Is Singing And Rapping The Same Thing? What Are The Differences?Devlon Jarrod Horne
I do not consider myself a good rapper at all. I can sing and hold my own in that area but rapping to me is a whole different area of expertise. When I sing and when I rap, I can feel a difference in my technique, so I decided to find out exactly what the differences are between rapping and singing.
Singing and rapping are similar in that they use the same 4 physical systems to produce sound. Singing focuses on tone, control, breathing, and legato style phrasing moving through wide intervals of a vocal range. Rapping is rhythm and staccato based focusing on pitching small intervals through a small vocal range using rhyme to perpetuate verbalized words.
There are actually quite a few differences and similarities between rapping and singing and I’m sure that you did not know some of them. Some aspects can and do overlap for the two, so let’s find out exactly what is rapping, what is singing, and what are the differences and similarities between eh two.
What is the difference between singing and rapping?
The main differences are that a singer is able to control the flow of air with a correct breathing technique, allowing them and aiding them to adjust and maneuver the vocal tract in order to produce and project, good clear tone consistently through the pharynx, nasal and oral cavity while being able to pitch and shift between intervals through a wide range of notes singing in a legato (smooth and attached) fashion.
A rapper uses the aspects of rhyme and rhythm in conjunction with a good breathing technique (or they should) to verbalize words. A rapper usually has a small vocal range and does not project as well as a singer can without the proper training and technique. A rapper’s vocal range usually if that spans 1 octave while a singer’s vocal range can span over 2 octaves.
We will have to consider just exactly what singing is and then, what exactly rapping is to understand the differences and similarities between the two.
What is singing?
The definition of singing from dictionary.com is: to utter words or sounds in succession with musical modulations of the voice; vocalize melodically.
Singing is quite complex in regard to technique and the use of the body. To sing requires the correct technique of the diaphragm, the lungs, the larynx, the mouth, the head (note placement), being able to maneuver through vocal registers, and then being able to create melody. These are just a few of the aspects regarding how to sing correctly.
Read my article on – Why Do Rock Singer Lose their Voice? A Detailed Overview. In that article, I go over specifically how the vocal folds and larynx work in order to create sound when singing.
What is rapping?
The definition of rapping from dictionary.com is: to utter sharply or vigorously: to talk discuss, especially freely, openly, or volubly: chat.
We can add to this definition and say that rapping is also quite complex and lays somewhere, between speaking and singing. Rapping we can say is the verbalization of words through rhythm and rhyme and does use pitch however not pitch in the regard to what we know a singer to use.
What are the similarities between singing and rapping?
We will look at the physical similarities between singing and rapping as they are fundamentally the same in both respects. There are 4 systems that are being used in order to create sound in speech and singing. They are:
The actuator is the breath, the power source, and the energy of the voice. Your breath we could say is the fuel for your voice. Both rapping and singing use the actuator in similar respects. To sing long passages and phrases and to control the pitching and sustain of notes a singer needs to have good breath control.
The same goes for a rapper. If they are moving and rapping through a long passage, they need good breath control and they develop this the same way a singer would. That is, they learn to control the breath they release (exhaling) while rapping.
They both develop this by controlling and using the diaphragm muscle very well, along with using the abdominal muscles and obliques to exhale. Both a singer and rapper for the most part require very good breath control which is managing to control the outflow of air (exhaling) in order to deliver their techniques properly.
The vibrator is the pair of vocal folds (cords) that is made up of muscle and tissue. Both singers and rappers use the vocal folds to create sound. The vocal folds are drawn together momentarily and then air is forced up from the lungs pushing the vocal folds open creating the sound. This happens for both a singer and rapper
The difference occurs here because a singer creates melodies from a variety of notes and intervals from scales and arpeggios that span a wide range (high notes and low notes).
Check out all or scales and arpeggios that rappers and singers can use, at our store right here – MMT Shop
A rapper even though they are not singing, does produce notes, however, their range is usually limited, to 2 or 3 notes spanning small intervals. Unless the rapper is forcing their voice and screaming to some degree it is almost impossible to create sound without creating a frequency. That frequency can be measured and then the frequency can be associated with a note.
The resonator is the vocal tract which is a combination of the larynx, the pharynx, and the oral cavity. The resonator system amplifies the sound. Both singers and rappers use the vocal tract, however, a singer is trained and skilled at using the resonators very well.
Singers sing through the vocal mask and can place notes in various positions causing the notes to resonate and project very well.
Rappers do not usually have this technique mastered and as such, they sometimes need to double track or even triple track their voices making it sound big on a recording. One thing to note that if a rapper takes voice lessons, they can learn to do this and it is not just for singing purposes.
These are the tongue and lips. These shape the sound into meaningful, and understandable units. Again, both singers and rappers use the vocal tract to manipulate the air to produce a full and resonant acoustic that is audible to us. The difference between a singer and a rapper is that a professional singer shapes and molds the vocal tract consistently, in order to produce a good clear tone.
Rappers again, sometimes do not have this technique mastered in which they produce consistent sound, however, it is not just for singing purposes and a rapper can benefit from this by taking voice lessons.
Watch this video by Dr. Dan detailing and explaining how sound is produced for speaking and singing.
What techniques are used for rapping?
The techniques used for rapping are similar to that of singing. The main aspects of a rapper are that they rely on rhythm and rhyme while focusing on pitching small intervals of usually between 2 and 3 notes to convey their rap.
The rhythm aspect of rapping is sometimes considered a little more difficult than singing due to the factors of speed, and more complex rhythms over a shorter period of time that a rapper has to produce. Rappers are more prone to staccato type phrases (short and cut off).
Just as a singer uses the technique of correct breathing, so does a rapper (or they should at least). Correct breathing techniques can help with sustain, projection, resonance, and tone which is crucial for both a rapper and a singer.
Not as involved as a singer, however, a rapper does need to be able to pitch correctly even if it’s just 1 note. This does not come into consideration if they are screaming or yelling though. Remember that music is made to fit into a “Key”. That is, it is comprised of notes that go together and are pleasing to the ear. A rapper still needs to rap “in key” otherwise he will sound horrible against the music or instruments they are rapping over.
What techniques are used for singing?
The techniques used for singing are similar and, in some instances, the same for rapping. To say that one is more difficult than the other is to say that running the 100m is more difficult than running the 1000m. They are similar yet different and one is neither better, nor worse than the other.
A singer’s ability to have rhythm is the same as a rapper, however, their rhythms are subject to flow more to create more pleasing melodies. A singer will sing notes and phrases in a legato fashion (smooth and connected), while a rapper will rap in a staccato fashion as we said.
A professional singer has mastered the technique of correct breathing. They control the diaphragm, abdominal, and oblique muscles very well and as such, they are able to accomplish intricately detailed effects that help them to sing. They can sing high or low, they can project, they can create different tones with their voice, and they can quickly shift from pitch to pitch very easily.
Pitching for a singer compared to a rapper is like comparing night and day. A singer’s ability to hit wide intervals and quickly shift from pitch to pitch is way beyond that of the ability of a rapper. A rapper still hits notes, but only spanning small intervals and usually consisting of only 2 or 3 notes. A singers’ range can span over 2 octaves where a rapper’s voice would rarely even reach 1 octave unless they went for vocal lessons.
Can you rap if you can sing?
This is relative and it depends on the level of the singer. The concept of rapping may come easy to a singer but the core fundamental aspects of learning to create fast rhythms and good rhymes will take some time to develop.
Just because you are a good singer does not necessarily mean you will be a good rapper. A singer will have good technique when it comes to correct breathing and this will help them to have sustain, projection, good tone, and they will be able to keep up with rap phrases that require controlled breathing over a long duration of time.
Hence, a singer would most likely be able to learn to rap quicker than a rapper can learn to sing.
Can you sing if you can rap?
Because rapping focuses on rhythm and rhyme mainly and pitching is second to those aspects, it will be difficult for a rapper just to switch to singing. They will not have the tone and control that a professional singer has nor will they have the ability to move through their vocal registers enabling them to have a large range.
They might not have developed the correct breathing technique that is used in singing and can be used to improve rapping. Then they probably will not be able to adjust and maneuver the vocal tract and be able to place notes withing the vocal mask, creating good tone, resonance, and projection. All in all, it will be unlikely that a rapper without prior voice lessons will be able to sing.
Watch this video where Singing Made Simple explains that even rappers should take voice lessons
Did you hear that Roger used the major scale to identify what he needed to know from his student? You can find the major scale and all other popular scales at our store available for purchase right here – MMT Shop
We come to the conclusion that rapping and singing are definitely not the same things. They do have and use the same physical systems which are the actuator, resonator, vibrator, and articulators. However, some of these physical systems are used in different ways according to if a person is rapping or a person is singing.
Many techniques that a rapper and singer use are the same and should be applicable to both rapping and singing such as correct breathing, projection, control, and tone. However, in some instances, a rapper has not learned these techniques properly.
Then, some techniques are different such as being able to pitch and move through vocal registers which a singer is able to do and a rapper is not. A rapper uses a staccato type rhythm fashion when implementing his craft and a singer uses legato type phrases when singing.