Singing Games for Musical Improv - Rhyming Games
Rhyming is a muscle
No matter how naturally talented, or terrible you may think you are at rhyming, then good news is that it is a skill that is improved with practise. Some people's brains just seem to be able to pop out rhymes like popcorn machines, others will freeze at the very thought of having to come up with a rhyme. There are many ways to practise rhyming and here are some of the methods we use during Musical Improv Classes.
Rhyming Games for Groups
Playing rhyming games as part of a group is a great way to put yourself on the spot and find out what you can do. Part of improving your rhyming ability is to relax and allow your brain to make connections, but there are also times when for whatever reason, you just can't think of a rhyme. That is where Improv skills kick in. Can you still commit to delivering something? Do you shrink away in horror at your own fallibility? Or can you style it out and keep the flow of the game going? Here are some of our favourite rhyming games for Improv (or anything else).
Rhyme ball uses an imaginary ball that is 'thrown' around a circle. When you throw the ball you also say a word, when you catch it you rhyme. Throw-associate, catch-rhyme. The mechanic is deceptively simple but this exercise has many hidden powers to improv your rhyming and improv. Firstly you can simply work that rhyming muscle and try to hit as many clean and accurate rhymes as you can. The next layer though is keeping the ball moving and keeping your thinking time short. That means that you will not always have a good word ready. You might even be given a word that does not exist or is just too complex for a good rhyme. What then? That is when your improv skills kick in and you accept the offer, yes and it with something and give a gift to the next person. When coaching rhyme ball we nearly always stop after a minute or two and encourage the players to act more like children actually playing with a ball. A bad throw or catch is not relevant, but keeping the game going with joy is. Try rhyme ball with gibberish words or deliberately difficult ones to achieve true master rhyming status. Read more about how the game works at our Musical Improv Games - rhyme ball page.
Hush Little Baby
Often played right after rhyme ball as it is the perfect chance to put the skills of rhyming and associating into action. Hush little Baby involves improvising the words to the original song. One player will give a gift and the next will find something wrong with it and then rhyme with themselves when giving the next gift. "If that insert gift falls apart, I'm gonna buy you a nice jam tart." etc.
The beauty of this game is that it introduces the mechanics of a musical improv song in a fairly simple structure. It also highlights the need to keep the song going so it does not fall behind the accompaniment. You can download the accompaniment backing track for Hush Little Baby here. It also tends to lead to some hilarious and inappropriate offerings and laughter is such a great way to relax people and get them more free to be creative and inventive. Read more about how the game works at our Musical Improv Games - Hush Little Baby page.
Love is Like
Another of our standard and favourite rhyming games in a group, Love is Like involves one person singing two lines about their love..."Our love is like the sea, it changes every day" and the other person rhyming with both lines, "Our love is like a flea, it sometimes flies away." Again this is a nice gentle way to start to put rhymes into a song format without too much pressure. Just like rhyme ball, we will often do a round of Love is Like and then coach people in the next round to really loosen up in their body and mind and really commit to the song and the emotion. If the rhyme comes in the moment then great, if not then you still have to be in the moment and deliver something to your song partner. In our opinion, the way to succeed this game is to look and sound like you know exactly what you are doing, even if the words do not come out quite right. Read more about how to play at our Musical Improv Games - Love is like page
Solo or duet rhyming games
If you really want to get those reps in there is no better way than just working that rhyming muscle hard on your own or with another person. Here are some of our most highly recommended rhyming exercises and games to play on your own or with a friend.
I'm not sure if this goes under other names but we have always called it simply questions. The format is simple enough, one person asks a question, the other responds (or you respond to your own question) and then asks you a question back which you respond to. The rhyming comes in that your question should rhyme with your response. So if you replied 'Yes I like truffles they are nice', your question could be 'Have you ever had head lice?'
A simple formula but can lead to some hilarious and revealing moments as you find out about whether you prefer bears or wolves and whether you have ever tickled a pig. Also gives loads of opportunities to come up with quick rhymes. Find out how to play in more detail on our Musical Improv Games - Questions page, and listen to our podcast where we play this and other rapping games on our rapping podcast
This is how we do it
A lovely technique for setting yourself up for a rhyme. Watch the expert Abandoman nail it here. There are numerous ways to get your payoff words - the word you want to land at the end of your second line. Objects held up, just anything that you see or words fed to you by someone else. Any way you get your word, your job is to set up a line so that you can rhyme with the given word on the next line. The phrase 'This is how we do it' is simply a way to get into the rhythm of the lines and to give yourself a bit of thinking time. As you become more accomplished you will be able to drop this line and improvise the whole thing.
Say the word was 'River' you could say:
'This is how we do it, it's the water giver,
Get yourself wet in the mighty River'
Read more about how to play this rhyming game at our Musical Improv Games - This is how we do it page.
Improvise an existing song
Loads of our rhyming games come from taking an existing song and improvising new lyrics. We have done this with Favourite things, Superclifragilisticexpialidocious, Oh what a beautiful morning, Da Doo Ron Ron and countless more. You can just pick any song you like that has a rhyme scheme and try to improvise your own version either on your own or a line at a time with a group for an extra challenge.
Let us know
If you have any favourite rhyming games you use to help build that muscle than we would love to hear about it. You can email us, comment on this blog or use the contact form below to reach out and connect to our lovely musical improv community. You can see a selection of our curated Musical Improv Games by visiting our Musical Improv Games page.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel have over 15 years experience performing, teaching and writing about Musical Improv. Based in the UK they have facilitated workshops and graced stages around the world.