4.2 Rhyme Schemes

The important thing to remember about rhymes is that that they can happen in all kinds of patterns. The Red Hot Chili Peppers like—or at least lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, likes—what are called “monorhymes,” where entire verses are based on a single rhyme (see, e.g., their song “Scar Tissue” for a whole song that is basically a monorhyme, and see “The Zephyr Song” and “Give It Away” for songs in which each stanza is a monorhyme).

The most common rhyme scheme, however, is the AABB CCDD . . . scheme, where the first two lines in a stanza rhyme with each other, then the next two rhyme with each other, and so on.

A city filled with sky
Must often wonder why
The smallest trees that grew
Would paint the fountains blue

A city filled with trees
But crawling on its knees
Will give its people tins
As tiny garbage bins

This rhyme scheme is an old standard, kind of like, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” It’s a good joke, but once you’ve heard it a zillion times, it stops being interesting.

The second most common rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD. . . .

Towns there be that fail to see
Against them fields are running wild
Burroughs till the spelling bee
Entrance them still, the cunning child

Country mess in wilderness
Finance the shield of stages old
Empires ruling Inverness
Instantiate the hidden gold

No. None of these are making any sense. It’s not just you.

I suggest, however, that you try stranger rhyme schemes like ABBA CDDC:

The normal way of walking
Leads from foot to foot
Leaves a trail of soot
But never turns to talking

In silence we are going
Slide from tree to tree
Slip on slope and flee
As gently sky is snowing

Often as you write these “just to rhyme” lyrics, you find something that technically works, but just doesn’t feel quite right. I’m willing to bet that the problem will usually be rhythmic. You’ll have placed a word in such a way that the poetic rhythm conflicts with the natural rhythm of the words. But we’ll talk about that more later.

For the moment, let’s try one more pattern: AABA BBAB pattern.

Birds enjoy a song early in the morning
Whether in the clear, or in the weather storming
Least that’s how it feels; birds truly hate the rain
Because for avians, it functions as a warning.

To their merry tune, you wake at 4 in pain
You wish to burn the trees they use along the lane
But then you worry that you’d add to global warming
So, everything is doomed, the birds drive you insane.

Well, that was a masterpiece. That switches rhythms between stanzas. Sigh.


Featured image of Anthony Kiedis, by Leon Wilson. Provided under a CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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