Rap Advice on Improving Delivery and Sound Quality

  Looking for quick ways to improve your raps?
Below are 21 helpful rap tips, secrets, pointers and excercizes for crystal clear delivery and recording...

1) Keep a small spiral-bound notebook on hand at all times.
You cannot afford to lose ideas for songs, rhymes, inspiration, etc…Sometimes a few scribbles can inspire an entire song…you don’t want to lose these notes. Some emcees even carry mini recorders, but a pocket-sized notebook should be enough.

Note: A lot of people for one reason or another have trouble with their delivery. The problems people have with flow range from stuttering, to mumbling to rhythm problems and everywhere in between. Consider tips two through six (2-6) if you’re trying to improve your delivery.

2) Do you have trouble with enunciation? Do people say you tend to mumble or mush words together?
Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of people. Try this. Put a pencil in your mouth horizontally, bite and hold it with your teeth (molars) and speak as fast as you can. You’ll sound silly, yes, but this technique trains your tongue to be more nimble and has been shown to help people who have problems enunciating. Do it for 5 or 10 minutes a day (or more if you wish) and watch your pronunciation problems slowly fade.

3) Another way to help your enunciation is to practice reading slowly while OVER enunciating, especially the consonants (C,P,B,S,T, etc.) Slowly build up speed while maintaining the over enunciation.

4) Practice tongue twisters, especially those with S’s or B’s. (i.e. Sally sold seashells by the seashore)

5) Say “abadee” (ah-baa-dee) fast and continuously, remember to have clear and clean breaks between syllables. This trains you to clearly pronounce every syllable when rhyming fast.

6) Practice opening your mouth to an exaggerated degree when speaking, in order to articulate syllables and words better. This may look funny but it helps tremendously and the faster and more natural your speech becomes, the less likely what you are doing will even be noticeable.

7) Trouble staying on beat or keeping a rhythm?
Speak to very rhythmical music, “Mary had a little lamb” or “Twinkle, Twinkle little star” are simple songs that work well, but you can mix it up. Don't worry about rhyming when doing this. The goal is to get yourself used to flowing to a beat or to improve your rhythm. If the end of a bar ends up chopping your thought in half, so be it. Start the next bar with the remaining half of the thought and move along.

Example: (in the melody of “Mary had a little lamb”)

If the end of a bar ends
Up chop-ping
Your thought in
Half so be it start the next
Bar with the re-main-ing…

8) Voice too quiet?
Some people, especially new MC’s find it hard to speak loudly and clearly at the same time. To fix this, practice reading out loud…as loud as you can. It might annoy your roommates or parents but this skill is without a doubt NECESSARY for rocking a mic AND recording in a studio (or at home). This will also force you to improve your breath control. You should rhyme loudly into the mic not only when expressing strong emotion or commanding attention, but at all times for optimal sound quality.

9) Write to a beat.
Everyone has their own style, but having a beat to listen to can set a mood, which can help to order your thoughts and make coming up with lyrics easier.

10) Beginners: consider using existing instrumentals.
Unless your goal is to be a producer, don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to create beats at first. However, an advantage of being a rapper AND a skilled producer is that it makes you a more well-rounded artist, but that is not to say that you have to take on this task all at once. Choose one at a time to keep from being overwhelmed.

11) Think fast and write fast.
Just start writing, if you hit a wall, set the rhyme aside and start a new one, keep it moving and keep everything in a rhyme book. Later on you can link bits and pieces from your rhyme book here and there when you think that they fit in well with any songs or ideas you have.

Don’t overanalyze a rhyme - just jot it down. If it needs adjusting later, you’ll likely figure out how to get it just right when it comes time to actually use it. Lots of rappers such as B.I.G. and Jay-Z would have so many rhymes in their heads that they would many times go into the booth and drop a verse that they have never written down…essentially freestyling.

12) Memorize, don’t read your rhymes when recording.
The difference is noticeable to any listener. “Readers” sound more rigid. Memorized rhymes come off smoother and more natural.

13) Drink water, not milk before recording.
Dairy products coat vocal chords causing more slips and stumbles and limiting the maximum speed at which you can flow.

14) Don’t use Windows Sound Recorder.
Since it comes free with most PC’s, sticking with it is tempting – it is not recommended. Sound Recorder has very limited options/features and may frustrate and discourage new artists.

15) Record in the dark.
When recording at home record in a dimly lit area away from the computer (the PC fan can interfere with sound quality). Certain lights (such as fluorescent lights) cause electrical interference in the environment that leads to a humming sound appearing in your vocals. Therefore try and turn off lights if possible.

16) Use headphones.
Using headphones when recording is CRUCIAL to staying on beat. Playing the beat in the background through speakers is not good enough. It not only messes up your vocals’ quality, but also when it comes time to mixing your vocals, the faint beat in the background will make it difficult. Never record a verse without hearing the beat it’s going over, the resulting sound tends to sound offbeat and amateurish.

17) Add light reverb.
Adding a light reverb to your audio through your sound editor software produces a fuller, more professional sound. You might also want to double your vocals and play the backing vocal no more than 35 milliseconds after the lead vocal. This gives a bigger, fuller sound.

18) Don’t lose hunger and write every day.
Don’t let negative feedback discourage you. Let it motivate you to get better. Remember, you also have a helping community (TheStateofHipHop.com) dedicated to your improvement, behind you in your favor.

Writing 16 bars a day would mean hundreds of verses a year…after time you will notice a vast improvement guaranteed. Remember, no one starts out great…what separates a successful MC and one who never made it is persistence and dedication.

19) Take a break from hip-hop…relax and listen to other music.
Andre3000 was inspired by The Ramones, Tonedeff is an admirer of Tori Amos, its been said that Tupac’s favorite song was the theme from Les Miserables…for you it may be Coldplay, Al Green, Latin music or the classical works of Fryderyk Chopin that’s inspiring.

Listening to different types of music can also help when, for example, you may want to reproduce the sense of despair (or any other feel) of a certain song, in your track.

20) Freestyle now and again.
Whether it’s in a battle, a cypher or on your own – freestyle. Freestyling helps to keep your mind sharp and fast, two things you need when coming up with lyrics quickly. So the more you freestyle, the faster and better you will come up with “writtens”…the more stuff you have written down (and floating around in your head) the better your freestyling will get…and on and on…this is a good cycle to fall into.

21) Become an expert in hip-hop.
This is probably the most important tip, partly because it is so wide a category and partly because it usually takes years of experience to acquire all you need to know to be an expert.

You should master flow, rhyme structure, the principles of poetry, know who your audience is, know the ins and outs of the music industry, hip-hop history, master rythm, develop a quick wit, etc…The more you know, the faster and more accurately you’ll know if you’re good and why; what to improve on and how...

On the bright side - that is exactly what we're here for.

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