I have the pleasure of getting to interact with the best creative minds. From lecturing to writing, directing and producing, it’s an adventure to see all of the creativity that exists in people.
Speaking from a songwriter’s perspective, it’s necessary for us to hone our skills to become better song craftspeople. The most misunderstood concept with songwriters is rhyme and the use of rhyme.
The first thing that comes to mind in listening to a song is “rhyme.” Rhyme is a poetic device used in songwriting to create memory for the listener. The great fault of many songwriters is they use rhyme to write and never develop the idea/hook to write. A developed writer will write to the idea and not to the rhyme. In other words, they will not be caged in by perfect matching rhymes that may not portray the full effect of the idea.
Rhyme is used in poetry, songwriting and rap, but most people know it in is most simplified form. Their use of it doesn’t pass the 3rd grade level in most cases. They do not understand the different between simple/perfect rhyme and slant/imperfect rhyme.
If we only use simple/elementary masculine rhyme like “cat” and “hat” we are stuck in a writer’s well. Our word choice pool gets very shallow and limits our creative ability. Most people only view rhyme in it’s perfect form either simple masculine (last syllable only) i.e “cat,” “hat,” simple feminine rhyme (last 2 syllables) i.e. “mayday,” “payday” or simple compound rhyme (last 3 syllables or more,) i.e. “binocular,” “popular.” All of these are perfectly acceptable rhymes, but they limit your choices of words as a song writer.
Imperfect/Slant Rhyme is another way of viewing assonance (the use of the same vowel sounds.) Imperfect/Slant/Oblique rhyme allows the writer to vary their word choices immensely. I like to think you have the creative vantage of the top of the hill and get the best view because you can see more. When a songwriter opens their palate of word choices, the colors and content of their lyric becomes richer.
When first starting to think about Imperfect/Slant rhyme, I tell students to start off simply by removing the consonant word closers. For example, we can take the word “cat” and now it can become “cab,” “calf,” “cam,” “can,” “cap,” etc. Then, we began to go through the alphabet and change consonants at the beginning of the words, “cat” becomes “sad,” “dad,” “fab,” “had,” etc. Do you see how you have opened up a spectrum of words that rhyme not perfectly, but carry assonant sounds (same vowels) and create the memorable nature of rhyme.
A song that utilizes too much perfect rhyme can sometimes weaken the song lyrics. The writer will be stuck in simple rhyme and choose a word that doesn’t carry the power of another word that may not be as perfect, but carry the same rhyming connection. I dare you try slanting the rhyme and see what you get.
Example of inner rhyme and rhyme using slant rhyme.
Live Like You Were Dyin’ written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman
An’ he said: “I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
“I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”
An’ he said: “Some day, I hope you get the chance,
“To live like you were dyin’.”