Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Ticket 73: Break The Rhyme Scheme

Don't Be Afraid To Break Rhyme

Lou Reed

(U2 by U2 p.196)

Rhyme creates a pleasing sense of structure and breaking it can really annoy your listeners and mark you out as an amateur BUT interrupting the rhyme scheme for a good reason can make you look like a master. Three good ways to break a rhyme are

  • Look back - by rhyming your line with one in the same place in a previous verse.
  • Look forward - by rhyming with an extra line still to come.
  • Mess with expectations - by 'telegraphing' an obvious rhyme and them substituting the synonym or other unexpected word for humorous effect.

McCartney 'breaks' the rhyme scheme in Hey Jude's second bridge without making it feel wrong or awkward. Because the 'broken' bridge

in/begin/perform with – you/do/shoulder

calls back to the first bridge

pain/refrain/shoulders – fool/cool/colder

In Octopus's Garden Ringo ends every verse with a simple rhyme

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus's garden with me

We would sing and dance around
Because we know we can't be found

But on the 3rd verse he alters the pattern

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do

which sets up the new coda section

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus's garden with you

The comic power of a 'mind' rhyme comes from using the listeners' expectations against them. Setting up a rhyme with an expletive or some other embarrassing word, then dodging it at the last moment can be very effective.

I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of … shaving cream

Hey Jude
Octopus's Garden


One More Sleep Till Christmas (from Muppet Christmas Carol) (Paul Williams)
Shaving Cream (Benny Bell with Paul Wynn)
Sitting On The Ice In The Ice Rink (George Formby)
Under The Sea – coda (Ashman/Menken)

See also

Ticket 23: Write fewer lyrics
Ticket 24: Repeat words and sentence structures
Ticket 54: Unify your lyrical imagery
Ticket 72: Embrace your mistakes

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

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