Defined by the minds at Merriam-Webster
: the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables (as wild and woolly, threatening throngs) —called also head rhyme, initial rhyme
Put simply, it’s two or more words (consonants) that have the same sound, either adjacent, or separated by a word or two. Using alliteration in your writing can help make the lyric more striking, memorable, or more pleasing to the ear. Alliteration can be subtly effective however, using it. It’s too much can get a bit silly. It’s important to make sure you keep your meaning in the fore front.
Alliteration, as a poetic device, has been around longer than dirt. You can find it in normal conversation, or old chestnuts like ‘good as gold’ or ‘right as rain’ or ‘simple Simon’, to name a few. Edgar Allan Poe writes in the classic ‘The Raven’, “Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary…”. Another amazingly well crafted example from the same poem is “… Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…”. In this Poe work ‘Weak and weary’, ‘wondering, fearing’ and ‘dared to dream’ are good examples of alliteration.
At it’s best, alliteration in songwriting is almost unnoticed by the listener. Like spices in a gourmet dish, you might not be able to identify them individually right away, but the casserole wouldn’t taste the same without them. Once again, the listener’s attention should not be drawn from the message for the sake of the use of alliteration.
It’s commonplace in song titles. Elton John’s ‘Sad Songs Say So Much’ perhaps stretches the normal limit. Eric Clapton’s ‘Bell Bottom Blues’. ‘Maybe it was Memphis, by Pam Tillis, uses alliteration. ‘Maybe it was Scranton’ wouldn’t have had near the impact. Alliteration in songwriting is most effective when subtle. Dan Fogelberg writes “She would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn’t like to lie” in his hit ‘Old Lang Syne’.
Spend a few minutes scouting. Alliteration can be found in nursery rhymes like Mother Goose, children’s books like Dr. Suess. Pay attention, you will hear it used in advertising extensively. Or, try to say ‘she sold seashells by the seashore’ five times fast. Thanks to alliteration, your tongue goes south while your brain travels north.
Write, write and rewrite
Write a lyric line or a title using alliteration
for each of these four words.