Rhyming, some aspects

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(work in progress)

It's a craft.

I was inspired by the post on rhyming dictionaries et al. Rhyming dictionaries have their use.
http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/content/rhyming-dictionaries-and-thesauruses

Pat Pattison's songwriting course on coursera.org changed my view on rhyming (http://www.patpattison.com/news/). There are not only perfect rhymes, there are many kinds of rhymes, and they are all useful for different purposes. Some may not be considered rhymes, but then they are just imperfect rhymes. They are useful.

The perfect rhymes will probably land on a final voiced syllable to be obvious, and should match perfect rhymes in different verses, I feel.

(By the way, when I say vowels and consonants in the following, I am talking about phonetic sounds, not ortographic characters.)

VOWEL RHYMES: Murder-further.

Not the best, but if it's placed centrally in two separate lines, you might not notice it at all, yet you feel it subconsciously. You feel that the two lines are sewn together at that point.

.............. murder ............. standard
.............. further ............. pandered

Murder-further is a rhyme, of sorts, because of -ur- and -er. Standard-pandered is a much better rhyme, so it's placed in a prominent place. Further-murder could be criticized if it were placed there, especially if it matches a perfect rhyme in a different verse, but as it is, you can get away with it, claiming it is accidental. You don't even have to match this silly non-rhyme in the next verse. Oh, actually you probably would want to, but you could choose any other rhyming technique in that spot in the next verse.

The less perfect the rhyme, the less the need to match in the next verse.

CONSONANT RHYMES:

Cook-take, moon-bean. Of course, you might use cook-cake, moon-mean. A proper (perfect) rhyme would include both consonants and vowels: Cook-took, mean-seen. Again, a simple consonant rhyme may not be the best choice finally in a line, but it could work wonders centrally.

The better and the longer the match, the more perfect the rhyme. Mood-food is perfect, mad-card not perfect, but it's a consonant rhyme, and it's slightly better than mad-food. But if mad-card is placed finally in a line and compared directly with the perfect smart-dart in a different verse, the difference will be noted.

VOWEL QUALITIES

Notice the A sounds in mad and card. They are different. In the latter, the r changes the quality of the a sound. The rhyme may be good enough for some purposes, not good enough for others.

To illustrate the idea of vowel qualities, remember how Tom Lehrer rhymed Harvard with discovered ("discavered"). He had to tweak it to make it work (and he achieved a comical effect thereby). So arv and cov are definitely not the same vowel quality.

A vowel, then, is vowel quality + length.
Same vowel quality, same length = perfect vowel rhyme.
Different vowel qualities = less perfect vowel rhymes.
Different length = cringeworthy rhymes.

English has quite a number of vowel qualities, and usually, perhaps always, they can be pronounced short (cut) or long (chord) (and if that is not an example of exactly the same vowel quality, short resp. long, then I apologize). The length of the vowel should match, unless you want to achieve a comical effect, and the reason is, it affects the rhythm. (When we sing, all vowels are usually long, you can sing short vowels long, but they should still fit. It should be rhythmic when you read it out loud.)

Danish has a plethora of vowels, with 14 (17?) vowel qualities which can usually be pronounced in three different ways: long, short, or with the glottal stop. I am not saying that to brag, it's true, and other languages have even more vowel qualities, so shut up. I am just putting things in perspective. Japanese has five, Greenlandic three. It's not a competition.

I could list the 14 different Danish vowel qualities, but what good would that do you. You need to figure out which ones exist in your language. Furthermore, you need to pair them up and decide for yourself which pairs are closer (usually synonymous with better). I think that mad-card is closer than mood-card, and sad-mad is identity. But you be the judge of that.

CONSONANTS

English has more consonants than Danish. I have to think to make many of the voiced sounds, such as badge; it may come out like ba-atch.

Again, there are perfect and less perfect rhymes, and they serve different purposes. You need to create or obtain a list of all the (phonetic) consonants in your language, and you need to pair them up and decide which are closer and to what degree they can substitute for each other. S and Z are close (unvoiced-voiced; same relation as F and V), SH a little further away. TCH is an unvoiced version of DG(E), but the former is combined with a short vowel, the latter with a long one (is my impression). M and F are quite different. N, being voiced, shares some qualities with M.

But please, don't let this be a stumbling stone for your songwriting. When I say "you need to," I don't mean for your next song. I mean for your songwriting career.

(All for now. I may follow up later with a piece about practical rhyming for songwriters.)

I like alliteration as well. It's why I like Paul Simon so much. The first lyric to actually get me to sit and take notice was when I was probably 8, and it was "Think of the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart." It's why I'm drawn to rap even though finding rap that speaks to my experience or interest is difficult sometimes.

Hmmmm. There's lots to be said for another-era childhood/teen diet of Kipling in poetry and WS Gilbert in lyric...

+1 Tim. And not to mention Lewis Carroll and AA Milne.

good thread! Rhyming, to me, is not used in modern, so called 'indie' music (ie pop things from the last two decades or so) nearly as much as it was before, and to me that's too bad. Tim rightly pointed out writers such as gilbert (as in gilbert and sullivan) as masters, and of course there's that whole tradition of the broadway and movie show tune writers of the 'standards', such as gershwin (ira, in the case of lyrics), lorenz hart (as in rogers and hart), hammerstein, yip harburg, and so many more.. and in the more modern era, I always thought Bob Dylan was a wonderful master of rhyming..

Excellent discussion topic!

Some listeners prefer perfect rhymes, and some don't. I suspect that, as writers, we tend towards our own listening preferences. I'm definitely a perfect-rhyme kind of gal, both as a listener and as a songwriter. I've always paid close attention to song lyrics, and a well-rhymed lyric is more satisfying to me than one that slips and slides around with sorta-but-not-quite rhymes. A few slant rhymes scattered here and there are fine, but a song filled with imperfect rhymes sounds sloppy to my ear.

A somewhat random example: Bette Davis Eyes by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, first recorded by DeShannon in 1974, Kim Carnes in 1981 (and Billboard's biggest hit for 1981.) Lyrics below fit the latter better, but Carnes sings "snows you", DeShannon "blows you". I don't claim to have it 100% correct for either version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAQsOJbs-yo (DeShannon)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRosnwO_mg (Carnes)

VERSE
gold, prise ______________ => Her hair is Harlow gold, her lips sweet surprise
cold, eyes _______________ => Her hands are never cold, she's got Bette Davis eyes
twice ____________________ => She'll turn the music on you, you won't have to think twice
eyes _____________________ => She's pure as New York snow, she got Bette Davis eyes

CHORUS
ease you, ease you _______ => And she'll tease you, she'll unease you
ease you _________________ => All the better just to please you
ocious ___________________ => She's precocious
knows just, pro blush ____ => And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
sighs, eyes ______________ => She got Greta Garbo standoff sighs, she's got Bette Davis eyes

VERSE
home, -tite ______________ => She'll let you take her home, it whets her appetite
throne, eyes _____________ => She'll lay you on the throne, she got Bette Davis eyes
tumble on you, dice ________ => She'll take a tumble on you, roll you like you were dice
come up blue, eyes ________ => Until you come up blue, she's got Bette Davis eyes

CHORUS
ose you, blows you _______ => She'll expose you, when she blows you
throws you _______________ => Off your feet with the crumbs she throws you
ocious ___________________ => She's ferocious
knows just, pro blush ____ => And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
spy (she), eyes __________ => All the boys think she's a spy, she's got Bette Davis eyes

CHORUS
ease you, ease you _______ => And she'll tease you, she'll unease you
ease you _________________ => All the better just to please you
ocious ___________________ => She's precocious
knows just, pro blush ____ => And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
spy (she), eyes __________ => All the boys think she's a spy, she's got Bette Davis eyes

CHORUS
ease you, ease you _______ => She'll tease you, she'll unease you
ease you, eyes ___________ => Just to please you, she's got Bette Davis eyes
ose you, blows you _______ => She'll expose you when she blows you
knows you, eyes __________ => She knows you, she's got Bette Davis Eyes

"knows just, pro blush" is not a perfect rhyme, but it's a vowel rhyme. "ocious" is not even a perfect vowel rhyme, but close enough. Note how "spy" picks up the following s of "she" to rhyme perfectly with eyes. -tite of appetite sort of rhymes with eyes. Home and throne are made to semi-rhyme on the same syllable in two lines; a vowel rhyme, and m/n are fairly close.

The total set of rhyming vowels in this song is quite sparse: OH, AYE, EE, US, OO, with AYE as the most common by far. A single "ite" is used as stand-in, but none of other common vowel qualities such as "house", "late", "boy", as far as I can see. I will bet that is a conscious choice. More about that later.

Wonderful analysis of this song's rhyme scheme, @bong , and a really interesting topic for songwriters. Rhyme is a form of repetition, which, to my way of thinking, covers a spectrum of use from monotony and cliché on one end to consonance and unity, even beauty on the other. You can avoid repetition (like a twelve-tone composer) or embrace it (like a minimalist composer) but either way it is part of your song like the sounds and silences.

I find prosody in general to be more important than rhymes specifically, but my experience with Australian English these last months has even called some of my old pet peeves into question. 'You say tomato, I say tomato'.

I agree, don't let it be a stumbling block, especially during 50/90. Rather use rhymes for challenges and inspiration. Focus on a small set of vowel sounds and see what happens. Try using a rhyming dictionary and see what happens. Try strict repetition in place of rhymes and see what happens. Focus on ending sounds or on beginning sounds or on your new favourite diphthong sound. Experiment like crazy. And if you're lucky to stumble on some inspiration while working in that little laboratory, forget the experiments and just write the song. 50 is a lot of songs, and I'm already falling behind. Smile

@izaak, you are absolutely right, rhyming is exactly one example of repetition (of phonemes). Maybe repetition frees up some brain cells to do genuine work in another area, such as break down the meaning of the words, but most likely it's just because we like the harmony between different parts. Repetition is simply the oldest trick in the book. Melody, chorus and other elements are repeated; you come back to something well-known.

And yes, strict repetition falls in this category. Note that if you only repeat a single word at the end of a line, you have an identity (e.g. suitcase-suitcase). I think it's called an identity rhyme, and it's usually not the best approach because as a rhyme it is simply "too easy". It might work, but if in another verse the rhyme is pancake-mandrake, then suitcase-suitcase will not be well received.

Rhyming two different words requires more thought, and the effort is appreciated. But then, instead of one word you can repeat a whole line, as "she's got Bette Davis Eyes, she's got Bette Davis Eyes," and it just sounds cool. Or a whole chorus. Or repeat a verse. Not a problem.

(I thought I had an example of a song which I wrote purposefully without rhymes, and that's how I remembered it, but apparently it is just as difficult to write rhyme-free as sticking to a rhyme scheme, or more difficult, because it actually has lots of rhymes. My mind is going.)

Pat Patterson presents quite a compelling set of ideas for rhyming among other things. Really made me think. Even if you don't want to follow them, the "rules" make you at least understand what a listener may "hear" when you do/don't.

Some great analysis above. Thanks.

@bong thank you for the topic and follow up post. I like these discussions on songwriting. While I didn't fully understand all of what you said I can always go back and read it again. Rhyming is important to me and I think lesser of a song that doesn't use them. I think songs are suppose to rhyme. They've been teaching me that since I was in kindergarten. Like repetition they help us remember. I like phrases too but it takes two or more phases that rhyme to make that work in a song. Then we could break it down to perfect and non-perfect rhyming and watch my head starts spinning. I'm just kidding... You know Pat Patterson said it is best to use unique verses. He said if we repeat the first verse all we are doing is repeating what we've already said. But I know the chorus is the place for all that perfect rhyming and repetition. Maybe the family rhymes would work nicely through the verses. I don't know because I spend my time chasing ideas and not thinking about thoughtful rhyme schemes.

PAT PATTISON - not Patterson, in case you want to look him up.
http://www.patpattison.com/news/

Glad y'all like it. I may follow up later with something about how you combine idea + rhyming (also from Pattison).

@jcollins, I don't remember this about unique verses, but even if a verse is repeated entirely, it is still one unique verse.

But maybe it's a similar problem as identity rhymes. As I stated above:

"pancake" - "mandrake" is (arguably) a fine rhyme. (I think it could work.)

Rhyming "grandpa's suitcase" in one line with "yellow suitcase" in the next is not very original.

But if you repeat a whole line, it's fine.

It's perfectly OK (in my opinion) to repeat a whole verse, and of course, the chorus is repeated entirely, that's the definition of a chorus.

So here is what Pattison could have meant, although I am guessing. Maybe it is less OK to take a line from one verse and re-use it in the next. Although I see there could be a use for that. Sorry, I don't remember that thing about unique verses.

I don't like rhymes in songs much. If they are too obvious they really irritate me. I don't use them much, sometimes I do, and I often use imperfect rhymes, without even realising I'm doing it. They are quite fun to use if you are trying to be funny, I enjoy the challenge of rhyming in a poem, but not so much in songs. They are useful if you want to add a particular type of momentum, but they can really annoy me. I like Dylan but his rhyming can sometimes be just a bit too obvious for my liking. But, people like different songs, and different music, so there would be little point in us all writing exactly the same sorts of songs. Someone has to write songs for other people who don't like rhymes much.

I really enjoyed Pat Patison's Coursera course, so much so that I did it twice Smile

The concept of prosody within a song, to me, is vital. Plus the idea of using different types of rhymes to evoke different moods and emotions in the listening, is also enormously useful. It's as important as using major and/or minor chords to evoke a feeling in the listener.

I went thru a period where little rhymed. Maybe something in the chorus. After Pat's course I rhyme a lot more, but take advantage of imperfect rhymes so I can say what I want. Too many rhymes have become cliche and lost much of their original power.

Repeating verses doesn't advance the song. It's like a movie where the hero just does the same thing over, without learning anything.

Music, it's your chance to rip into rules, defining your own, then adding to that mess. Have fun causing visceral containment breaches, ala CBGB. E.g. if places like that never get to exist, music never moves forward. We are now in the middle of shat-music stagnation. We should all hope, not to be found in the middle of it, Dylan wasn't, neither were the Ramones, et al.

- pinged

Long live the ping
UDP IP
Yeah, you and me
What?, what's dat mean?

I haven't taken the Pattison course, or know the first thing about it, but I think rhyming serves many purposes in songs. Rhyming is pleasing to the ear. It helps make the song catchy, it helps people remember the words, and makes folks want to sing along. Having good strong end rhymes on vowel sounds are generally most appealing and create a solid foundation for your song. Imperfect rhymes work as well or almost as well as perfect rhymes when you use strong vowel sounds. Sometimes I feel like imperfect rhymes are an even better choice, because you are not as limited in what you can say. You open up your possibilities instead of saying something not quite right for the the sake of the perfect rhyme. And having too many perfect rhymes can have the effect of being show-tuney. Great if you are writing a show tune, not so great if you are writing a rock song. Other often underlooked and wonderfully effective tools are internal rhyme and alliteration. If you can work these into a song, even if the listener doesn't recognize the literary devices you are using, they will get the subliminal effect of being drawn into the song just because it sounds good. Overuse can have the same show-tune effect though. It's just another device. You have to think about the overall effect your rhymes are having on the song. Sometimes it's much better to be subtle.

I haven't taken the Pattison course, or know the first thing about it, but I think rhyming serves many purposes in songs. Rhyming is pleasing to the ear. It helps make the song catchy, it helps people remember the words, and makes folks want to sing along. Having good strong end rhymes on vowel sounds are generally most appealing and create a solid foundation for your song. Imperfect rhymes work as well or almost as well as perfect rhymes when you use strong vowel sounds. Sometimes I feel like imperfect rhymes are an even better choice, because you are not as limited in what you can say. You open up your possibilities instead of saying something not quite right for the the sake of the perfect rhyme. And having too many perfect rhymes can have the effect of being show-tuney. Great if you are writing a show tune, not so great if you are writing a rock song. Other often underlooked and wonderfully effective tools are internal rhyme and alliteration. If you can work these into a song, even if the listener doesn't recognize the literary devices you are using, they will get the subliminal effect of being drawn into the song just because it sounds good. Overuse can have the same show-tune effect though. It's just another device. You have to think about the overall effect your rhymes are having on the song. Sometimes it's much better to be subtle.

The music scene had plenty of stagnation in the late 70s. Classic rock, adult contemporary, and disco. The Ramones played loud, fast, simple, stupid music, that was exciting and a lot of fun [to me]. Lots of people hated them. Punk was too self-destructive to last. So as the punks died, or learned how to play, the music changed and evolved.

I don't know about Dylan. I would imagine there was less stagnation in the rock music scene because there were fewer bands, and the scene was so new. But other music styles may have been experiencing stagnation.

Rhyming. Before I took Pattison's course, I wrote more unrhymed stuff. He convinced me of the value of rhyme, though I tend to go for imperfect rhymes. The probability is higher of finding what I want to say, rather than getting stuck with something that's been overused for centuries.

I like how rap uses rhyme and rhythm, tho I don't usually like the lyrics.