The Importance of Timing
One of the things that bugs industry people about new artists is when the artist’s timing is off of the track. This happens a lot with new rap artists. I hear it all the time. Even some artists who have been doing it for a while still seem to have this problem. Some are worse than others, but it could always be better. If an artist has great timing, he/she has a step up on a lot of new independent artists. This applies for R&B singers as well, mainly when it comes to choruses.
Sometimes, an artist will try to fit too many words into one line, and try their best to make it fit. It is important to have an understanding on how to assemble phrases that fit into the section that you are writing. It comes in handy to have a large vocabulary of words, because you can find synonyms and antonyms that can be shorter or longer and can help you fit words better into your bars. We will discuss vocabulary and writing later.
The best recommendation that I have for improving your timing is to purchase a metronome. A metronome is a tool that produces an audible tick sound, and you can adjust it and make it produce the sound at different tempos. You should practice rapping and singing with this ticking sound. Put together a couple of phrases, some regular, and a few tongue twisters, and practice them at different tempos. Work on being as clear and non-slurred as possible. Over time, and not a long time, your timing will begin to develop and become better and better.
Pronunciation is a key element in both Hip-Hop and R&B. Have you ever listened to a song and wondered, “What is he/she saying?” Sometimes, when an artist tries to fit more words than comfortable in a phrase, he/she kind of twists and slurs words, and forces them to fit. Sometimes there are too many words, but sometimes, the words are fine, their mouth is just not used to forming the words quick enough to make them fit. Practice with a metronome will help you to develop these muscles in your mouth, which will help you to pronounce clearly and quickly.
The metronome technique is a technique that musicians have been using for years. Drummers, guitar players, keyboard players, even Music Producers (beat makers) use the metronome. If it can help musicians develop their timing for playing an instrument, then it will definitely work for rappers and singers. Remember, your voice is an instrument too. You have to train it, develop it, and practice it just like any other instrument.