How To Count Bars – For Rappers

As a rapper if you don’t know how to count bars it’s really going to be hard to write formatted songs.  So this report will give you a much more thorough understanding of counting bars. When I first started rapping I had no idea what bars were.  I was laying verses down and they were super long.  One day I was in the studio working with the producer and he asked why my verses were so long.

I looked at him, scrunching up my face like “What you mean?”  He told me that my verses were actually two times longer than what they were supposed to be. Long story short, what I thought was sixteen bars were actually thirty-two.  He explained it to me literally in five minutes.  He put the beat on right there and walked me through it.  It was really simple.  Listen to the audio to see how simple it is

Were not going to waist time or talk your head off, were going to jump right into it.  As I mentioned earlier counting bars is pretty simple.  It’s important to know because most songs have a format structure.  Usually there are three – 16 bar verses with four to eight bar choruses in the middle of each verse.  That is the basic rap verse song structure.

  1. Step One – Listen to the beat
  2. Step Two – Locate the Snares (The part that sounds like a hand clap or a finger snap)
  3. Step Three – Understand each bar has 2 Snare sounds in them that show the middle and end of each particular bar.
  4. Step Four – Listen to your favorite song, locate the beginning of their verse to get an idea where to start.


Now we’ll take you through the basics of music.  Pay close attention and you might learn something. (Laugh) Okay let’s begin.  When your writing your verses – look at each line you write as a sentence. Each line will lead into the next to convey your idea or message.  Learn to think in common meter and cram your ideas into alternating four stress and three stress phrases. If they resist see what surprises might come about.

When you do this you are training your self to think in a more creative manor.  If at anytime, while reading this report – you have any questions don’t hesitate to head on over to the forum. You only have 3-4mins in a song to hook the listener and the majority that time comes within the first thirty seconds.  Someone once called a song a three minute movie that conveys your message to the reader.



Let’s talk about some music basics.  Hopefully you got the book The Official How To Rap Manual and you have a little better understanding how the point system works.  Before we go deeper into counting bars lets talk a few about common meter, couplets and prosody.  These are music terms that can be applied to your music.

Common meter organizes music into a single eight bar unit (2 bars and 2 bars) + (2 bars and 2 bars) -The second line of common meter, bars 3 and 4, contains only three stresses. Keeping the entire system moving until it is matched at line 4 (bars 7 and 8) -When you want to rap in 4 bar units instead of 8 match bars 1 and 2 with 3 and 4

Couplets rhyme marking a stopping placefor the ear. They form a lyrical and musical unit of four bars long.  They move us forward with 4 stressed notes in each 2 bar section 62

**** / ****

You can easily extend from 4 to 6 lines without getting to far off balance.  In chapter 7 The Official How To Rap Manual shows bars and measurements as circles or dots. We call these points.  In other words each bar has eight points.  Each point is open or closed, closed meaning solid. You will be taken further on this idea in chapter 7 of The Official How To Rap Manual.

Prosody lining up words and notes, matching stressed notes with stressed syllables, could create a relationship between rhythm and meaning by writing about a galloping horse in a clippity-clap rhythm.  This could also use strings of stressed syllables to slow the rhythm down. You know what you want to say so you have to design form to support your ideas.  You may also want to check 10 topics for you to rap about.

A rapping tip for designing your lyrics shapes, lengths, rhythms and rhyme schemes is combining them together and trying various lines in sort of a mix matching fashion. For example you might try putting rhymes (both phrase- end and internal rhyme) close together and try using short phrases. An even number of phrases creates a balanced section and an odd number creates an unbalanced section.

Experiment using both ways, but keep in mind, you don’t have to over do it.  Stick to your style but experiment in your verses sparingly and see what works for you.

Always take time on your trigger lines. Well hope this has helped you.  Feel free to leave us a comment

9 Responses to “How To Count Bars – For Rappers”

  1. tim says:

    Nice article, very Just bought the book …luv it

  2. joe says:

    the how to rap’s counting bars report is not available for download the link is broken

  3. dino brown says:

    thats whats up though man this rap thing has to take off you know

  4. Shane hernandez says:

    Still don’t understand common meter,could you explain it more

    • Jamaal West says:

      Hi Shane,

      I’m not to sure on common meter but I was told by a producer that the point-system that i created is simlar to the music measure but for words. I’m sure you can google it and get the answer your looking for.

  5. George says:

    Jamal lets just get to it the point system is genius however brief I’m confused man just the book a month ago

    • Jamaal West says:

      Thx George. What are you having problems with lets try and help you get pass any confusion.

      • George says:

        Okay I just started rapping about the nineteenth of July till now as you know already I purchase your book. The confusion is that I know you explain a 1-8 count is similar to a 5-4 count the trouble is how do you identify this. I’ve did large amounts research bro your method is the clearest to me.

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