Welcome back! In the first part of this series, we talked about what a rhyming dictionary is, how it’s organized, and how to find both true rhymes and oblique rhymes that fit your song beautifully.
Taken together, the techniques laid out in that one short article can multiply your rhyming possiblities fivefold. In this post, part 2, we’ll talk about how to cover yet more ground–because sometimes you have to dig deep before you strike a vein of gold.
Trailing rhyme is simply a rhyming pair in which one of the words has an extra syllable at its end.
This is sometimes also called semirhyme.
Whatever name you give it, trailing rhyme’s a great way to add a twist of lemon to a rhyme scheme that otherwise risks becoming predictable and stale. With this type of rhyme, the listener still gets the rhyme that she was expecting, but with a kick: the line ends either a syllable sooner or later than anticipated.
Three examples of trailing rhyme:
As you can see, with trailing rhyme one of the Easy, right?
Words linked by assonance are technically not even considered to rhyme. The only thing they share in common is a vowel sound:
With assonance, that common vowel is the only sound these words share in common.
You can use assonance within a line of lyric to create musically pleasing effects in your lyric, entirely separate from the rhyme scheme–or, since the act of singing really brings out vowel sounds, you can also substitute assonance for rhyme in many situations.
To find assonance rhymes, simply browse in your print rhyming dictionary within a wider section of the same vowel sound (similar to the way you might find oblique rhymes–see part 1–but even more free). In the act of writing you might also find that assonance arises naturally, because
Every song is unique and has unique needs.
None of these terms are rules–they’re just different ways of finding pleasing sounds in language. Whether you use true rhyme, oblique rhyme, trailing rhyme, or assonance in a given situation is totally up to you, and up to your judgment. Let your ear guide you.
For example, assonance can sound less resolved than true rhyme or oblique rhyme does. In some situations, that won’t matter at all. In other situations, assonance won’t be satisfying enough to create the sense of conclusion that the line of lyric calls for. And in still others, the less-satisfying assonance could be used to actually support the lyric line–creating tension and drama and a sense of disquiet.
Is True Rhyme the Only Kind of Rhyme?
A quick word about purists before I go.
Now and then you may encounter somebody in a songwriting circle whose attitude is that true rhyme is the only rhyme, and anything else is cheating.
Unfortunately, the terms given to the different kinds of rhyme don’t really help our case here. True rhyme is sometimes called “perfect”. Both true and perfect are very positive words. Meanwhile, other types of rhyme tend to get terms that make them sound like they came out of the dent-and-scratch bin: imperfect, forced, semirhyme. And assonance sounds like it came straight out of a proctology textbook. C’mon, literary term-definers, throw us a rope here!
The truth is that no sounds in language are objectively correct or incorrect to use. The rhyming devices you use depend on your mood, the situation at hand, and what the song calls for. If you’re writing for Broadway, yes, maybe true rhyme is forced upon you by the expectations of tradition.
In most cases, though, I’d urge you to consider what’s best for the song, for the lyric, for the line. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Thanks for reading. Have fun.