In songwriting, rhyme schemes can either make or break a track. They can turn a one hit wonder into an overnight sensation, or a fantastic flop into an artist’s worst nightmare.
It’s so easy to compare rappers to one another and find similarities these days. One of the biggest comparisons people tend to use when observing artists is their flow. A rapper’s flow is determined by how they integrate rhyme words, stressed syllables, and filler words into their verses. All of these combined make up rap rhyme schemes.
What is a Rhyme Scheme?
A Rhyme Scheme is a sequence of words in a bar. When that sequence is spoken aloud, it creates a rhythmic pattern or “flow”. That pattern (when crafted correctly) helps your song keep a steady beat and pleases the ear of your listener. This is all decided by the order of your rhyming words and syllables.
What is Rhyme Scheme Rap?
Rhyme scheme rap has been the foundation of the genre since Hip-Hop broke onto the scene in the early nineteen seventies. The very first rapper to use a rhyme scheme was an emcee that went by the name of “Coke La Rock”.
The first bar he ever performed went like this: “There’s not a man that can’t be thrown, not a horse that can’t be rode, a bull that can’t be stopped, there’s not a disco that I Coke La Rock can’t rock”. These four lines made history as the first rap verse ever spit, artists and rappers have been building off of them ever since.
Let’s take a look at how these first few bars are constructed:
“There’s not a man that can’t be thrown,
Not a horse that can’t be rode,
A bull that can’t be stopped,
There’s not a disco that I Coke La Rock can’t rock”
Right away we notice that Coke is using end rhymes and some internals as well. The “O” syllable in “Thrown” rhymes with “Rode”, and he used “Stopped” to rhyme with “Rock”. These first few concepts are the building blocks that rappers have used to create the Hip-Hop genera as it is currently known.
Different Kinds of Rhymes
In order to make a rhyme scheme, you will need to get familiar some of the different types of rhymes available to you. Let’s take a look at some of the basic kinds of rhymes.
First we will look at one of the most basic rhyme types, the End Rhyme! Words that are classified as End Rhymes will only appear at the end of a bar.
If you have two lines that finish with words that rhyme with each other, then you have created a pair of end rhymes. Here’s a quick example:
My house is so big you can not see the top
Don’t jump off the roof that is quite a long drop
The two main rhymes are “top” and “drop”, what makes them rhyme is their shared ending syllable “op”. The lines themselves would never be used in a commercial song but it’s easy to spot the ending rhyme words so we used it as an example.
Off Centered Rhyme:
Off Centered rhymes are created when you place your rhyme words in different spots within the bar. Instead of putting all your rhymes at the end of your lines, try placing them in the middle to create some interesting dynamics.
Rollin in my lambo we rockin out all night
Insta’ is all high-lights don’t let them scroll past you
In this example “night” and “high-lights” are the main rhyme words. Instead of placing “highlights” at the end of the second bar and making it an end rhyme, “highlights” is placed toward the center of the second line and is now the off centered rhyme for “night”.
For internal rhyme let’s look at this quick example:
Haters in the comments try to land a sick burn
They’re never gonna learn how to wait their turn
Internal rhyme builds off of both “end rhyme” patterns and “off centered” rhymes as well. The rhyme words for this set of bars are “burn”, “learn”, and “turn”. The internal rhyme is “learn” since it is between the two end rhymes.
WHY DO I NEED TO NOTATE RHYME SCHEMES?
Is it really necessary to know how to create good rhyme schemes? YES. If you are a songwriter you NEED to know how to create rhyme schemes or study someone else’s.
Without knowing how to create a rhyme scheme, you will not be able to dissect a song or improve your own. Knowing how to make rhyme scheme raps and use them correctly is the key to taking your song structure to the next level.
If you were to learn how to deconstruct lyrics using rhyme schemes, you could unlock knowledge from any artist you want! Think about it, you could learn from Eminem, Drake, Futuristic, Biggie, Nas, literally anybody!
It’s much simpler than you think. Now that you have a basic idea of what some different rhyme types are, we can start decoding lyrics and learn how to create a rhyme scheme.
How To Notate Rhyme Schemes.
Rhyme schemes aren’t just different types of words, they are like a blueprint, or a chart of where you place your rhymes in a bar. It’s very helpful when studying sections of a song to notate the artist’s rhyme scheme so you can easily see the rhyme patterns they use.
Let’s deconstruct Coke La Rocks bars as an example, below are two different ways of notating his four basic lines:
Rhyme Scheme Chart 1 (Simple):
One of the most popular ways to notate lyrics is by highlighting rhyme words and syllables. In the image above, we highlighted four types of rhymes. This form of notation is great for people who love working with color and is simpler than the more advanced method.
All you need to construct this form of rhyme scheme, is a copy of the lyrics you want to study and some sort of word processor such as google docs, microsoft word, or any default notepad program. This method is used to easily find rhyming words and where they are placed within the lyrics.
Rhyme Scheme Chart 2 (Advanced):
– a b – – – – 1 (8 syllables)
a b – – – – 1 (7 syllables)
b – – – – 2 – (7 syllables)
– a b – – – – – – 2 – 2 (12 syllables)
This form of Rhyme scheme notation is more advanced than method number one but is better for breaking down larger groups of lyrics.
Instead of highlighting our text with color, we are going to make a sort of chart from scratch. This is done by counting the syllables in each line and notating them with markers such as dashes, numbers, and letters.
Step One, Counting Syllables:
The example above is made up of dashes, numbers, and letters. Each of these has a separate meaning. This looks complicated but don’t worry, the process is simple once you understand a few things.
First, we need to count the syllables in each line of Rock’s four bars. We can see that line one has eight syllables, line two has seven syllables, line three has seven syllables, and line four has twelve syllables.
Finding the syllable count is essential to making sure your markers are placed correctly. Once you have found out how many syllables are in each line, make sure to write down the syllable count. Next we will add in our markers.
Step Two, Convert Syllables into Markers
There are two types of markers. The first marker types are dashes shown as “-”, these represent one syllable in a bar and usually replace your filler words. All words that are not rhyming words or syllables will be turned into dashes on your chart.
The second type of markers are the rhyme words. These can be either represented by numbers or letters such as “a, b, c” or “1, 2, 3”. You can even use them together to make “submarks” for more complicated rhyme schemes such as “a1, a2, a3”
The chart above uses dashes, letters, and numbers to represent different rhyme words from La Rock’s four bars. The words “Thrown” and “Rode” are notated as the number 1, the “Stopped” and “Rock” words are represented by the number 2, and the short phrase “Not A” which is repeated three times is represented with letters “a” and “b”.
You now know the basics of how to create and recognize a rhyme scheme! There are many other rhyme words that are used in creating rhyme schemes which we will get to in the future but for now you have a basic idea of what makes up a rhyme scheme and how to create your own! This is very useful for either breaking down someone else’s lyrics or even helping to create your own songs!