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Ballads. Studying and writing great ballads. Ballad Writing Tips often have verses of four lines usually have a rhyming pattern: either  abac   or aabb or  acbc (usually the easiest to rhyme) repetition often found in ballads entire stanzas can be repeated like a song's chorus

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ballads

Ballads

Studying and writing

great ballads

slide2
Ballad Writing Tips
  • often have verses of four lines
  • usually have a rhyming pattern: either  abac   or aabb or  acbc (usually the easiest to rhyme)
  • repetition often found in ballads
    • entire stanzas can be repeated like a song's chorus
    • lines can be repeated but each time a certain word is changed
    • a question and answer format can be built into a ballad: one stanza asks a questions and the next stanza answers the question
  • Ballads contain a lot of dialogue. 
  • Action is often described in the first person
  • Two characters in the ballad can speak to each other on alternating lines
  • Sequences of "threes" often occur: three kisses, three tasks, three events, for example
structure
Structure
  • Most of the ballads that have survived to the present day can be divided into verses of four lines. This number can vary--sometimes a 6 or 8 line verse is inserted into the ballad (Tam Lin).
  • Ballads contain a lot of dialogue.
slide4
Rhyme
  • Most ballads use one of three different types of rhyme: abac, aabb, or abcb.  
  • The first type of rhyme, abac, is found in ballads that include a chorus in the verse: the first and third lines of each verse rhyme, while the second and fourth lines, the chorus, are the same in every verse.
example of abac rhyme scheme
Example of ABAC rhyme scheme

She went down below the thorn

Fine Flowers in the Valley

And there has she her sweet babe born

And the green leaves they grow rarely

She's ta'en out her little penknife

Fine flowers in the valley

And there she's twinned her sweet babe of it's life

And the green leaves they grow rarely

slide6
In the second type, aabb, the first and second lines rhyme with eachother, as do the third and the fourth lines.

As I was walking al alane

I saw twa corbies makin' mane

the tane untae the tither did say

where shall we gang and dine the day?

slide7

The third type of rhyme, abcb, is the most common type of rhyme found in Child's ballads. In this rhyme scheme, only the second and fourth lines rhyme:

  • Her breath was strang, her hair was lang And twisted twice about the tree
  • And with a swing she came about
  • "Come to Craigy's sea and kiss with me"
how do i start writing a ballad
How do I start writing a ballad?
  • Start with a key phrase...
    • ...that pops into your head,
    • ...or strikes you when somebody says it,
    • ...and is connected with something you feel strongly about.  
  • Build on this phrase.
    • Images related to the phrase
    • Similar phrases
    • Rhyming words
    • A tune that fits the phrase
slide9
Ask yourself questions.
    • Who is saying this phrase?
    • ...Why? ...Where? ...To whom?
    • What is the reply?
    • How did they get into this situation?
    • Consequences
  • What rhymes with the key phrase?
    • Do these rhyming phrases trigger more images?
slide10
Construct verses.
    • Most usual is 4 lines, with the 2nd line rhyming with the last.
    • Arrange the verses into sequence.  
  • Cobble together more verses to make a story.
    • The initial fill-in verses may be Yuk! but they give your imagination a framework.
    • Sing them over and over until, days (months?) later, better words come to you.  
    • http://www.studyguide.org/ballad_examples.htm
    • Examples of ballads