Rhymes for Songwriters: Part 1

New Feature , Rhyming Dictionary Add comments

The all new Lilac Writer rhyming lookup was quietly released to our growing team of beta testers a couple of weeks ago. We haven't talked about this much yet except for a few hints on Twitter. I encourage you to take it for a test drive.

First of all, I want to mention that the rhyming look-up is not quite complete. There are many, many forms of rhyme and we are adding support for more of the extended and near rhyme forms every day now. You will find some great, useful and interesting rhymes for most one and two syllable words. Actually, lots of longer words will return great results as well. We will turn on the support for triple rhyme shortly.

The Lilac Writer rhyme dictionary is different. It is designed specifically for songwriting. Lilac Writer will return the perfect rhymes you expect. The biggest innovations in Lilac rhymes are the handling of the various forms of near rhymes.

Let's take a closer look at perfect rhyme. Perfect rhyme for a one syllable word by has:

1. The same vowel sound
2. The same ending consonant sound
3. A different beginning constant sound

Perfect rhyme list example: scene/clean/mean/screen

Most rhyming dictionaries do a pretty good job with perfect rhyme. Perfect rhyme is extremely common in songwriting. When an end rhyme is perfect, it provides a tight sonic connection between lines of a song. This is great if your song idea needs a tight connection AND you can find a rhyme that fits the meaning of the song.

The perennial problem with perfect rhyme is that there aren't that many matches for most words in English. This can lead you using very cliched rhymes like sky/fly or love/above. Millions of songs have been written over the past couple hundred years. The most obvious, singable perfect rhymes have been used and abused. Using cliched rhymes is a great way to make your song sound amateurish.

The remedy for this problem is to extend your search beyond perfect rhyme to family rhyme. Family rhyme for a one syllable word has:

1. The same vowel sound
2. A similar ending consonant sound
3. A different beginning constant sound

Example of family rhyme matches for "scene":

The Lilac Writer rhyme look up will give you a great selection of family rhymes along with other types of near rhyme like additive and subtractive. These choices will help you write lines with a connection very close to perfect rhyme but avoid overusing cliches. Even better, you don't have to compromise the meaning of your lyric just to make an end rhyme work.

The concept songwriters come back to again and again is "prosody." Do all of the elements of the song support the idea and emotion behind the words? If the lyric is about a concept that where there is doubt or an unresolved emotion, then many songwriters deliberately choose a weaker connection between lines. One of our goals is to provide near rhymes with various levels of sonic connection.

Starting with the word "night"

  • Perfect rhyme: light
  • Family rhyme: hide
  • Additive rhyme: rights
  • Subtractive rhyme: shy
  • Assonance rhyme: eyes

This list is ordered from the tightest rhyme to the weakest. I bet most of you could write a song section using that list in about five minutes! All of these forms of rhyme are useful and extend your options to words you might not have considered before.

That is a brief introduction to the new Lilac Writer rhyme look up. Try it out. Look up some words for your latest song or re-write!

Happy (and prolific) songwriting!


2 responses to “Rhymes for Songwriters: Part 1”

  1. Eric Says:
    Aug 21, 2009 at 10:48 AM My lyric writing productivity has increased dramatically since the new rhyme lookup feature went live.

    I used to rely on a physical rhyme dictionary. But with rhyme lookup's intelligence, I get more than just the perfect rhymes. This opens up so many more options, without having to flip through pages and pages of the dictionary.
  2. Bill Says:
    Aug 21, 2009 at 2:13 PM Eric, thanks for the positive comments!

    I know what you mean. Lots of songwriters use "The Complete Rhyming Dictionary". It is a great resource but it is tedious to use. It's easy to put off using it until you get stuck. I think it is better to get a depth of rhyme choices right from the start.

    If you use the rhyming dictionary you also need a pretty good understanding of all the near rhyme types and techniques or you would never even find those options.

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