If you have recently found yourself-entertaining the thought of learning how to rap then it’s crucial that you take your first steps carefully or you will likely find yourself waisting unnecessary time on things that don’t matter…yet! In this lesson, I will help you get your footing by first understanding the main thing you need to know when you’re getting started…BARS!!. LET’S GET IT!!
What Are Bars?
Bars are simply a way that music is measured. In fact, another term for a Bar is a “measure”. This makes it easier for us to communicate with others about the length of a section of the song such as a hook or a verse. If you wanted to collab with another artist and needed them to fill in a certain section of the song it’s much easier to say “I need 12 bars from you” as opposed to “I need you to fill in 1 minute and 23 seconds”.
How To Measure A Bar
You can measure a bar by dividing it up into 4 even sections which are called “Beats.” You can think of “Beats” as the “heartbeat” of the music. When you’re doing a strenuous workout and are moving very aggressively your heart rate will go up dramatically.
The same is true in music! The faster a song is the more beats there will be within 1 minute. This is called BPM or Beats Per Minute. Another term for this “speed” is called “tempo”. So the measurement of a bar will depend on the songs overall tempo. The higher the tempo his the short the bars will be and Vice Verse the slower the tempo, the longer the bars will be and consequently the fewer beats there will be per minute.
So again, the length of the bar is determined by the tempo of the song but regardless of how short or long the bars are, you can always divide the bars up into 4 even sections which are called the “Beats”.
In music, everything is built upon these “Beats”. You can think of the Beats as the foundation. Just like a house is only as secure as it’s foundation the same is true about the beats within each bar. If you’re not able to determine the beginning and ending of each bar you won’t be able to divide it into the 4 even sections which are the beats. And if you can’t identify the beats then nothing you do with your song is going to sound good.
This is why this is the most important thing you need to learn when you are first learning to rap. Most people focus on writing lyrics first because lyrics is what makes the most sense to us. We use words every single day! But rapping isn’t just lyrics. The reason that lyrics sound so good is because of the rhythm and cadences that are driving those lyrics. Here’s a good acronym to help you understand how rap works. R.A.P. “Rhythm And Poetry“. Without the rhythm, everything else falls apart!
Another way to determine the length of a bar is to listen carefully to the patterns in the music. Most of the music you will be rapping over is what is called “Loop Based“, which basically means that the song is made up different patterns that loop or repeat over and over again.
Throughout the course of the song different patterns will come and go, which is known as an arrangement. However, usually there’s a pattern that repeats throughout the entire song and it usually starts at the very beginning of the song.
So when you’re playing your instrumental pay very close attention to the first few notes so that you can identify once the pattern looks back around to the beginning. This will give you your start and endpoint of the bar. Now just divide that bar up into 4 even sections and you’ll be off to the races!
The 4 Steps To Rapping
So again if you’re just learning how to rap it starts with ear training so that you can ear the beginning and end of each bar so that you can identify the 4 beats. This is called Rhythm.
Now that you have Rhythm down pat it’s time to start learning cadences which is basically a rappers dance moves. It’s how we dance on and around the beats in a musical way.
03 Cadence to lyrics (songwriting)
Once you’ve learned some dope cadences now you are ready to start translating those cadences into lyrics. This is what is going to make your lyrics sound really dope and musical! You see lyrics is actually the 3rd step to learning how to rap but most people skip the first 2 steps and start here which is why some people who have been “rapping” for years still can’t rap on beat because they haven’t secured a solid foundation with the rhythmic ear training you get in step 01.
Finally, once you have nailed down your rhythm, cadence, and songwriting, it’s now time to present it with a strong emotional performance so that you move your listener in a deep and emotional way. This is the “acting” part of rapping. Delivery is all about your vocal performance! Your tone, attitude, energy and emotion!
LET’S GET IT!
Follow this guideline and you will avoid many of the unnecessary setbacks that I faced when I first started rapping 20 years ago! Remember a house is only as strong as it’s foundation! And your rhythm is the foundation you need to established to be a skilled rapper!
If this was helpful or you have any questions please let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!