Question: Is there any term for the singing style of saying a lot of words very fast in a verse, as if you tried to squeeze what are clearly too many words in that verse? Is it just called rapping? It seems it could be something more specific than that.

Example: Jerusalem by Dan Bern

Specifically from about 1:05 when he says "... all the way to India..." and then the does it several more times


2 Answers 2


While there is not a term that I know of that specifically refers to singing "too fast" (apart from saying that someone is out of time), composers refer to how text is set as prosody. If someone clearly puts too many words into a given line, we would say that their prosody is poor or under-developed.

It is not rapping as rapping is not a sung style. The closest possible approximation would be recitative technique used by vocalists / composers in operatic and musical theater contexts in which performs sing-speak over repeated accompaniment.

Most of the rhythmic divisions used by the artist in the example are duple divisions, in other words, he is subdividing by powers of two in order to make the words fit in the appropriate time. He is not changing tempo or meter. His phrasing is sometimes stressed over the barline, and some syncopation results.

But by and large, when speaking about his delivery and use / treatment of the text, you would use "prosody" to describe what you mean.

  • @RockinCowboy Please refrain from patronizing me by attempting to educate me about my profession - I am a professional composer and musician. Using your logic, the vocal line must be impossible to transcribe and have no balance. ^Hint: anyone could transcribe this and write it down^ In fact, in the first 50 seconds of the song, you can clearly hear several instances of evenly-spaced phrase relationships with antecedents and consequents. Yes there is syncopation and subdivision, but the phrasing is clearly in 4/4 time, surely you must see that. You need to revisit your concept of prosody. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 2:35
  • @ jjmusicnotes. I attempted to provide an answer to the question when there were no other answers and it did not appear anyone was going to offer any suggestions or thoughts. My answer was based on my experience as a singer songwriter. I respectfully defer to your superior knowledge of the subject based on your experience as a professional composer. Had your answer been posted prior to mine, I would not have taken a stab at it. In the future, if I comment on one of your comments, my purpose is to learn from you as you seem to be very knowledgeable. I'm new 2 Stack Exchange so plz forgive. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 8:51
  • @RockinCowboy No worries; your enthusiasm for helping other people is great. I get a little too snappy sometimes. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 13:00

Patter song is the term you are looking for.

The patter song is characterised by a moderately fast to very fast tempo with a rapid succession of rhythmic patterns in which each syllable of text corresponds to one note. (Wikipedia)

For example, here's a famous patter song from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance":

And here is an equally famous patter parody of said patter song:


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