There are a lot of underlying details in rap music that can make or break a rapper’s performance. One of the most talked-about is flow.
Flow in rap simply refers to how well the words within the lyrics tie to each other and to the beat when it comes to cadence and rhythm.
It is essential to develop this skill, especially if you want to rap fast and have your performance sounding clear and concise.
Today, we bring you a few tips on how to flow in rap and discuss what are the skill areas you should work on to improve your abilities, as well as a list of routine rap flow exercises.
Tip: if you’re on your first steps in the rap world, we suggest that you check out our How to Rap article beforehand.
What is Flow in Rap?
To begin with, we should answer the question most beginners have regarding the subject, that is what exactly is rap flow.
Flow is a popular term used in the rap/hip hop world that signifies how smooth and fluent the rapper performs to the beat/instrumental. In a rap performance, each word must fit over the rhythm of a rap beat.
There are a lot of factors that will sum up to decide if a rapper’s flow is good or not, such as cadence, division of the syllables, speed, and clearness of the performance.
Unarguably, the first thing any rapper should learn to have a great flow is to count each bar of the song and all the metrics and divisions related to music.
Follow the post to learn 16 tips on how to flow in rap and some important information to help you as an artist.
16 Rap Flow Tips
Here are 16 easy-to-follow tips to help you improve your flow, as well as your rapping skills in general.
- Flow Is Not a Natural Talent
- Practice Freestyle Rapping
- Write a Lot
- Start Slow and Build Up Overtime
- Learn About Musical Divisions and Metrics
- Be Aware of Syllable Division
- Record Yourself Rapping Frequently
- Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
- Plan Your Breaths Beforehand
- Breathing Technique
- The Right Posture
- Find Your Own Style
- Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative
- Be Adaptive
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Watch Live Rap Performances
#1 Flow Is Not a Natural Talent
It may seem to a lot of people that having flow in rap is an inborn kind of talent. In reality, just like any other skill in music, it’s all about practice and having the right technique. Sure, it may take time to get to the level of A-list rappers, but with the proper mindset and practice routine, it is totally possible.
#2 Practice Freestyle Rapping
Apart from developing your rap flow, practicing freestyle rapping can make you better ready for situations where you have to think fast in order not to ruin the whole performance. Most famous rappers can freestyle.
You can find a lot of type beats to rap to on YouTube. If you wanna go an extra step, record your freestyle rapping sessions so you can hear yourself more precisely and be aware of the areas where you need to improve and, who knows, end up with a song idea.
#3 Write a Lot
A rapper not only lives from freestyling, but also from developing his/her language skills and vocabulary frequently. Always have a notebook or note app ready so you can write a verse or two when the creativity strikes. The practice of being an avid writer will have a very positive effect on your rap flow.
Tip: for some great tips on how to write effective punchlines, check out our How to Write Rap Punchlines guide.
#4 Start Slow and Build Up Overtime
After we listen to Eminem’s Rap God, it may be tempting to go on and try to rap at an absurd speed, only to find out that the words come out very badly and end up frustrated. We’ve all been there.
The best strategy to improve your rap flow is to start with simpler and slower lines and build up overtime. Try, for example, freestyling to a metronome and increasing the tempo by 5 BPM each day or when you feel ready. You will be amazed by how better your skills will be after a week.
Also, when you’re picking your first beats to write to, stay at the slower side and pick a beat that you feel comfortable working with.
#5 Learn About Musical Divisions and Metrics
Every rap song has a beat division/metric to it. The next time you listen to music, try tapping your feet along with the drum beat: you will notice that we have a natural instinct towards rhythm and patterns.
With that being said, you can use these divisions to fit your lyrics into the beat. Pay special attention to how the syllables interact with the bars and the cadence of the song. That is one of the first steps to ensure you have a good rap flow in your track.
#6 Be Aware of Syllable Division
The most important metric on rap lyrics is the syllable division. As said before, the syllables need to tie to the beat perfectly in order for a rap flow and its cadence to work with each bar of the song.
A great rule of thumb is writing a punchline to a beat and counting how many syllables it has. Then, you can write the next verses using the same number of syllables. This is a technique widely used, especially in pop music.
Take it with a grain of salt though: every song and every beat is different, you have to train your way with words and figure out the cadence by yourself to achieve great results.
#7 Record Yourself Rapping Frequently
Recording yourself rapping some freestyle lyrics or popular rap songs is one the best ways to analyze your rap flow and skill with words and see where you need to improve. You can do this with your phone recorder or in your DAW software, if you use one.
Keep these recordings stored somewhere so you can check how much you’ve progressed later in the future.
#8 Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
Playing a musical instrument is an excellent and fun way to develop your rhythmic/melodic abilities, and it will definitely ome in handy in the future for writing and creating your own songs as a rapper.
We recommend that you learn to play at least one musical instrument of your choice. It can be drums, keyboard, guitar or whatever you like. What matters the most is that you put a lot of practice into it.
#9 Plan Your Breaths Beforehand
Calculating the exact time windows you have to breathe before you start rapping is very useful. In fact, your breathing technique can make or break your performance so it is a very common practice among rappers to write them with the lyrics.
Since in most studio recordings the breaths are edited-out of the vocals, we recommend that you watch a lot of live rap performances to learn how the pros manage to keep the rap flow and speed while taking short pauses to breathe.
#10 Breathing Technique
Another important factor is the breathing technique. It is recommended that singers and rappers breath from their diaphragm while they’re performing. This will not only ensure you a better tone and sound but also will allow you to rap for longer before you run out of breath.
The diaphragm is a muscle that is located right below your chest. Most of us are used to breath shallowly throughout the day. The first couple of times you try to breathe through your diaphragm, you will see that your stomach expands a little bit.
Here is an excellent video regarding the subject that will help you ace the technique:
#11 The Right Posture
If you sing with the wrong posture, with a hunchback, or have your head leaning too forward, your vocal cords and lungs may get slightly compressed and it will have a negative effect on your tone and rap flow. That’s why you gotta try your best to keep a straight back while performing.
We recommend you make it a habit in your routine to pay attention to your posture. It will not only help with rapping but improve your health and life quality in general.
#12 Find Your Own Style
What is considered to sound good in one style may not fit another. That’s why you gotta keep in mind that there are no hard rules in music. We suggest that you listen to a lot of different rappers and mold your own style by taking different references to build your flow.
#13 Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative
Not every line needs to be perfectly tied to the rhythm of a rap song. In fact, it is good if you occasionally try to switch things up to create unexpected changes in your track that will keep your listeners from getting bored.
Try, for example, singing a few words off-tempo/bar. If you do use that technique, keep it to a minimum and spaced across the beat: less is more in that case. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to get creative – if it sounds good it sounds good.
#14 Be Adaptive
If you listen to any rap song, chances are a word or two is changed and/or adapted to fit into the rhythm while keeping the lyrics meaningful. Doing this is totally fine and can improve your performance a lot.
#15 Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you feel like you’re in a plateau when it comes to improving your rap flow, switch things up and try to learn singing a new genre, for example. While it will have an indirect positive effect on your flow in rap, it can be a pleasurable and fun experience and you freshen your ears up a little bit.
#16 Watch Live Rap Performances
Last but not least, make sure you watch a lot of live rap performances on YouTube. Studio versions of songs may sometimes have a lot of edited vocals, as opposed to a live situation, where you will often see the rapper perform a less embellished version of the song. Try to notice and hear every nuance of the performance and how the vocal flows with the beat.
Practice Routine for Improving Rap Flow
Now that we’ve covered a few tips on how to have a better flow in rap, we’ve also learned that there is nothing like having a proper routine to improve your skills. Here are some of the best ways to build confidence in your rap flow.
- Do some freestyling often.
- Practice rapping to your favorite songs and beats.
- Listen to a lot of rap music, especially live performances where everything is mostly unedited to learn from the pros.
- Keep an eye on your posture throughout the day.
- Get comfortable with breathing from your diaphragm.
- Learn to play a musical instrument in your free time.
- Write a lot of lyrics and punchlines. Writing can not only have a positive effect on your way with words but also on your rap flow.
- Learn to count bars. It is a simple but essential ability.
- Learn basic music theory and every metric and division related to it.
- Record yourself rapping and store the recording somewhere so you can check how much your rap flow has improved in the future.
Tip: if you’re looking for professional guidance, our Best Online Rap Classes may come in handy.
Today, we’ve learned a few tips on how to flow in rap, as well as the best actions you can take to build your rap flow and routinely keep your skills in check.
Developing a flow as good as an A-list rapper can take quite some time, but it is important that you stay focused and make it a habit to always push yourself further. The most important thing here is consistency.
To sum up, we suggest you do a lot of freestyling, learn about musical metrics, cadence, bars and divisions, write a lot and pay attention to your breathing and posture; While, of course, listening to a lot of rap music.We hope this article was useful to you. Make sure to check our other guides for rapmusicians on our website to get even more tips on building your skills. Feel free to comment or contactus if you have any questions!