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The Best Way to Learn How to Rap (Step by Step Guide)

So you want to learn how to rap? Most people will give you advice that doesn’t really help: Practice more. But what does that mean? How do rappers practice? What to practice? Don’t worry, you’re in luck! I’ve done research on this topic and here are 7 steps to learn how to rap:

  1. Rap along with your favorite rap songs
  2. Learn to breathe between phrases
  3. Work on your diction
  4. Learn to count bars
  5. Write your own lyrics and freestyle
  6. Use tongue twisters
  7. Find your style and voice

Rap along with your favorite rap songs

One of the first things you should do is just listen to rap songs that you like. Make a playlist on Youtube, Spotify or the platform of your choice. Listen and rap along when you jog, during lunch, when you shower, and so on. Not only will it help you familiarize with the song structures and lyrics, you’ll also get used to the groove of rap songs.

Note that not all rap songs are in the same style. There are many different sub-genres in rap. When you’re starting out, you may want to just focus on a certain rap genre, may it be trap, gangster rap or alternative hip hop. This will avoid confusion and you’ll understand the details of that style in greater detail.

Learn to breathe between phrases

Just like singing, rapping requires good breathing techniques. You may be wondering, don’t we all breathe? Well, breathing in rap is a lot different than just our normal breathing.

Because of the way songs are written, the inherent rhythm of the lyrics may not be like the way we speak. And where there is a slight gap in the lyrics for breath intake, it may only be an extremely small gap. Therefore, you will have to learn how to take in the air fast, without making much noise and not feeling dizzy.

Depending on the rap genre, there may be multiple long sentences joined together. In that case, you may not be able to breathe after each sentence, as the natural phrases have been broken. What you’ll then have to do is decide beforehand where to breathe. I personally like to sit down with good ol’ pen and paper and write a slash just before the words to indicate those are the breathing points.

Work on your diction

If you have listened and sang along your favorite rap songs enough, you should have a good understanding on the choice of words those rappers use, as well as their pronunciation. Of course, you can have your own style, but when you’re just starting out it would be better to learn from the greats.

Do you need to expand your vocabulary? How about the choice of rhymes?

Eminem famously rhymed the word “orange”, which is said to be impossible to rhyme. One of the ways he did it was to pronounce “orange” and “hinges” in such a way that they rhyme. If you ask me, that’s brilliance! That’s why it’s important to study how these rappers use diction to their advantage.

Learn to count bars

Every modern rap song has a generally steady rhythm. And the way we know if we’re on beat is to count the bars. The most commonly used time signature is 4/4, which means that we count to 4 to make up a bar. If you’ve heard people counting from 1 to 4 just before starting to rap, they’re counting bars.

Once you understand bar counting, you will know where your position is in the song at all times. That makes it much easier to control the emotions you may want to convey to the listeners. Make sure when you’re rapping, you put the emphasis on the words that match the beat. That will amplify the rhythm of the beat and get the audience engaged.

Write your own lyrics and freestyle

Do you have a lot of song ideas? Now it’s time to write them down! Most prominent rappers are lyricists, and they have a great understanding on the effect of words on people. Lyrics are similar to poem, but not quite. Lyrics have an inherent rhythm in it, and they usually rhyme.

For beginners, just writing a paragraph of lyrics can be an extremely challenging task. However if you keep at it everyday, you’re almost guaranteed to get better, so don’t give up!

Once you get more and more comfortable with writing lyrics, you may find that there are rhymes that you particularly like. And over time, you’ll find yourself enjoying improvising with lyrics, without the need to write them all down. If so, congratulations! Your skills are well enough for you to freestyle!

If you’ve been listening to rap and following the rap scene, you probably already know what freestyle is. But what exactly is freestyle and how do you do it? The truth is, freestyle can only be done if you’ve done it enough. If freestyle interests you the most, you should start today!

Try to come up with a topic and start improvising. You may not be able to keep up with the beat at first, as you try to find words that not only match what you’re trying to say but also rhyme. But with enough practice, you’ll get good enough to engage in a rap battle with another rapper.

Use tongue twisters

Without enough practice, rappers sometimes find themselves having trouble pronouncing words in the lyrics clear while also keeping up with the rhythm. That’s where tongue twisters come in. Tongue twisters are a set of pre-written sentences designed to get you ready for difficult rap lyrics.

Here are some tongue twisters you may want to try out:

There was a fisherman named Fisher

who fished for some fish in a fissure.

Till a fish with a grin,

pulled the fisherman in.

Now they’re fishing the fissure for Fisher.

Round the rugged rocks, the ragged rascals ran.

Rosco the rum runner rubbed out Rudy the rat

for ruining his rum-running receipts.

Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.
The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
And made her batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter makes better batter.
So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter
Making Betty Botter’s bitter batter better

Find your style and voice

Every single rapper is unique, don’t let anyone tell you different. Once you’ve explored the different styles of rappers you like, it’s time to find your own style. But how do you do that? Most of the time, you already have your own style, and your task is to amplify it, and write rap lyrics that’s suitable to your style.

If you have trouble finding your style, try recording a few demos and get honest feedback from your audience. They may find some nuances they you didn’t know about! Write them down and try to add them in your next songs. A lot of rappers find it embarrassing because those characteristics may seem abnormal at first. But remember, those are the things that make you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t be just another rapper, be you! And your audience will know you better. Not just because of the meaningful lyrics you write, but also your personality.

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