Closely linked to the topic of song forms is the subject of rhyme schemes.

When you see a song structure described as ABABCB, or verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus, what does that really mean? What, in essence, makes a verse a verse or a chorus a chorus?

Underneath the lyrical content, each song section (verse, pre-chorus, chorus or bridge) should have its own:

  • Melody
  • Rhythm
  • Rhyme scheme

Everybody who writes songs should be familiar with melody and rhythm, so I’ll ignore those for now, but what about rhyme schemes? Let’s take a closer look.

Rhyme Schemes

A rhyme scheme does pretty much what it says on the tin – it’s a plan of which lines in each song section are going to rhyme. Similar to song forms, we can use letters (AABB, ABAB etc) to demonstrate which lines will rhyme together. For example, the first verse of Rihanna’s Diamonds:

Find light in the beautiful sea
I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I
We’re like diamonds in the sky

You can see here that “sea” and “happy” rhyme in lines 1 and 2, as do “I” and “sky” in lines 3 and 4. This gives us an AABB rhyme scheme.

A slightly more complex example would be Ellie Goulding’s Holding On For Life:

Enemy, used to be
Part of you, bittersweet
But now you tell me lies
Up and down, cold and hot
Swear to God, got to stop
Because I can’t sleep at night

The rhyming words here are “be” and “bittersweet” (lines 1 and 2), “lies” and “night” (lines 3 and 6), and “hot” and “stop” (lines 4 and 5). This gives us an AABCCB rhyme scheme.

Why is this important? As we mentioned earlier, verses should have a consistent rhyme scheme throughout a song, as should choruses, and bridges. Yet at the same time, to mark each section as being different, each section should be different.

Understanding rhyme schemes helps us to keep each section consistent with it’s compatriots, and distinct from the others.

Carly Rae Jepsen’s song “I Really Like You” is a textbook example of this. The rhyming words are highlighted to make this easier to see:

Verse 1 – ABAB

I really wanna stop but I just got the taste for it
I feel like I could fly with the boy on the moon
So honey hold my hand, you like making me wait for it
I feel like I could die walking up to the room (oh yeah)

Pre-Chorus – AABC

Late night, watching television
But how’d we get in this position?
It’s way too soon, I know this isn’t love
But I need to tell you something

Chorus – AAAA BBAA

I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?
I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?

Oh, did I say too much?
I’m so in my head When we’re out of touch
I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?

Verse 2 – ABAB

It’s like everything you say is a sweet revelation
All I wanna do is get into your head
Yeah we could stay alone, you and me, in this temptation
Sipping on your lips, hanging on by a thread (baby)

Pre-Chorus – AABC

Late night, watching television
But how’d we get in this position?
It’s way too soon, I know this isn’t love
But I need to tell you something

Chorus – AAAA BBAA

I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?
I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?

Oh, did I say too much?
I’m so in my head When we’re out of touch
I really really really really really really like you
And I want you. Do you want me? Do you want me too?

Bridge – ABAB CCDD

Who gave you eyes like that?
Said you could keep them?
I don’t know how to act
Or if I should be leaving
I’m running out of time
Going out of my mind
I need to tell you something
Yeah, I need to tell you something

Chorus etc…

You can see here how Carly uses the same rhyme scheme in each verse, and a different one in the bridge and the chorus. This gives a subtle familiarity between the verse sections which helps the listener know where they are in the song. This is driven home by the use of similar melody lines in the verses, obviously in the choruses, and something different in the bridge.

Do you use rhyme schemes in your songwriting, or is this something new for you to think about? Leave us a message in the comments…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.