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I am working on a drum 'n' bass song, and I'm planning on rapping for a few measures for effect. I'm terrible at singing and, since I write electronic music, have rarely recorded any samples that I later put into a song. So I have three questions:

  1. How can I control my voice so that my rap is articulate and easy to understand?
  2. What can I do stylistically to make my voice sound better? I haven't listened to much rap, so what kinds of sounds are usually considered enjoyable and how can I achieve them? Are there any songs I should listen to to get a good idea of what to do?
  3. How should I record my voice? I have access to high-quality microphones.

In case you're interested, here are the lyrics. The song I'm writing is at 196 bpm, and I'm planning on rapping a line per measure at 98 bpm (in half time):

We've got a ticket to ride
A ticket to fast
Coming in second's
No better than last

A hundred miles
Above the ground
Moving a thousand times
The speed of sound

A million people watching
Taking bets, naming names
Guessing which one of us
Will win this wild game

And we're all driven by
The same intense thirst
But I already know
I'm gonna be first

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I'm not sure I fully understand your question. For number 1, if you enunciate, your words will be clear(current rap seems to prefer making all the words unintelligible though) For number 2, do you mean tone, effects, something else? For number 3, if you have great mics, use them! –  ecline6 Apr 12 '13 at 20:38
    
Don't underestimate the power of Spoken Word. Eg. this Classic from Orson Welles with the Ray Charles Singers. Or that Gorillaz song with Dennis Hopper. –  luser droog Apr 14 '13 at 10:05
1  
This is really three separate questions. Point 3 is off-topic here, but would be fine at Audio Video Production. They'd (correctly, IMO) ask for more detail. –  neilfein Apr 15 '13 at 3:12
    
@neilfin - point 3 isn't relaly off topic is it ? People ask about how to record drums all the time here. Also the link to "Audio Video" is just about Video. –  user2808054 Sep 26 at 8:49
    
@user2808054 Video.SE used to be a combined visual and audio site. It split into two sites since I asked my question. Just FYI. I appreciate your other point, though! =) –  Kevin Sep 26 at 16:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. It is not so much a matter of controlling your voice, but your ability to clearly articulate consonants and vowels. This is largely controlled by your tongue's dexterity. If you are rapping quickly, you will need to work on articulation at fast tempi. Tongue twisters are a great way for developing agility.

    Also, know your text so well that it is reflexive. By being so intimate with it, you will not be concentrating on pronouncing the words, and instead be focusing on expressing the meaning that you are trying to convey.

  2. You have answered your own question by asking it. Any composer worth their weight in salt will tell you that if you looking for sounds to emulate, you MUST listen to music above all else — the sound will take care of itself. If you want to know what's popular / enjoyable, follow the sounds that you find enjoyable and make your own sounds from those.

  3. The microphone should be placed at your mouth, approximately the distance from you thumb-to-pinkie extended away from your mouth. (Make a hand turkey with your thumb on your lips, and the microphone should touch your pinkie.)

    Also, I would recommend a pop filter.

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Check that if you rap it without any rhythm/instruments in the background, you can at least pick up a rhythm from the syllables in the lyrics - ie that they imply a rhythm, or work with an implied one.

This depends on how it scans with the music, I guess. I don't think it's easy/possible to lay down rules about what works.

Rap with gaps between the lines starts to sound like you're pausing waiting to say the next line.

However this is quite subjective - it's just an indication of what soulds good to me. Maybe it's worth trying it out on a few people to get an opinon?

Example of a terrible (to my ears) rap (2:30) :

  • emphasis on the syllables (rhythm of the rapped words) is the same every line so it gets dull sounding quite quickly
  • rhythm of the rap doesn't really fit the song
  • on several lines the "conclusion" of the line is halfway through and the empasis is on some unimportant word (eg 'three lions ON my chest')
  • no real guts or mojo. (sorry John Barnes .. )

A much better rap (though I bet some rap enthusiasts will comment "that's awful, try this ..") - fair enough, it's subjective.

  • varied in rhythm
  • varies between 16-beat and 8-beat syllables
  • scans well and works with the rhythm of the song (which is more like the bpm you're going for)
  • not sure about the stuttery bit though lol
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You, I believe, are talking about "Breath Control". In short, some things you can do are to pay attention to the pitch of your voice while rapping. Monotone is bad- almost EVERY rapper varies his pitch from syllable to syllable (or word).

Vary your timing when rapping not according to the the words you are saying but either in response to the timing of the beat you are rapping to or in a set pattern. For example, switching back and forth from grouping syllables in twos and threes almost always helps. (Ex. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah)

Practice rapping on an intake of breath as well as an exhale.

Have the beat (and/or vocal melody) before the words and write the words TO the music, not vice versa

Hope this helps

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