Refining your rhyming, make rhyming work for you so your lyrics are more interesting and your song lyrics sound more professional.
Writing solid rhymes in your songs makes the difference between mediocre and awesome song lyrics. If you’ve written song lyrics that are disappointing, boring, sound cheesy or cliched or that sound awkward it’s often because of weak or overly predictable rhyme choices.
The Actual Rhyme Problem
The challenge with rhyming is finding rhyme choices that are:
- Interesting – catch your listeners’ interest
- Sound Good – so they sing well
- Flow Naturally – so your listeners aren’t distracted by the rhyme words
- Aren’t too obvious or predictable!
The trick is balancing predictability with surprise, using words that fit the song well without being too obvious. If your rhymes are too predictable, it’s boring… if they are too obscure it’s frustrating for your listeners. Be interesting without being boring.
Below the video lesson is a summary of the strategies discussed, with some bonus ideas and links to other songwriting resources to help you improve your songwriting rhyming skills!
6 Rhyme Solutions To Improve Your Rhymes
1. Improve Your Rhymes By Brainstorming Alternative Rhymes
Don’t choose the first word that you think of, dig deeper and work a little harder. My personal goal is to have at least 5 possible rhyme words before writing a line to complete a rhyme.
The more word choices you have, the more possibilities you can write. Give yourself more opportunities to write a great song, instead of trying to finish with as little effort as possible.
Rhyme Find – Exercise
Choose a word and find as many rhymes as you can in a short time (start with 5 minutes on a countdown timer, try 2 minutes when you’ve practiced for a while).
2. Improve Your Rhymes By Using Slant Rhymes
A slant rhyme (imperfect rhyme, open rhyme, etc) has a similar but not exactly the same ending as in a perfect rhyme. Most rhymes in popular music are perfect rhymes (have exactly the same ending) they are strong and satisfying so we’ve learned to expect to hear perfect rhymes.
Slant rhymes offer you more options and possibilities to write about and the chance to surprise you listener with a rhyme word they might not have expected.
3. Improve Your Rhymes By Rhyming Later in Your Songwriting Process
Trying to write rhyming lines too soon often causes problems. You end up trying to force a rhyme to fit or writing lines that sound too predictable or too cheesy.
I prefer to start with a song idea or song title. Then I typically:
- Brainstorm a few pages of ideas
- Create a rough idea of the story I’ll write into the song
- Plan what to write about in each verse, the pre-chorus, chorus and bridge
- Find which ideas will fit in each section and brainstorm more if needed
- Put ideas in each section into an order that makes sense
- Brainstorm possible rhymes for words that feel like they’ll fit at the end of a line
- Then I start writing rhyming lines.
Saving the rhymes for later in the songwriting process helps me create an interesting and compelling story. Writing song sections is easier when I know what I want to say. This looks like it takes longer but it saves me time because I avoid writing problems that I’ll have to fix later.
4. Improve Your Rhymes: Shift the Rhyme
When your lyrics sound awkward to read or don’t flow smoothly it’s often because you’ve chosen to put a rhyme word at the end of a line even though it doesn’t sound natural. This Forced Rhyme disrupts the flow of the lyrics.
Shift the rhyme by changing the syntax of the line, reorder the words so they sound like you would speak them in normal conversation. Shifting the rhyme word will require a change in the related line to maintain the rhyme scheme. Play Rhyme Find to create a better solution that sounds natural and makes sense for you listener!
Orange is one of the few words in English without a strong rhyme, so change the line to move orange away from the end of the line…
5. Improve Your Rhymes Change Rhyme Schemes
Use different rhyme schemes to create variety in the rhyming patterns in your song. My personal goal is to use at least two different rhyme schemes in any song. I’ve used four, one for every verse, another for the pre-chorus, another for the chorus and a different rhyme scheme in the bridge.
I usually plan my rhyme schemes in advance. I choose the rhyme schemes for each section before writing any lines. This way I always use a variety of rhyme patterns, instead of resorting to the first rhyme scheme that comes to mind (otherwise I’d still be stuck writing AABB in every song section!).
6. Improve Your Rhyming With Internal Rhymes
Internal Rhymes are rhymes within the same line, usually between the last word and another halfway through the line. Rhyme in most genres typically focuses on end rhymes, the aural connection between the last words in lyric lines. The closer rhymes are in time, the more energy is perceived by the audience.
Listen to some quality Rap music for an advanced lesson on internal rhymes! Don’t overuse internal rhymes in other genres, but an internal rhyme at the right time will give your audience a jolt of energy when they need it.
Summary Of Rhyme Solutions
1. Brainstorm Rhyme Alternatives before writing rhyming lines
2. Use Slant Rhymes for more variety and to make the song more interesting
3. Write Rhymes Later in your songwriting process so you don’t start fighting with your rhyming
4. Shift the Rhyme by changing the word order in your lines to improve awkward lyrics
5. Change Rhyme Schemes in your song to keep your listener from getting bored
6. Use Internal Rhymes when you need an extra shot of rhyming energy
Other Songwriting Resources:
My favourite online slant rhyme dictionary. You’re offered 100 slant rhymes for every word. It’s a great cheat to find slant rhymes, even if some choices won’t work in a songwriting context.
It’s also available as an app in the Apple app store and Google Play
Another rhyming dictionary with a few more features, including perfect rhymes, near rhymes (slant rhymes) and synonyms: https://www.rhymezone.com/