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Perfect Rhyme. Really?


Lee Knight

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I know how important it is to some to rhyme with only perfect rhymes. And others couldn't care less about using perfect rhyme and even knowing what it is...

 

I agree with all those guys above.

 

First off, I seem to have rankled some feathers with my metaphors thread. I want to be clear, I'm not pretending to know what I'm talking about. :) I'm reading a great book by Pat Pattison and digesting his points. And then I'm trying to pass them along for discussion or food for thought. And to reinforce them for myself.

 

And anyone who feels this is too high brow, silly or pretentious, that is way cool with me. But do me a favor and don't dump your anger or insecurities here. :) BTW, this is not pointed at anyone that is a regular here.

 

Varying points of view are encouraged. Being a turd is not.

 

Whew.

 

So perfect rhyme. It doesn't mean it's better than the other types. It means it fits the definition of rhyme completely. Debatable? OK... cool. You're the 'give me perfect or give me death' type. Like a lot of my favorites. (but I like the other guys too...)

 

Anyway, perfect rhyme:

 

1. The syllable's vowel sounds are the same. And....

 

2. The consonant sounds after the vowel are the same. And...

 

3. The sound before the vowel are different.

 

 

seen/spleen/queen. Perfect rhyme.

 

 

But... ever tried to say something and your rhyme choices are almost nil. So as a result, they are also overused. But you gotta use perfect rhyme right? Well... what about consonant families? Consonant families are the next closest to perfect. Instead of using the exact same consonant as the rhyme source word like above and restated here...

 

2. The consonant sounds after the vowel are the same.... you use a different consonant after but you use one pulled from the same consonant family. Here they are:

 

Consonant families

 

Plosives

Voiced: b d g

Unvoiced: p t k

 

Fricatives

Voiced: v TH z zh

Unvoiced: f th s sh ch

 

Nasals

Voiced: m n ng

Unvoiced: companions

 

So, rhyming 'seen' as above, we came up with perfect rhymes of "spleen/queen..." and of course many others. But if you're not finding what you want to to say, and you look at the consonant family, you now have, checking above... ... m and ng to choose from.

 

Seen/dream/cream and ring/spring. And on and on.

 

You've just expanded your rhyme pool exponentially. I'm not sold on the ng, but... that leads to the next idea.

 

There are a few types of rhymes. Those types go in order of being very tight (perfect) and in varying steps, the extreme being vaguely related, and yet still a rhyme. Here they are in order:

 

Perfect

Family

Additive/Subtractive

Assonance

Consonance

 

But here is the mind blower for me. Pattison makes the point that...

 

...sometimes a rhyme type lower on the scale of tightness is preferable for a certain placement, feel, attitude, or meaning. This may be old hat for some of you but for me it's revolutionary.

 

Here's how he makes his point. Think of a C chord on the piano played with your right hand. The left hand plays a C note. That's a perfect rhyme. Now think of that chord with a G in the bass. That's a family rhyme. Now with an E in the bass, each time getting less and less resolved. Right? That E in the bass is an Additive/Subtractive rhyme. Now no bass note, just the right hand C triad. An assonance rhyme.

 

The point? None of those chords are better or worse, but we all know which one we'd choose if we were trying to express safety, or home. That C in the bass. But what if you were trying to imply unrest? Or lead... Is a perfect rhyme really better then something less resolved?

 

Of course, trying to manage all this would be silly and unwieldy. But, it makes total sense to me and opens up all types of possibilities.

 

???

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So perfect rhyme. It doesn't mean it's
better
than the other types. It means it fits the definition of rhyme completely. Debatable?

 

 

I somehow get the feeling that I'm implicated in this thread somehow...

 

Look, to me there are 3 types of rhymes. First, and preferred, are perfect rhymes, which you defined quite clearly.

 

Near rhymes where the vowel sound is the same and the consonant is either slightly different, completely different, or non-existent. (You're right that consonant sounds which are in the same general family stand out less blatantly than the other two types.)

 

Seed, seat, or paid, page -- slightly different consonant sound.

 

Seed, seek, or paid, pains -- completely different consonant sound.

 

Seed, see or paid, play -- non-existent consonant.

 

Slant rhymes are where the consonant sounds are the same but the vowel is different. These generally bring a more satisfying feeling of surprise plus the "ah-hah! feeling than near rhymes do.

 

Seed, sad or paid, prod.

 

I once wrote a poem to girl I knew in college that had a slant rhyme ending. The conceit of the poem was that the narrator is telling his beloved that he while he recognizes that she's a beautiful woman, there's still something little-girl-like in her eyes, her laugh, etc.

 

Anyway, the poem ends:

 

This should come as no surprise;

it isn't that uncommon

to find a wild child in the eyes

of a beautiful woman.

 

Personally, I think that sudden shift from perfect to slant rhyme at the end has a marvelous effect.

 

Then there are homonyms. Site and sight are homonyms, not rhymes. Same with find, fined, etc.

 

I was once scolded (at an ASCAP theater workshop) for rhyming plebian with Caribbean (car-uh-BEE-an.) I pointed out that if you're just looking at the BEE-an part it's a homonym. If you look at the previous syllable, it qualifies as a rhyme.

 

I prefer perfect rhymes, especially for the kinds of songs I tend to write most. That said, I also think that near rhymes, where the consonants are in the same basic family, are acceptable in country, rock, folk, etc.

 

What I will never accept is a truly atrocious rhyme scheme such as:

 

Did you ever know that you're my hero,

and everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle,

'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

 

Rhyming hero with eagle? Or be with wings?

 

Not on my watch. (And such a beautiful song wasted on crap rhymes.)

 

Anyway, that's how I see it.

 

LCK

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I think meaning trumps any quibble about rhyme type. Just because it rhymes doesn't mean that's what you want to say. See Alexander Pope or Alfred, Lord Tennyson for obvious examples.

 

 

Examples, such as?

 

LCK

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I think i broke the rules


In my last song i managed to "perfectly" rhyme "down" with "down"


;)

 

Those are homonyms, not rhymes.

 

Knowing you, it probably worked within the context of your song...

 

LCK

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I somehow get the feeling that I'm implicated in this thread somehow...


 

 

Honestly no. I was referring to schools of thought and attempting to make that point that different schools of thought are for different purposes and styles. But no, not you at all. Everybody has their style and therefore preference. What I'd never seen displayed (granted my experience is limited in this stuff) are the grouping of consonant families, and ranking of the different types of rhyme.

 

That lends itself perfectly to my way of thinking and working.

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English Romantic Poetry was my least favorite college class.
:(

 

Huh. I love the romantic poets, particularly Wordsworth, Byron & Keats.

 

The two guys you mentioned -- Pope and Tennyson -- weren't romantic poets. Pope preceded the romantic period, and Tennyson came afterwards. Pope I don't mind, but I think Tennyson is a bore.

 

But Wordsworth and Keats... those guys could write...

 

LCK

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But Wordsworth and Keats... those guys could write...

 

 

I've come around (to some extent) on Wordsworth and (most of the way) on Keats. But I organized my poetry classes around writers before 1700 and writers after 1900: Beowulf, Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Provencal, Shakespeare Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Auden, Williams.

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I think rhyming is worth thinking about - how it can be used as a component of the instrumentation of the song.

For example, if the song has a very strong and memorable chorus both musically and lyrically, then it can be further reinforced by the use of perfect rhymes.

In this case, the rhyme schemes may be more relaxed in the verses.

 

Obviously there should be no rules about this - just another method that can be used or not used as appropriate to the song.

 

With LCK's style of song, I expect all rhymes to be carefully considered, as the lyrics are so deliberate and clearly articulated in the style.

Other song styles however can feel right with very loose and relaxed rhymes.

 

Or no rhymes at all :

 

'Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together.

I've got some real estate here in my bag.

So we bought a pack of cigarettes

And Mrs. Wagner pies

And we walked off to look for America'.

 

And so the whole of one of S & G's great songs runs all the way through without a rhyme of any kind.

Melody / phrasing / cadence

 

So - perfect rhymes - when to use and when not to use. That is the question.

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I think rhyming is worth thinking about - how it can be used as a component of the instrumentation of the song.

For example, if the song has a very strong and memorable chorus both musically and lyrically, then it can be further reinforced by the use of perfect rhymes.

In this case, the rhyme schemes may be more relaxed in the verses.


Obviously there should be no rules about this - just another method that can be used or not used as appropriate to the song.


With LCK's style of song, I expect all rhymes to be carefully considered, as the lyrics are so deliberate and clearly articulated in the style.

Other song styles however can feel right with very loose and relaxed rhymes.


Or no rhymes at all :


'Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together.

I've got some real estate here in my bag.

So we bought a pack of cigarettes

And Mrs. Wagner pies

And we walked off to look for America'.


And so the whole of one of S & G's great songs runs all the way through without a rhyme of any kind.

Melody / phrasing / cadence


So - perfect rhymes - when to use and when not to use. That is the question.

 

 

I agree 100% with this. Sometimes asymmetry works as well or better than symmetry. Either way, my brain's so full of dopamine that I can't think straight.

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I tend not to be too strict with rhymes. I am happy if what I want to say happens to fit in with a perfect rhyme, but I will not mangle my lyrical intentions and alter the vibe of a song just to get that rhyme.

 

If I have to rhyme "heat" with "flea" or "fleeting" I'm ok with that. It's close enough, and it all depends on how it fits in with the music. Also depends, in terms of the "fleeting" example, where the emphasis falls. If it is on the "fleet" part of the word, and not the "ing", then it is a perfect rhyme anyway, even though technically it's not. *shrug*

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Involving David Lee Roth?
:o

 

:D

 

...back to the rhymes.

 

I like a perfect rhyme, but am not tied to them. I usually try perfect rhymes first, but this is another one of those things, like metaphors, I don't really think about while I'm writing by myself. Now, if I'm working with someone else, I have to articulate why I think this should be the phrase, or in this case the rhyme. Sometimes in the process of explaining, I'll come across a new path that will lead me someplace else entirely.

 

I think that is the reason I like hanging out here.

 

A great example is one I posted a while back about an 'old house where the oleander bloomed.' Because of oldguit's observations, new meaning was pumped into song that I didn't even know was there. A metaphor was present in the first line I was totally unaware of.

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If I have to rhyme "heat" with "flea" or "fleeting" I'm ok with that. It's close enough, and it all depends on how it fits in with the music. Also depends, in terms of the "fleeting" example, where the emphasis falls. If it is on the "fleet" part of the word, and not the "ing", then it is a perfect rhyme anyway, even though technically it's not. *shrug*

 

Same page here. :wave:

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The problem with limiting yourself to perfect rhymes is, as Lee mentioned, that so many of them have been overused to the point of cliche, like fire/desire, moon/June, fruit/goot. (Ok, I made that last word up.)

 

Then there is the problem of regional and international variations in pronunciation. In some parts of the U.S., pin rhymes with when. Or hire is a homonym of higher. In New England, Carver rhymes with lava. What would the rhyme-police say about that?

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I'm a great candidate for having the rhyme police beat me silly and plant a gun on my unconscious body, then. My motto is: if it sounds good, it works.

 

I tend to think non-perfect rhymes sound more organic - like it just so happened that the juxtaposition of different ideas not only have a correlation in the artists mind, but a oddly enough share aural similarities when turned into language. Perfect rhymes are cool, though they can tend to sound less "human".

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One interesting observation...

 

...it doesn't have to be either / or. Perfect rhyme has a feel to it, and the farther away we move from perfect, the feel changes accordingly. I think if I wanted to support an "everything's fine" feeling, or a feeling of truth, a perfect rhyme suits. But what if you were trying to portray a liar. That everyything's going to be alright, be we the listener feel for some reason it isn't. Would further away rhymes lend themselves to underpin that feeling. As would an odd number of lines and abrupt changes in line length. etc.

 

I think it can all be used for different purposes. Sometimes purposefully, and sometimes for the sheer "thank god there are more rhymes words to choose from" factor. :)

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