Rhyme can make or break your song
I work really hard on my lyrics, I can have the catchiest hook, a slick chorus, a dynamic bridge, but if the lyrics don’t connect, I probably won’t end up recording or performing a song live. For the longest time, I thought my lyrics had to rhyme, and once a rhyme scheme is established, I had to stick it out.
I was wrong. Shocking, I know. Thankfully, it happens once every couple years.
Sometimes rhyme scheme can actually ruin your song, such as when an awkward phrase, poor grammar, or a cliche’ lyric is forced in just to complete the rhyme scheme. I see this all the time. I consider it to be one of the Deadly Sins of Songwriting. Take a look online at any songwriting forum and you’re bound to find tons of examples of what I call Master Yoda Syndrome.
I think of finishing a song to be like completing a crossword puzzle; sometimes you have the word in place that you think is the right answer so you write it down and leave it until you have more of the surrounding words to make sure. But then once the other sections get filled in, the word or words you thought were right end up being wrong. Often times, those are the parts that end up getting edited out of a song and replaced with something better during the 2nd or 3rd draft. Sometimes the parts that need to go are the words that will make your line rhyme perfectly, but the lines are meaningless throwaway lines. Fight the temptation to force the rhyme, and “murder your darlings.” In other words, kill off the lines that rhyme but don’t fit the song.
WHAT?! Don’t rhyme?
Yes. Don’t do it, if it’s going to weaken the song… Watch the video and I’ll explain further:
Do you struggle with writing lyrics that say what you mean without sounding cliche or cheesy?
Proof That Rhyme Scheme Doesn’t Matter
Try to think of a popular or favorite song that rhymes in one verse and then stops rhyming or changes the rhyme scheme in the next verse. You probably can’t. Not because they don’t exist, but because no one even notices. You might notice a rhyme that is terrible, you might even notice when two lines ends in the same word, but unless you’re writing down the lyrics or reading a lyric sheet and analyzing, you aren’t likely to notice.
That’s how little perfect rhyme schemes matter. There are countless great songs that abandon rhyme scheme part way through the song or go in and out of different rhyme schemes, yet no one is the wiser.
Here are some examples of songs with changing or abandoned rhyme schemes:
Changing Rhyme Scheme:
- Getting Better by The Beatles
- Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
- I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
Abandoned Rhyme Scheme:
- High And Dry by Radiohead
- Trouble by Coldplay
- Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel
Ok, it’s not so much that you shouldn’t use rhyme scheme at all…
Rhyme makes your songs more singable, the lyrics more memorable, they create resolution that can mirror the melodic and harmonic resolution at the end of a musical phrase or section, and you can even use rhyme to set up, and later defy, the listener’s expectations in clever ways. My favorite example of a rhyme setting up and defying expectations comes from Bill Murray’s titular character in the movie what about Bob:
“Roses Are Red,
Violets Are Blue,
I’m A Schizophreniac,
And So Am I”
Want to learn more about how to craft great lyrics, connect with your audience, and express your emotions without sounding cheesy or cliche’? Download my FREE Quick Guide To Writing Better Lyrics: