20 Things I’ve Learned From Listening to Great Songs and Songwriters (11-12)

11. Learn the power of slant (imperfect) rhymes 

Rhythm, rhyme and repetition are the building blocks of good lyrics.  Rhythm is how words sound as we sing them and the cadence they rest upon, repetition is the frequency of a lyric and rhyme provides the verbal adhesive that bonds a lyric to a listener.  For many (and with good reason), traditional rhymes (story/glory), have become tired and exhausted, loosing their ‘punch’.  Slant rhymes however are far more plentiful as they are not dependent on both consonants and vowels, but vowel sounds only.  Wrestling down an imperfect rhyme can unlock a whole host of different directions and possibilities for your lyric.  It’s also a great way to make the lyric rhyme ‘work’ while keeping it fresh.  Consider this lyric from Paul Baloche’s “Revival Fire Fall”:

Let the flames consume us

With hearts ablaze for Jesus

Father, let revival fire fall

12. Count your syllables and make your syllables count

Ever wonder what all those numbers and periods are on the bottom right pages of a hymnal?  Each number represents the amount of syllables in a line.  Together, the pattern makes up the songs rhymical cadence.  Great songs have hooks that are not only established by melody, assonance of lyric, and rhythm but in the songs overall cadence as well.  Often songwriter’s don’t want to be locked into a pre-established cadence as they feel it’s limiting.  It could be argued however, it’s a great way to make every lyric count.  When you adopt these types of boundaries not only are you establishing an additional layer to your hooks, but you are forced to employ an economy of lyrics.  Great songs say sincere things succinctly.  Less is always more.

Travis Doucette is Director of Worship and Production at Harvest Bible Chapel Naples.  For more information, teaching and music resources please visit harvestnaples.org.


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