The only example I've seen so far is The Rapper's Flow Encyclopedia, which uses standard musical notation with phrasing to indicate cadence, and lyric capitalization to indicate (but not group) rhymes. [Migrated from musicfans SE.]

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    Rap is an incredibly new genre / art form, and in my experience researching and teaching the subject, there aren't the analytical theoretical tools yet to analyze the subtleties of the music. Such is the same for beat-boxing as well. Apart from being so new, Rap unfortunately has yet to be picked up / legitimized by people who have the knowledge / resources to develop theoretical systems (see: stuffy academics). Until "learned" musicians start using it, until composers start writing it, teachers have no reason to teach it; theorists have no reason to analyze it. Looking forward other views. Jun 16, 2015 at 14:01
  • @jjmusicnotes: New? I kinda suspect rhythmic chanting is the oldest technique/genre in the world, only the word MCing is new. Jun 16, 2015 at 16:07
  • OP: Why would you want a "notation system" to indicate alliteration and rhymes? If you really need to point out that something rhymes with something else just get a big marker and draw a line under it. Normally whoever reads your lyrics and/or musical transcription doesn't need any help in understanding that "company" rhymes with... er, "Serengeti" (blame that one on David Paich). Jun 16, 2015 at 16:11
  • @SomeDudeOnTheInterwebs Rhyming structures in raps can be far more intricate than in most songs (Sondheim included). See for example the notation of rhymes and half-rhymes for "Lose Yourself" in the example posted. The lyrics are so dense with structure, that it's difficult to see what matches with what.
    – Uri Granta
    Jun 16, 2015 at 16:25
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    @SomeDudeOnTheInterwebs What you're referring to is monody, which isn't rap. Rap is an interesting mixture of homophony and polyphony and it is markedly different from plainchant, art song, motet, aria, chanson, oratorio, and other vocal styles from throughout history. The closest approximation I know would be recitative from the operatic tradition, but even that is only 600 years old. If you know of a historical vocal style that sounds distinctly similar to rap, then I am interested for you to enlighten us. Jun 16, 2015 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


Rap verses can be conveniently notated in the usual way.

Proof (you might want to right-click and zoom in):

Wannabe by the Spice Girls

  • You're right in that they can be transcribed with traditional notation, but I believe the question had more to do with analysis than notation. Jun 17, 2015 at 5:39
  • @jjmusicnotes: question says "notation systems", though... Jun 17, 2015 at 6:15
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    Precisely, the question is asking about specific notation systems, not about how to notate elements of Rap. Asking about notation systems indicates interest in analysis, not notation itself. No one here is saying that you cannot notate Rap with traditional symbols, but rather trying to explore what frameworks are available for analyzing the content within the music. Because Rap doesn't primarily utilize pitch, it would make sense then that music analysts need to develop systems for analyzing lexical intricacies of the text. Jun 17, 2015 at 14:22

I know little about rap. But just from pure logic and having played music...

There are only 2 musical notation systems - standard notation and piano roll notation. There's no melody involved in most rap (which I just don't get, but that's beside the point).

Either system will work perfectly well.

Rap is just music. Use whatever music notation you like. Or none like I suspect a lot of rappers do.

Once it's recorded, slow it down and pick out the rhythm. It's much easier than trying to pick out rhythm, bass, melody, and chords. A recording of rap is very close to notation.

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    This is actually incorrect, there are more than two systems of notation. One must not forget graphic notation, indeterminate notation, stochastic / aleatoric notation, and of course non-"traditional" means of notation: lines in the sand, paint on canvas, jelly beans on a counter. I can convey musical information through almost any means, so really, there are an almost unlimited number of notation systems. Regarding piano roll, it should be noted that that type of notation is specific to computer playback. I am not aware of professional musicians using such notation for performance. Jun 17, 2015 at 14:28
  • ok, ok. Two notations in wide use. And I've seen many musicians who use piano roll notation to learn songs and communicate. I'm working on a way to use it for performance as well pianocheetah.com/tutorial/img/screen2.png basically take piano roll and use all of standard notation's good ideas in this format. Eh, we're way off topic. Jun 17, 2015 at 15:35

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