How Do You Rap in Key?

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I’ve been learning about different rap techniques and wanted to know how to rap in key. I did some research and here’s what I found.

So, how do you rap in key? To rap in key, you first need to learn how to sing in key. Once you can do that, you can just rap instead of sing. To sing in key, you need to know what key the backing track is in, and then sing notes that are in that key.

For example, if the backing track for a song is in the key of C, then you should only sing notes that are on the C major scale. Which are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.

Whether you want to know how to train your voice for rap, how to find your rap voice, or how to find your rap style, this article will explain everything you need to know about how to rap in key.

How to rap in key

The topic of music theory is the best thing to learn about when learning how to rap in key. However, it’s a large subject, and can take a long time to learn.

However, you only need to know a few simple things to rap in key. And I can explain everything you need to know to start rapping in key in this article.

After you know how to do it, it can be good to learn more about music theory. Because it will really help you to create backing tracks and create unique and interesting melodies with your rap.

In music theory there are two main parts – 1) rhythm and 2) pitch. Rhythm is where you learn about the beat, and how to rap to the beat. And pitch is the tone of the notes.

Some rappers will just learn by trial and error, and through a lot of practice. But others will have learned music theory from learning another instrument, or learning how to sing.

Pitch is the only thing you need to know about to rap in key, so here’s what it is and how it related to rapping in key:

In music theory, there are 12 notes in total, which are A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#. And each backing track for a rap song is in one of these. If a backing track isn’t in a certain key, it will sound bad to the human ear.

This is what people who ‘can’t’ sing sound like. They aren’t singing the notes that are in the key the song is in, and when you hear it, you’ll just have a feeling like ‘it sounds bad’.

If that same person learned to adjust the notes they were singing either slightly up or down, it would instantly make it sound perfect.

The table below can help you see what I mean.

The key of famous rap songs:

Artist

Song

Key

Notes that sound good

Eminem

Rap God

G

G, A, B, C, D, E, and F♯

Outkast

Ms Jackson

A minor

A, B, C, D, E, F, and G

Notorious B.I.G.

Big Poppa

A minor

A, B, C, D, E, F, and G

Kendrick Lamar

Swimming Pools

B

B, C♯, D♯, E, F♯, G♯, and A♯

Nelly

Ride With Me

E minor

E, F♯, G, A, B, C, and D

As you can see, each song has a different key, and that changes what notes you can sing that will sound good. For example, if you have the backing track of Swimming Pools by Kendrick Lamar going.

Your voice should only make the notes B, C♯, D♯, E, F♯, G♯, and A♯. If you sing an F or a D, for example, it will sound bad.

The best way to learn how to sing and then rap the different notes is to use another instrument such as a piano/keyboard or guitar.

You want to play the notes on the piano/keyboard or guitar and try making the exact same notes with your voice.

Here’s a video about how to sing in the key of C, and it’s pretty easy with a little bit of practice:

The main thing you want to do is play the scale in an octave which suits your rapping voice.

For example, you can play a musical scale at the left side of a piano which is really low. Or, you can play a scale using the keys on the right side of a piano, which is a lot higher.

Some rappers will rap in a high voice such as Eminem, whereas others rap in a deep tone, like DMX. This is what’s called changing octaves.

There are a bunch of different scales that you can learn. For example, there’s the C major scale, which is the simplest to learn. Another scale you can learn is called C Phrygian. You can also rap using this scale over a song that’s in C and it will sound good. But, it will give it a different feel, and will sound kind of like Spanish guitar music.

As you learn more about scales, you can get a feel for which ones you want to use. Overall, it can take a while to learn all of the different scales. But, learning to sing in key is simply a matter of learning to sing the scale that corresponds to the key a song is in.

The good news is, there are only a handful of keys that are used commonly.

What key are rap songs in?

Every rap song has a unique key. A resource you can use to find the key of any rap song is NoteDiscover.com. You can put in the name of the song, and the artist, and it will tell you what key it’s in.

Then you can learn the corresponding scale, and you’ll be easily able to rap in key. If a song isn’t listed on that website, you can ask someone who’s good at music. For example, you might have a family member who played a musical instrument for a long time.

Some people have spent some time learning music and can develop what’s called an ‘ear’. This is where they can identify what key a song is in just by listening to it.

Or, they can work it out if they play around on a piano or guitar while listening to the song. If you don’t know anyone that’s good with music, you can drop a question on the music theory Reddit thread, which you can access here. And someone’s bound to help you out.

How do you train your voice to rap?

The main way to train your voice to rap is by rapping. You can do that by learning the lyrics to rap songs you like, and then rapping at the same time out loud. You can also find instrumental versions of some rap songs – this is the same song but the vocals have been removed.

Instrumentals can be better to practice with because it’s harder to get the timing, and the pitch right.

As you practice rapping out loud your voice will become stronger. However, there are also some vocal exercises you can do every now and then or once a day.

Here’s a video where a guy shows you some simple exercises you can do on your own without an instrument:

Conclusion

You learn to rap in key by getting familiar with the musical scales. And then practicing rapping in the same key as the backing track.

Each backing track is composed in a certain key, and you can vary your voice so that you rap in the same key as the backing track.

Sources