Six reasons why we rhyme
No matter how mad, daring, crazy or innovative your song concept is, how original your harmony is, most listeners feel more comfortable with rhyming words because:
- Rhyme gives weight to our thoughts
- Rhyme follows the natural contours of our melody
- Rhyme creates a musical effect with words that have similar sounds
- Rhyme jogs our memory and helps us remember the song
- Rhyme helps the listener guess and understand our message
- Rhyme is traditional
What is rhyme?
To satisfy the ear as a rhyme, words must have identical vowel sounds and different consonant sounds. Make and rake rhyme. Lack and park do not; the vowel is the same, but the pronunciation or vowel sound is different. What about words like fair and fare? Do they rhyme? Well, yes they do but they don’t really satisfy the ear and should be avoided. These words are known as homophones. One other thing to bare in mind; to make a satisfactory rhyme, the rhythmic accents of the words must match. Tender and refer seem to match, but they sound awful as a rhyme, so it is very important that you sing or at least speak out loud your words so you can hear them and avoid these pitfalls.
‘Rock Your Body’ by Justin Timberlake
Don’t be so quick to walk away
I want to rock your body, please stay
You don’t have to admit you want to play
Just let me rock you to the break of day
So, we’ve decided that we’re going to use rhyme in our songs, but which lines will rhyme? Every line, every other line? Every fourth line? Every song that uses rhyme has a rhyming structure; a framework for where the rhymes fall in a lyric. For convenience, we label the lines that use the same rhyme using letters; AA or ABAB, or even AABCCB. Here are some rhyming structures that contemporary songwriters use:
Every line rhymes with every other line. This rhyming structure is particularly useful for choruses, as the words are easy to remember.
‘Music Gets the Best of Me’ by Sophie Ellis Bextor
Music gets the best of me
But guess who gets the rest of me?
There’s no need for Jealousy
Music gets the best of me
First and second lines rhyme, third and fourth lines rhyme. The lines that rhyme are known as ‘rhyming couplets’, and are particularly useful when you have a more sophisticated message you need to convey in your lyric:
‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ by the Police
Young teacher, the subject of schoolgirl fantasy
She wants him so badly, knows what she wants to be
Inside her there’s longing, this girls an open page
Book marking, she’s so close now, this girl is half his age
‘Missing’ by Everything but the Girl
Step off the train
I’m walking down your street again
I passed your door
But you don’t live there anymore
Its years since you’ve been there
And now you’ve disappeared somewhere
Like outer space
You’ve found some better place
First and third lines do not rhyme, second and fourth lines rhyme. This rhyming structure is unusual, and suits a more ‘quirky’ writing style. The ‘x’ denotes lines that don’t rhyme.
‘Everyday is a Winding Road’ by Sheryl Crow
I used to ride with a vending machine repairman
He said he’s been down this road more than twice
He was high on intellectualism
I’ve never been there but the view sure looks nice
First and third lines rhyme, second and fourth lines rhyme. This structure is very good for setting up a sense of momentum in the lyric, where the audience is constantly anticipating the next line.
‘Feel’ by Robbie Williams
Come on hold my hand
I want to contact the living
Not sure I understand
This road I’ve been given
‘We Don’t Care’ by Audio Bullys
There’s things I haven’t told you
I go out late at night
And if I were to tell you
You’d see my different side
. . .
Editor’s Note: This is an old article and things have moved on considerably since the original publication date 🙂
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