocal delivery due to you running out of breath and slurring your words.


Bonus Tip!

Also don’t feel obligated to cram a complete thought within one bar. You typically have 16 bars within a verse so don’t be scared to use several bars to get a particular point of yours across.

If you would like to see examples of how all of these factors play a role when trying to find that balance between your lyrics and your cadence then make sure you check out my video lesson on translating cadences to lyrics.

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions let me know by sounding off in the comments section below. I hope this helps you Be A Better Rapper Now!

  • Very informative ,i like the bar sheet concept also ,although i found it a bit tricky to actually type any kind of text onto the template .i only tried adobe though

    • Thanks for the feedback Dubble Dee. I’m glad you enjoyed this article! Yes with the Bar Sheets you may want to try opening it in a different word processor program. If need be you can also convert it to other file formats using one of the many free online converters. If you still have trouble with it let me know. Thanks! 🙂 – Cole Mize

  • One sheep, two sheep. Love the Sesame Street theme lol. Good stuff as always brotha. Most of the times when I rap a bar I don’t feel like I have to take a breath, not until till the 3rd or 4th bar. It’s hard for me to get used to taking breaths on the 1st or 2nd bar. Especially when my bars are consecutively. Any tips?

    • Hey Joseph, if you’re not having any issues with losing energy in your vocals due to a lack of air then I wouldn’t worry about it. Sometimes I go for 4 bars without breathing every now and then but then I make sure I give myself plenty of room to recover afterward. But the key to breathing is you don’t want to have to wait until you have to take a breathe to take one because you want to preserve the energy in your vocals because the less air you have the more your vocal quality can be compromised.

      Just do what feels best. If you’re wanting to practice taking more breaths start creating breathing patterns and notate them in your lyrics such as (B). Maybe you take a breath on every other bar after the 4th beat. And then after 4 bars you switch up your cadence and start taking a breathe on the 1st beat of every other bar etc.. If you haven’t already feel free to check out my lesson on Breathing Techniques, I hope this helps.

  • Really great article as always Cole! Can I ask will there be any future article on rapping fast? I know this is quite the contrary to what you have wrote in the article, but I feel that I am really limited. Most of the rappers I listen to can rap double time with ease, while I am only rapping to the 16th but the rap sounds really slow. Hope you will reply! Thanks for reading!

    • Hey Xterior, one tip is if you’re wanting to rap fast make sure you pick an instrumental that’s a slower tempo. The tempo of a track greatly affects how you rap on it. If you haven’t already make sure you check out my lesson on picking out beats. I hope this helps 🙂 – Cole Mize

  • Funnily enough I got my syllable counting skills from my OCD. I use to spell out words in the air with my fingers when I was younger. More recently the obsession turned into counting syllables with my fingers, I do it with everything (but mostly lyrics) this article actually made me look out for breathing gaps too and maybe count them as syllables just for reference. Thanks.

  • Hey yo Cole, I don’t normally leave comments on videos and articles and such, but I just wanted to say I think you are a real stand up dude. I think it’s awesome that you are so positive and have made your lessons and advices so easily accessible and not loaded with pyramid schemes and greed. I took a minute to check you out and it turns out the one dude on the internet I’ve learned the most from, on this whole rap education thing, happens to practically be my neighbor. I stay in Douglasville, GA just across the city from you. Once I have prepared some content, if it’s something you offer, I believe I would like to come to you to record.

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