Great lyrics are a key component of any good pop song, and more often than not, in popular music, lyrics utilize particular rhyme schemes. Writing a good rhyme scheme is harder than it sounds: a well-crafted scheme enhances the song itself and hooks into our memory, while a clichéd scheme can come off as hackneyed and lazy.

A new article on ASCAP’s website breaks down “15 Essential Rhyme Schemes for Songwriters.” Before diving into these schemes, author Jordan Reynolds explains the types of rhymes: perfect rhymes (e.g. “lean” and “mean”); family rhymes (e.g. “crate” and “braid”); additive and subtractive (e.g. “eve” and “believe”); assonance rhymes (e.g. “had” and “glass”); and consonance rhymes (e.g. “scene” and “when”).

The rhyme scheme itself is the defined pattern that songwriters use as a template, or structure, in which to fit their lyrical content. Choosing a rhyme scheme isn’t something you want to overthink: it should come naturally and flow organically outward from the song itself. Some key concepts here include: keeping your options open; mixing and matching; not forcing lyrics into specific schemes; and experimenting with internal rhymes (for example, one line rhyming with the middle of the next).

Next is understanding the 15 main types of rhyme schemes in popular music:

•AABB (the most popular, where the ending words of first two lines (A) rhyme with each other and the ending words of the last two lines (B) rhyme with each other)

• ABAB (where the ending words of lines one and three (A) rhyme with each other and the ending words of lines two and four (B) rhyme with each other)

• AAAA (aka monorhyme) 

• ABBA or ABA (where the first and fourth lines, and the second and third lines rhyme)

• AAAB (a change at the end of each pattern)

• ABAC or ABCB (less formal, perhaps more narrative-driven)

• ABAA or AABA (provides additional freedom and flexibility)

• AABC (might be used in a chorus)


• ABCD (no rhymes at all!)

• AABBA (a “limerick” scheme)

• ABAAB (“Ain’t No Sunshine” utilizes this)

• AABBCC (great for ballads)

• AABCCB (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”)

• Combinations (AAAACCBC; AAABCCCB)

By using different rhyme schemes as songwriters, we have the options to switch things up creatively and even challenge ourselves.