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Rhyming words are used in almost every song that we listen to. Whether it features a cleverly placed rhyme for added effect, or to ensure the flow of the song is smooth, rhyming is all around us in music. Let’s take a look at why rhyming is so important in songwriting, and how you can use it to your advantage!
We all know that rhyming words are exactly what it says on the tin – words that sound similar to one another. When we hear a rhyme, it gives our brains a sense of satisfaction. Rhyming words are featured in many forms, including songs, nursery rhymes, poetry, company slogans and more.
Now, we will take a look at some of the main types of rhyming words. There are various types, but will look at the most common two that you will encounter.
Perfect rhymes are just that – words which completely sound like one another with a minor difference, like the beginning letter/sound of the word. For example, bird and word sound exactly the same, minus the initial sound. These types of rhymes are used in lyrics and nursery rhymes, and are the most standard type of rhyme that we all recognise.
The next type of rhymes that we will explore are known as Family rhymes. These rhymes essentially follow the rule that consonants belong in groups or “families”, and you can substitute certain letters for others within their specific family. Here are the families:
So, basically you can substitute letters with others inside the same group. For example, ‘man’ can rhyme with ‘rang’. ‘If you stay within the same family of consonants, you are creating a family rhyme.
So, now that we have heard some examples of types of rhyming words, let’s look at how this applies to music and songwriting.
Songwriting is the art form of storytelling through music. The music itself conveys emotion and translates a mood, but your lyrics are what spells out the story and brings the emotion to the forefront. Using rhyming words makes the song memorable, allows for a sense of resolution, and creates a welcoming sense of predictability for the audience (unless you choose an unpredictable rhyme!). We have all listened to a song and had a feeling of what word is coming based on the end of the previous line. In the same way that cadences ‘end’ a passage of music, rhyming lyrics often do the same. Although, they can also be used in the middle of lines, too.
Rhyming lyrics tie in with other elements of songs such as the flow, pace and intention. If lyrics and syllable patterns flow well, the rhyming words are the added cherry on top. For example, let’s take a look at the smash-hit ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna:
“When the sun shine, we shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella”
Rhyming words are particularly important in choruses, as they make it more memorable. The lyrics above feature a standard 2 line rhyming pattern e.g ‘together’ and ‘forever’ until the end, when we have a line break before the word ‘ever’ is resolved with the word ‘umbrella’.
The rhyme here is at the end of the line for a sense of completion before moving onto a new thought, and by sustaining it towards the end, it allows for a bigger finish and sense of resolution. The syllables in the lines here match up well also, and just by reading them out loud, they fit nicely together.
For some people, lyrics are the easiest part of songwriting. However, for others, they can be the part that you get stuck on for hours. A great way to look at it is to think of it as storytelling. If you have a story or something that you want to convey, the lyrics will come easier. After this, the rhymes can be added in or tweaked. The sky’s the limit with rhyming.
Take Eminem, for example, being unhappy about people saying there are no words that rhyme with orange. He said “People say that the word ‘orange’ doesn’t rhyme with anything… I can think of a lot of things that rhyme with orange… If you enunciate it and make it more than one syllable or-ange, you could say, like, ‘I put my or-ange four-inch door hinge in stor-age and ate por-ridge with Ge-orge”. So, here are some different approaches to writing song lyrics:
Let’s say that you want to tell the story of walking outside on a sunny day. Write down the emotions you might have, the things you might be able to see, hear, feel, smell etc. Ask yourself questions like ‘what was the day like?’ ‘why would I be walking outside?’ ‘what mood do I want to convey?’ Once your story is set, you can begin writing words or passages. Instead of forcing ideas around rhyming words, try to fit the rhymes into the story instead. Remember, you don’t have to rhyme everything. If there is a similar sound or a family rhyme, that will work too. Don’t throw in words for the sake of it, as your story will become disjointed and won’t seem authentic.
If you are absolutely certain that you want a lot of rhymes or a ‘traditional’ rhyming structure, by all means, go for it. Not sure about what your story is yet? Look up some rhyming words and see if it sparks any ideas. If there is a certain word or rhyme that you like, build a story around it and let your creativity flow. You can write down all the words that rhyme with a particular word, and start the song there. Even if you start off with one lyric in your head that rhymes, go from there!
Rap lyrics are all about rhyming. Internal rhymes within the lines, rhymes at the end and clever metaphors that pack a punch with a rhyme all feature in rap music. If you are interested in writing rap lyrics, rhyming words is a tool that you should practice often. Practice improvising, jotting down rhymes that come into your head, going to freestyle battles and listening to rap music to get an idea of flow, phrasing and rhyming patterns.
Rap is a form of poetry, so get studying up on some poetry, too! Practice rhyming on a daily basis, whether in your head throughout the day or by writing some down. Eminem has claimed that he scours the dictionary for new, interesting words, and as a child wrote long words or phrases down and worked on rhymes for each syllable. So, get practising, studying up and listening and analysing effective rhymes and patterns in your favourite rap songs!
There are tons of tools out there for songwriters, including online rhyming tools, lyric helpers and even songwriting apps. All of these resources are designed to help inspire and record your creativity, so get using them. Music Gateway offers a free lyric rhyming tool above, so put a word in and get started!