When you’re learning how to rap it’s important to have a good grasp on what tempo is because it impacts you dramatically as a rapper! Within this article, I’m going to be explaining how tempo affects the length of your bars. As well as the top 4 ways it will impact you as a rapper! So without further ado…LET’S GET IT!!
First off you need to understand what tempo is. I’ve already done an in-depth video which not only explains what tempos it but also how you can detect tempo as well. Be sure to check it out here.
But to give you the short and skinny, Tempo is also known as BPM (Beats Per Minute). And every bar is made up of 4 beats. Beats are simply how we divide the bar up into 4 even sections.
One way I often describe tempo is it’s basically the heartbeat of the music.
Another helpful way to think of BPM is as music’s MPH (miles per hour). Because essentially Tempo (BPM) is a measurement of speed.
So for example, if you were to drive a mile down the road. The amount of time it took you to drive the entire mile will be determined by how fast you were going. So regardless if you were going 30mph or 60mph, the length of the mile never changes. What changes is the length of time it took you to drive the entire mile. Make sense?
The same is true when it comes to bars within music.
A bar is always 4 beats in length. If you want to get even nerdier, each beat is the length of one quarter note. So just like there are 4 quarters in a dollar, there are 4 quarter notes (beats) within 1 bar.
If you wish to get a deeper grasp on musical notes be sure to check out this video I did explaining it.
So again, rapping a bar is very similar to driving a mile in your car. The bar (mile) never changes it’s length however the tempo (Miles Per hour) which is your speed, determines how quickly you will be moving through each bar (mile). Make sense?
Check out the illustration I created below which demonstrates 4 different tempos which are 20 BPM’S apart from one another.
Notice at the slowest speed of 56 BPM, it takes 1 minute 08 seconds and 57 milliseconds to travel 16 bars in length.
But at the fastest speed of 116 BPM, it only takes 33 seconds and 10 milliseconds to travel the same distance of 16 bars in length.
They both are 16 bars in length however the difference in tempo determines how long it will take us to get through each bar.
How This Affects You
1. Song Structure
The tempo of a song can impact the length of your verses and hooks.
For example, if you’re rapping over a trap style instrumental that’s 56 BPM (normal time) then you will be traveling across your bars much slower.
The typical length of a verse is 16 bars but at the speed of 56 BPM, this is typically too long for a trap style instrumental. This is why producers reduce the length of verses to either 8 or 12 bars over slower instrumentals.
2. Structuring Lyrics
Also, if you’re rapping over a slower trap style instrumental you may want to structure your lyrics in double time. This is because you will be able to fit nearly twice as many words per bar and it will make it difficult to fit all of your lyrics on each line if you’re structuring your lyrics in normal time.
3. Rapping Speed
Also, people tend to rap faster over slower instrumentals. This is simply because you have more time within each bar to fit more syllables. On the flip side, the faster the instrumental is the slower you will typically rap because there is less time to rap during each bar.
4. Referencing Cadences
This is a big one! If you’re wanting to improve your flow then you need to be learning cadences from some of your favorite rappers! If you would like to see this demonstrated watch my video on creating cadences. But one thing you need to take into account is the difference in tempo between the song you’re referencing and the tempo of the instrumental you’re rapping over.
If the instrumental you’re rapping over is +20 BPM or higher than the song you’re referencing. Then your cadences may feel cramped and rushed and therefore you may want to remove a few notes from the cadences to make them fit better.
If the instrumental you’re rapping over is -20BPM or lower than the song you’re referencing then it may sound like your cadence is too drug out and slow. You may want to add a few notes to the cadences your referencing to fill in the bars a bit more.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of how tempo affects many aspects of rapping. Let me know in the comments section below if and how tempo has affected your rapping. I look forward to hearing from you!