The rhythm hidden in words


  • Your lyrics don’t seem to scan properly, they don’t seem to fit the music
  •  Somehow the lyrics seem unmusical


  1. Words have rhythms hidden inside them. English and many other languages have patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. Stressed syllables are: 
  • Louder 
  • Longer 
  • Pronounced more clearly 
  • Different in pitch  

English poetry employs five basic rhythms of varying stressed and unstressed syllables. 


Stress pattern/rhythm


Unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable


A stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable is a trochee


Two stressed syllables is a spondee


Consists of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable


Consists of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables


Two unstressed syllables

You can find out which syllable of a multi-syllable word is stressed using an online or physical dictionary. Searching google dictionary for the word banana yields the following. 

Note the pronunciation string /bəˈnɑːnə/ this small character ˈ appears before the stressed syllable. 

Do the following

  1. Use this knowledge to understand the rhythms inherent in the lyrics you have written. 
  2. Actively write lyrics with a particular meter
  3. Match the rhythm of your words to your music

Read more on the subject to use meter in advanced ways in rap

Now what?

Now you know how to uncover the rhythm within your words you can play with these ideas and create tension or consonance between your lyrics and music.  

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