Rhyme (How Do You?)

Throughout this lesson, my main intention is to teach you how to use rhyme so that it is beneficial to your work, like enhancing flow and other reasons, (like grounding weirdness; giving off that story-like effect; verse linkage etc).

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Ultimate Guitar
12
I'm just writing another lesson/article for you now, all about rhyme. Why? Because I believe rhyme is probably the most abused and misused tool in the world of lyric writing. And I intend to correct this; at least for some up and coming writers. Throughout this lesson, my main intention is to teach you how to use rhyme so that it is beneficial to your work, like enhancing flow and other reasons, (like grounding weirdness; giving off that story-like effect; verse linkage etc). Soon I'll give some examples and using those as my starting point, I'll start to explain what you can do with rhyme, and what you should never do with rhyme. (That may make this sound like it is a "Do/Don't" article, but it will never be as clear cut as that). Before you read my thoughts on whether the rhyming was used to better the work, and how it did so, it would be advantageous for you to read the examples and form some opinions of your own. Example #1. This example of, what I believe to be, cringe-inducing rhyming is the first verse of the Pink Floyd classic, 'Time'.
"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting someone or something to show you the way"
So what's wrong with it? Well, my main problem with it is all the similar syllable sounds. Really, though, it makes me cringe when I hear it. (Which is really a shame, as the melody is wondrous). Look closely at the lyrics and you'll see it says "way" twice and "waste" once. And these words sound almost identical when sung. Now, you probably think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but one of the things that you really should avoid in songs is ending two or more lines with the same word. I sincerely mean that, because the majority of the time a repeated word will sound idiotic. It's as if the person who was writing the lyrics couldn't think up an additional word that rhymed with - in this case - 'way'. Another thing to be wary of - unless you're lyrical ability is highly advanced - is conventional rhyme schemes and rhyming couplets. You should look at the rhyme pattern here; it's a ridiculous AABA. It doesn't even sound abstract, it just sounds like the lyric writer (Roger Waters) was stoned or drunk or having an out mind experience when he wrote it. To be fair though, it's not all bad and therefore I shouldn't be so negative. I have found positive things to comment on in these lyrics such as that third line. Look at it. From a lyrical perspective, it's a truly sublime piece of writing. Mainly because of the observation - which appears to be comparing us to animals - and also because of the 3 internal rhymes. (Internal rhyme - two or more rhyming words contained within one line. ) Another positive aspect of this particular verse is that the rhyming couplet is almost cliched, and therefore fits the topic perfectly. (I'm not being sarcastic). It seems like the rhyming couplet - due to the simplicity of it - was intended to give off that 'dull' feel that is talked about within the verse, and even if that is not the case, it's an interesting technique that you could take into account when working on your own writing. Following on? I said earlier that you should be wary of rhyming couplets until your lyrical ability has advanced to a supreme level. Well now, I'm going to give you an example of simple, standard rhyming couplets used perfectly. Example #2. This example is from a Jeff Buckley song, entitled "Eternal Life".
"Eternal life is now on my trail, 
Got my red glitter coffin man, I just need one last nail
While all these ugly gentlemen play out their foolish games
There's a flame on the rise that screams my name"
What is there to say about it? Well, for starters, that first rhyming couplet is unusual and very original, and then the second one is more conventional - possibly even cliched. But the thing is, if you surround conventional rhymes with stylish - and ultimately cool - writing, then your lyrics will appeal to everyone. They'll be simultaneously accessible and abstract. That's the thing: you can ground lyrical weirdness with standard rhyming couplets. For this next technique, I was thinking about what I haven't shown you to do with rhyme. And here's something that I like to call extended rhyming. The basic idea, (or my understanding of it), is more or less rhyming over more than one verse. For example, ABCD-ABCD, or ABBC-DEEC. You should be able to grasp this concept a bit more fully, whenever I give a proper example. So here we go? Example #3. The example below is the first two verses of Damien Rice's, "Older Chests". I have divided it into lines in the most obvious way I could see which would illustrate the point I'm trying to make.
"Older chests
Reveal themselves
Like a crack in the wall
Start off small
But grow in time

And we all seem
To need the help 
Of someone else to mend that shelf 
With too many books
Read me your favourite line"
Let me try and find a rhyme scheme in the way I have laid out the lyrics. ABCCD-EBBFD seems to cover it. Obviously the form of these lyrics is highly unconventional, so it was hard to illustrate fully what I mean. The one thing you should notice is how - in the second verse - he goes back to rhyming words that he used in the first verse. Hmm?maybe you don't find that as interesting as I do, but still, be aware of the technique. It's one more piece of knowledge to add to your armoury, which will increase the flow of your work immensely. For example, you may have already noted that it's a good technique to use if you want to closely link your verses together, or perhaps you want to give off a story like feel - which is caused due to the repetition of the rhymes. Closing Comments. I think now you should have learnt how to manipulate rhyme to your advantage, and to the benefit of your lyrics. So all I have to say is experiment. The only things that can really teach you how to write are practice and analysis. I learnt through practice, but I'm still learning. You'll never finish learning, but your skills will always develop if you practice and analyse on a regular basis. Find the time and be dedicated. Remember that when you are using rhyme, you should do it in a creative way. Use rhyme wisely. Do not force it. Finally, do not forget to pick up a pen, and try out your newfound knowledge. You have been reading another of my lessons, and all I hope is that it has inspired some more creativity on your behalf. Hopefully you will be enthused to develop your skills to an even greater extent, and show the world of UG how prolific and talented a writer can be whenever there is dedication and an insatiable desire to improve.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    bad ike
    overall a good study on the idea of rhyming, but i think maybe you mispoke, maybe it's not the whole idea of using the same word, but maybe instead, it is the idea of when to use rhyme and when to just follow a natural cadence to create flow. just a thought. but really...knocking floyd is propably not a good idea. floyd and rush are in a league of their own lyrically speaking, be prepared to catch hell if you challenge their writing and creative abilities. I'm just saying... but to each his own. good lesson though.
    Communist_Bob
    cool lesson but i think its better to stick with unusual or (wierd rhyme patterns because before you've wrote the music, the lyrics can take you anywhere that you wanna go. great lesson though!
    godlearntfromme
    Well said Greendayfan. Ur choice of music might not be that great lol but at least you have the self control to realise that like most things musical taste is opinion and you can't have a go at people cos they like a certain band or style of music. oh, and slash010203 this lesson was obviously well beyond your intellectual ability nobody with a brain has to resort to swearing. Slash is a legend, you won't amount to anything.
    godlearntfromme
    btw i'm a huge floyd fan "Time" has a hell of a solo in it but im not going to get offended because someone thinks their lyrics weren't up to scratch
    crumbedfish
    as if u'd make cranky ass comments. the lesson is obviously just giving a few ideas on rhyming strategies. but for anyone who is reading these lessons for a more constructive purposes i recommend just writing, don't think to hard about it, and just re read some things with a constructively critical point of view. one of the most important comments made in the lesson i feel is that once you have practiced writing enough to increase your vocab and pull out some awesome lyrics it doesn't matter so much weather it rhymes or in what order. there are no real rules to music but there are alot of guidlines u can follow to make it easier. e.g. the c major scale didn't exist before the first person came up with it and u don't need to follow any scales but they do help
    difitzio
    not great at spelling though (to above!) good lesson very useful stuff, but I dont really believe songwriting is confined to formulae, and did you ever think that maybe roger waters used the same word twice on purpose? You cant really put a formulae on his verse cause its actually very unorthodox and that makes it appealing itself
    Greendayfan4eva
    hey guys i've been helped by a few of this person's lessons so i think maybe cool off a bit he's not that bad and he has helped me even if he hasn't helped you. Also, i know it hurts when people say they hate your fave songs and bands, i know coz i cop it a lot 4 liking green day (notice they were voted worst band), but im sure you have bands and lyrics you don't like. This is someone's opinion, just because you don't agree doesn't mean you can bag the crap out of him. anyway, good article. btw, for whoeva asked b4, tha ABCDC stuff is like... how to explain... one type of line might end in an "ee" sound, so we label lines that end in an "ee" sound A. Then the one we label B might end in an "ay" sound. so ABBA would mean a line ending in ee, a line ending in ay, a line ending in ee, a line ending in ay. i dunno if that makes sense im not very good at explaining but i hope that helps (we learnt it at school - i know crazy school but it comes in handy hey? lol)
    sxy6helena
    good article, its true about songs ending two or more lines with the same word cuz a repeated word "will" sound idiotic. But there's alot of songs that dont really rhyme and are still good.
    Closure777
    Vodd wrote: Hmmm, u were talking about using the same word twice and it sounding idiotic. Now, i dont completely disagree with u, but it doesnt make a song a bad song. 'With the lights out its less dangerous Here we are now entertain us I feel stupid and contagious Here we are now entertain us' Dude, that is repetition but i still like the song.
    okay, thats not the only person that has made a comment like that, and TOTALY misunderstood what benjmc's artical meant. The chorus to Smells Like Teen Spirit would be a good example of repeating, but a good kind of repeating. hes saying the same line twice, which in your mind if anything emphazises it, which is good. same thing with any song that use hooks, or songs that say the line similarly "please forgive this selfish question....[10 mins later, literly lol its tool]...please forgive this bold suggestion." stuff like that is fine. what he meant though, was words that END in the same word, but other than that the lines have no similarities. ehh ill make up some useless crap right now. Sick of all the lies you told Sick of all my trust Can't tell write from wrong Who am i to trust? see that 4th line killed the whole song. now its kinda dumb.
    Closure777
    ^ hah i used "write" instead of "right" lol. wow. that makes me look noobish. ehh. ohh well i'll get over it lol.
    Sublime Stylee
    Hmm I've never had a problem with the Time lyrics, all I gotta do is switch to the pop station on the radio if I want to cringe at the end of every verse. And yes Roger Waters repeats the same word twice but it is in different context and he puts different emphasis on the sound so it does not come out similar at all. Also am I the only one who dislikes lyrics that try to hard to come off as "artsy"?
    Toeshy
    this is rilly helpful it gave good advice aswell as excelent examples to prove ur point and it helped me out with wat to do and not to do thanx
    Prisoner5
    As a whole I felt this to be a completely pointless lesson. Nothing was really said taht was particularly relevant, I felt. You wannaa hear great rhyming, check out Eminem. I don't care if you hate rape, just listen to some of The Eminem Show. That guys rhymes are incredible, even my Dave Matthews loving english teacher grudgingly admitted.
    ibnzplayer0
    now this doesnt relate to rock or guitar but it helps with rhyming as well...Rapping...i hate it as well, but it uses tons of rhymes, and ive remembered many rhymes to word, just try to rap, and work w/ you lyrics
    crankshaft
    Is that why Floyd is one of the greatest bands ever. What have you written thats sold millions of copies?
    John Alexander
    It's a good lesson, I'm just not all for one with a conventional rhyming scheme in the first place. But still good. The kind of writing that facinates me the most is that of Dave Matthews. He tells a story like no one in music. I dare say he may be the best song writer yet. Just READ those lyrics before listening to the song and it's amazing how much more it all means when the music is put to it.
    scotty79
    Nice Lesson. So is there any "perfect rhyme" scheme that a lot of the popular songs use, or is it just a crative thing?
    Jeffrey Martin
    Did anyone else notice that in the last line of the Jeff Buckley song he actually creates another form of rhyming? see look : "There's a flame on the rise that screams my name" he rhymes "flame" with "name" which creates even MORE flow. maybe it's just me...?
    Frodobagins32
    you know I think that what your saying is very correct but I disagree on it sounding idiotic to say the same word twice. Yeah if you said it like 10 times in a row in would be bad but sometimes it sounds nice to say something twice. I think personally that's true but totally thanks man
    rock_doll101
    who thought great lyrics, words, poems whatever would be sooo hard to perfect? Thanks for the advice
    frenchie
    LMAOROF...so Roger Waters is an idiot on some kind of drug huh. Lemme ask, how much $$$ did he make with his "crapy" lyrics...and how much did you make "teaching" perfection? No hurt feelings man but creativity and whatever else is what counts in music. And at the end if it all sounds good then it's good; I don't care if it's built correctly or not. Other examples: Rammstein and so many. Look at Beck and his Loser song, sounded good but would you dare commenting on the lyrics ;0)
    Jord0013
    ***! man u suck cock. you dont kno shit. go and teach junior kids. were aduts. we know how to ryhme u ass wipe
    grimreaper65
    Also, if you write a lot of lyrics, do yourself a favour and buy a rhyming dictionary.
    me_myself_and_i
    good lesson, i would be careful when dissing floyd though, its sad for you, but also true, floyd is an amazing band, i cant beleive that they could come up with all of that stoned, could you come up with time, will melting into your couch, watching a pig fly into the sky?
    Vodd
    Hmmm, u were talking about using the same word twice and it sounding idiotic. Now, i dont completely disagree with u, but it doesnt make a song a bad song. 'With the lights out its less dangerous Here we are now entertain us I feel stupid and contagious Here we are now entertain us' Dude, that is repetition but i still like the song.
    SethMegadefan
    Hey, I don't care how Roger Waters wrote "Time", it's a brilliant song and you're probably the only person here willing to diss him for it. Just because you can't stand a repeated word doesn't necessarily make it a no-no when writing music. If the song is good, then repetition in the lyrics must not be holding it back all too much. Aside from that, the rest of it was alright. Like, 3.8 stars or somewhere in there. I still don't really get why you need to diss other musicians' lyrics just because you don't think they sound right.
    SrThompson
    Hey man thanks for the lesson. Altough I think that you shouldn't talk like that of someones else writting. You have to be happy with the stuffs that you write and that's it.