Songwriting Workshop

A Few Suggestions about Rhyme


Rhyme Only When You Mean It

Experiment with rhyming only when it is extra meaningful, when binding the sounds of words emphasizes their relationship or contrast of meaning.  (Rhyme brings words closer together somehow.  “Hug a slug” from Marrietta is a great example!  Ritter” and “Splitter” from Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde is also a favorite of mine.)


Rhyming different parts of speech (nouns with adjectives, for example) is more surprising than rhyming the same parts of speech (nouns with nouns, for example).


the sad king drowned

wearing his royal round --

the crown drifted down into the mud so brown


drowned/round = verb/noun

crown/down/brown = noun/adverb/adjective


Proper names often suggest unusual rhymes.


A litt’le ol’ lady who was walking down the road,

She was struggling with bags from Tesco;

There were people from the city having lunch in the park,

I believe that is called “al fresco,” . . .

(Tesco is a big supermarket chain in Europe)

Lily Allen, “LDN”

(This is a playful yet potent rhyme.  It contrasts continental “old Europe” with the new Americanized England; certain class associations are there as well.  The overall tone of the song is highly ironic.)


You just can’t refute that when it’s too close it’s too cute


A rhyme is a brain stain

(memorable but too neat)


A rhyme stains your beautiful brain

(attempting to space it out a little bit)


Two things float in your mind

With word and sound in your brain

When more words arrive

What rhymes becomes a sound stain.

(still needs a lot of improvement, but at least it is not cute or comic)



Anaphora is an attractive alternative to rhyme.

Anaphora begins each line in the same way.

Anaphora allows for more freedom than a rhyme scheme.

Anaphora is good for animating lists.


Example: “Every Breath You Take,” The Police

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Ewan MacColl, lyricist


Scheme instead of Rhymes

One is the loneliest number, so it is likely the next line will start with

Two, and the song will progress from there, on to 3, 4 . . . . 


Does the U2 song “One” play with this?  Compare “one love, one life” to the words in the following verse, “too late tonight.”  A “one-too punch”?


Monday implies . . . a Tuesday, and those two together makes a

Wednesday obligatory, and on to complete the week.


Off-rhymes and near-rhymes can be more powerful (or maddening)


The madrigal “Now is the Month of Maying” establishes a regular rhyme scheme but ends with an “eye rhyme” (speak/break) that sticks in my mind.  Interesting that it breaks the scheme with the very word “break.”  I find this whole piece irritating and the “speak/break” is the ultimate irritation, but it is memorable!


Identify devices in the following lyric:


“One” by U2


Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?

Will it make it easier on you, now you got someone to blame?

You say one love, one life, when it's one need in the night.

One love, we get to share it

Leaves you baby if you don't care for it.


Did I disappoint you or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

You act like you never had love and you want me to go without.

Well, it's too late tonight to drag the past out into the light.

We're one, but we're not the same.

We get to carry each other, carry each other... one


Have you come here for forgiveness,

Have you come to raise the dead

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much, more than a lot

You gave me nothing, now it's all I got.

We're one, but we're not the same.

Well, we hurt each other, then we do it again.


You say love is a temple, love a higher law

Love is a temple, love the higher law.

You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl

And I can't be holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.


One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.

One life with each other: sisters, brothers.

One life, but we're not the same.

We get to carry each other, carry each other.

One, one.

Songwriting Workshop Rhyming Notes

 Feb 2007

DC Meckler