Working on an early draft of a song? Don’t worry about rhyming too early. Forcing a rhyme can twist your song out of shape, making a line sound unnatural. Worse, it can make you say something you don’t mean. That’s when listeners start to tune out. Instead…
1st: Say what you want to say. Write a couple of lines that express the heart of your song. (Don’t think about rhyming.)
2nd: Describe emotions, people, or situations. You’ll never hear a listener say, “I’ve just got to hear that songs again. I LOVE that rhyme!” It’s more important to make listeners see and feel what the song is about. Images and action words are key here. (Don’t think about rhyming.)
3rd: Imagine you’re telling a stranger what you feel. What questions do you need to answer? What does the listener want/need to know? (Don’t think about rhyming.)
4th: FINALLY… Look for rhymes that feel natural. As you organize your lines into a song structure, look for rhymes that just happen, or rework a line to keep the meaning while creating a natural sounding “near rhyme.” “Near” or “vowel” rhymes only rhyme the vowel sound. They’re much easier to find than perfect rhymes. Here are a couple of web sites with plenty of ideas for relaxed, conversational rhyming words: RhymeDesk.com and B-rhymes.com.
If you can’t find a comfortable, natural sounding rhyme… DON’T RHYME! You don’t have to rhyme every line. Rhyming words are used to add emphasis and give the listener a strong sense of completion. For instance, the final line of your chorus (the “payoff” line) is one of the places you’ll probably want to emphasize with a strong rhyme. For other lines, let the emotional message of the song be the most important thing.
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. Each book includes over one hundred useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to write songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Reprints by permission.