This article is an overview of rhyme schemes in songs.
- What are rhyme schemes?
- Why rhyme schemes are used in songs and
- How you can use rhyme schemes in your own songs.
Below the video is a complete transcript and links to more songwriting resources to level up your rhyming and help your songs sound more professional.
Introduction to Basic Rhyme Schemes – Video Transcript
What are rhyme schemes?
Why do we use rhyme schemes?
And how do we use rhyme schemes in songs?
Hi I’m Trevor Dimoff, I transform musicians into songwriters at EpicSongWriting.com.
Watch the video all the way through and then click the link below for a complete transcript and more rhyming goodness.
This is an excerpt from my online songwriting course, the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart, that teaches a complete songwriting process.
You learn how to start a song, how to stop staring at a blank page and generate lyric ideas.
- How to write lyrics,
- How to write melodies.
- How to write chord progressions and
- How to write a finished arrangement… so you can go from “I don’t know what I’m writing about” to a complete song.
Watch the video all the way through then click the link below for more.
Thanks for watching. Here’s the lesson…
Basic Rhyme Schemes: Video Lesson
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the end of each line in a song section. Rhyming patterns give your audience:
1. a way to predict upcoming lyrics
2. to help remember the lyrics to the song.
3. rhyme connects lines through the sound and creates a flow through the entire song
4. and rhyming creates a structure turning a bunch of ideas into the song version of sentences and paragraphs.
Rhyme patterns create predictability for your audience…
as they listen and figure out the story in your song. End rhymes act like punctuation and create an aural connection between lines. When an expected rhyme arrives you feel a sense of completion, because the lines have created a finished idea.
Pairs of lines feel stable, odd numbers of lines are unstable. Two lines that rhyme feel stable but this is too short for most song sections. The most common structure for a song section is four lines, made up of two pairs of lines, because it feels stable and complete.
The common practice is to label the first rhyme in any section A, the second rhyme is B, additional rhymes continue through the alphabet. X doesn’t rhyme with any other line including another X.
Three common rhyme schemes that you can start with are:
AABB, where each line rhymes with the next,
ABAB where rhyming lines alternate and
XAXA where only the even numbered lines rhyme.
I hear a difference between these three rhyme schemes because of the amount of time between rhyming words. The closer in time that rhymes are to each other, the stronger the connection between the rhymes feels and the faster the lyrics seem to the listener, all other things being the same.
For example, with AABB, the rhymes are a line apart, at 120 beats per minute this is about 8 seconds apart. In an ABAB structure, there is twice as much time between the rhymes. So the close rhymes in AABB feel faster than ABAB.
You could use this idea to build the energy in a song. As you move from the verse to the pre-chorus to the chorus, you could bring the rhymes closer together in each subsequent section.
For a song using these three rhymes schemes, you could start with XAXA in the verse, with one rhyme pair. In the pre-chorus ABAB has twice as many rhymes. Then AABB in the chorus has end rhymes twice as fast, or twice as frequent..
The rhymes you choose also affect how stable the rhyme scheme feels. Perfect rhymes feel complete or closed, while slant rhymes (see link below) feel less stable or more open. Need Your Love (see link below), was professionally critiqued shortly after I wrote it. The comment that stuck with me was “There are too many perfect rhymes.” Once it was pointed out to me, I realized the rhyme scheme of AABB in every verse coupled with perfect rhymes, created a series of pairs of lines with closed rhymes. Not only was this too predictable, but every second line stopped… the forward motion… of the lines.
I choose to leave the song as is, instead of correcting this flaw. I still enjoy playing it and I made several songwriting breakthroughs while I was writing it. I included Need Your Love in the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart because it helps illustrate several musical ideas that will help you understand songwriting.
Rhyme Scheme Best Practices
Some of the best practices for Rhyme schemes include:
Rhyme schemes are patterns. Use the same rhyme scheme in every verse to keep it predictable for your audience. Using different rhyme schemes in the verses sounds and feels awkward.
Create contrast, interest and surprise in each song section by using different rhyme schemes. Use at least two different rhyme schemes in every song. Using the same rhyme scheme in every section will bore both you and your listener.
Slant rhymes are unstable and feel unfinished or incomplete. You can use this effect to help tell your story by matching the feel of the lyrics or by creating contradiction depending on your goal for the song. Using an unstable rhyme at the end of a section creates unresolved tension that pushes the energy forward towards the next section.
I try to use the same types of rhyme (Stable/Unstable) in each verse… if A is stable, B is unstable in an AABB, I try to do it for the same every verse. This effect can be subtle, so if it doesn’t work out I don’t worry about it.
Here are some of the rhyme schemes from the musical examples…
In Need Your Love, the verse and the bridge are both AABB
(The other musical examples are explained in the full lesson…)
Review your reference tracks and make note of the rhymes schemes. For the quiz, enter the title and artist of one of your reference tracks and then the rhyme scheme for each of the song sections.
Plan Rhyme Schemes Before You Write Your Sections
Before you start writing song sections in your first song with the Ultimate Songwriting Method, I want you to pick the rhyme schemes for each section. This gives you a big picture view of your song, so you choose contrasting rhyme schemes other than everyone’s default rhyme scheme AABB with perfect rhymes.
Choosing rhyme schemes in advance also gives you a framework to put your ideas into, like building a puzzle from the edge pieces. You start with a sense of the size and pacing of a song section. It’s easier to start with a solid structure and fill it in.
When you write without planning you can create avoidable problems that you’ll have to solve later in the songwriting process. As you’re editing, if you have trouble making the rhyme scheme you’ve chosen work, it’s fine to modify it or change to a different one while you’re working on the section.
To summarize, many popular songs use the common rhyme schemes, AABB, ABAB and XAXA. They’re common for a reason: they work well and they are satisfying to listen to.
There is nothing wrong with using common rhyme schemes, but there are many other rhyme schemes you can use. In the next lesson, we’ll examine Advanced Rhyme Schemes, that will unlock more complex rhyme schemes that will add variety, to create an effect and to add interest to your songs.