I'd like to provide context first:

I'm currently pursuing a thesis project that uses a stylistic approach to rap music. I want to be able to prove that dividing rap bars by the (usually) four beats in a meter and then comparing a segment of words in between two beats (let's call them beat units) to another beat unit from the same/different bar uncovers deeper meaning via parallelism or contrast.

The thing is, with today's rap being by no means monotonous (or rather, mono-speed), I personally have a difficulty distinguishing just where the beat lands on a certain bar. I'd like to elicit suggestions that might facilitate this manual process. Is there any software, or even strategy, that could make it easier for me to determine where the beat lands on a certain lyrical meter?

EDIT: Title grammar

  • 1
    Examples of where the problem is would help us.
    – Tim
    Mar 13, 2018 at 6:48
  • From the problem description, I can only tell you that beats land on beats. Like, always. Mar 18, 2018 at 3:13
  • Like Lawrence suggests below, a better knowledge of your musical skill and why the "write the word you tap your foot on" doesn't work well for you. Sounds like an interesting thesis.
    – Josiah
    Oct 17, 2018 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


Rap specialises in cross-rhythms over a constant (usually, as you say 4/4) beat. There IS 'beat-detection' software, the advanced sequencer programs such as Cubase offer this function. If you already have such a program, give it a try. But it shouldn't be too hard to tap your foot to the underlying beat of a rap song. Your problem is in notating the complex cross-rhythms that rappers delight in! May we assume you have the basic musical skills for this job - familiarity with rhythmic notation and some facility in what music courses call 'aural tests' or 'musicianship'?

It's going to be difficult to address this without mentioning specific software. My favourite is Transcribe! You can slow the track down, add bar and beat markers, loop any section etc. Nothing that you couldn't do in any DAW program, but all the tools for transcribing music collected in one convenient and inexpensive program.

You'll doubtless be able to detect and label sequence, fragmentation, diminution, augmentation etc. Good luck in finding any deep meaning in it!


If it were me, I think I'd do a slow playback (programs like Audacity, Amazing Slowdowner, etc) so it's easier to keep a beat and hear where things fall.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.