Rap Music: Structure, Techniques & Tips

Discover the art of rap music in this lesson, from writing lyrics to song structure to creating the best rap song possible. Explore what you need to become a rap artist, writing songs and performing freestyle.
The Art of Rap Music
Imagine you want to be a rap artist. Can you ride the beat? Can you rhyme in rhythm? Do you have emotions and ideas you need to express? Can you make the song flow? Great rappers speak from the heart, repeat their message, and have the ability to rhyme, flow, and ride the beat.
Writing Rap Lyrics
Rap may be considered a form of poetry with rhythm and music, and the first step to rapping is getting your ideas written down, or brainstorming. When you brainstorm, you use your imagination and write down every idea, thought, and feeling that enters your mind. Your song lyrics can come from this brainstorming session. The sound of instruments and a beat might also give you ideas. Just remember to stay personal and write about you. As you write your song, you can organize these lyric ideas into a structure that contains a strong emotional drive and maintains a cohesive topic throughout.
In addition, you need to learn to count bars. Listening to instruments to find the musical pattern is the first step. Next, you cut the pattern into four equal parts to signify a bar. A bar is a measure of time in music, and in rap music a bar signifies a verse of the song within a 1, 2, 3, 4 count.
After determining the bars, you will be able to write your lyrics within the confines of a bar. Finding rap instrumentals online or picking a favorite rap song can help you learn how to identify bars.
The key elements to consider for rap songwriting are:
Embracing the feeling you are expressing, and writing down what is on your mind.
Adding to the lyric syncopation, or a type of rhythm, which stresses certain beats, often the weak beats, and then adjusting the lyrics accordingly.
Including a rhyme scheme into your lyrics, meaning you might change words at the end of sentences to facilitate the rhyme.
Creating a structure for the song, and inserting lines if necessary to maintain that structure.
Structure of a Rap Song
Rap songs have structures appropriate to each song and are built with different components, including the verse, chorus, intro/outro, after/before chorus, and the bridge.
Verse: The verse is the primary part of the song where the rapping occurs and where the artist makes his point. The duration is usually 16 bars (4 quatrains to the verse, 3 verses to the song), but the verse may last 8 bars, 12 bars, or 24 bars.
Chorus: The chorus sums up the main idea of the song, and is usually repeated to help listeners remember the song. Choruses are catchy to the ear and are often called hooks because they hook the listener’s attention. The length of a chorus is typically 4 to 8 bars, 1 quatrain repeated two times.
Intro/outro: The intro and outro are commonly 8 bars and go right before the song starts or ends. They support the song’s significance, but they are optional and not always included. Intros/outros can use speech and other sounds in addition to rapping and music.
After/before chorus: The after/before chorus lasts about 4 lines and reinforces the catchiness of the chorus. The after/before chorus is simple and repetitive, which is a great device to keep the song in your head.
Bridge: The bridge is a section that falls between two choruses towards the end of the song. The bridge sounds different than the verse and the chorus, adding interest to the song.
The most common specific structures are as follows:
Standard Structure: Verse(16)-Chorus(8)-Verse(16)-Chorus(8)-Verse(16)-Chorus(8)
Pop Structure: Before Chorus(4)-Chorus(8)-Verse(8)-Before Chorus(4)-Chorus(8)-After Chorus(4)-Verse(8)-Before Chorus(4)-Chorus(8)-After Chorus(4)-Bridge(8)-Before Chorus(4)-Chorus(8)-After Chorus(4)
Storytelling Structure: Verse(24)-Chorus(4)-Verse(24)-Chorus(4)-Verse(24)-Chorus(4)
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