Rhymes And Rhyme Schemes
Let’s talk about rhyming!
Rhymes are a big part of what makes music flow. They create a consistent and predictable cadence that helps a song move forward while simultaneously hooking the listener in.
In this chapter we’ll discuss the the different kinds of rhymes you can use when writing music. We’ll also show you how rhymes should be placed throughout the song in what’s called a rhyme scheme.
Types of Rhymes
When writing music you’ll make use of two kinds of rhymes: Perfect rhymes and near rhymes.
Perfect rhymes end with identical sounds. “Tree”, “free”, and “be” are all perfect rhymes.
These types of rhymes are excellent to use in your songs. That said, you won’t want to use them too often as their sounds match so closely that they can start to sound repetitive.
Here’s a sample chorus:
Staring at the tree
It looks oh so free
Will we ever see
Just what we could be
The rhymes in that example are all perfect and create a really boring rhyme that’s far too predictable. If you’re going to repeat that short chorus maybe two times after each verse, that’s at least six times the listener is going to hear that. Gross.
Near rhymes don’t sound as exact as perfect rhymes, but do still technically rhyme. “Cat”, “apt”, and “clamped” are all near rhymes.
Near rhymes give you a lot more flexibility in your songwriting because they allow you to tap into a much bigger vocabulary. Eminem did a famous interview on 60 Minutes where he rhymed a bunch of words with orange – a word which supposedly has nothing rhyme with it. How did he do it? With near rhymes. You can see the video here.
Let’s put together another chorus using near rhymes and see how this one goes:
At only twenty
Though green with envy
And not yet ready
That is much better. Even though the near rhymes are all very similar, there’s enough variation in the language that the chorus isn’t boring.
In our two sample choruses we made the last word in every line rhyme. You won’t always want to do this. You set (and break) patterns with rhyme schemes.
Rhyme Schemes Explained
Rhyme schemes are the pattern of rhymes that you find in a song. Normally it refers to how the lines of a song rhyme together.
Setting a rhyme scheme is an essential component to how a song flows, and they can be very simple or very complex – how you structure them is up to you.
Using Rhyme Schemes
Below we have a simple (and very cheesy) verse with (A) and (B) placed at the end of each line. The lines marked with the same letter rhyme together (this is a helpful trick that makes it easy to identify your rhyme scheme while writing). If a word doesn’t rhyme with any other line you can use an (X) to denote this.
The sky is blue (A)
And I like you (A)
Just for being (B)
And never leaving (B)
The rhyme scheme in the top verse – AABB – is as simple of a rhyme scheme as you can get, but you can imagine that if the song kept going on in this way it would become predictable.
Music needs to evoke an emotion in people, and if they always know what’s next that takes the specialness of your song away, so make sure you switch it up. Do note that this statement is more true for a verse than a chorus. You want your choruses to be as catchy as possible and simple rhyme schemes can go a long way here.
Let’s look at a few examples of rhyme schemes in a verse:
AABBCCDD doesn’t make the most exciting verse.
ABBACDDC is be a big step up.
ABABXCCB is an interesting verse with an established rhyme scheme that isn’t predictable.
That said, like everything else in songwriting the only rule is that it your song should sound good. If you can make AABBCCDD work for a verse in your song then by all means write what feels right…but generally you’ll want to avoid overly predictable rhyme schemes.
Writing Your Song
For the most part, the verses in your song should have nearly identical rhyme schemes. It’s okay to switch up a line or two in order to add or remove emphasis, but do try to keep the scheme more or less the same. This gives your song an overall flow and helps the listener follow along.
You’ll also generally want your verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge to have different rhyme schemes. This will stop your song from becoming too repetitive.