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Sound Devices

8,211 views
Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Sound devices are elements of literature and poetry that emphasize sound. There are a few different types of sound devices including alliteration, rhyme schemes and rhythm. Alliteration is the repetition of constant sounds. Rhyme schemes are the pattern in which a poem rhymes while rhythm is the number of syllables in the lines of poetry.

Let's talk about sound devices. So your teacher may ask you how certain sound devices affect a piece of writing and they're most often used in poetry or in song lyrics, things that are meant to be rattled out. But I want to talk about three different things that play into sound devices and see if you can identify those. So, the first is alliteration and that's the repetition of consonant sounds and nearby words. Something like Peter Pier picked a pack of pickle peppers, right. That 'p' sound is repeated. Another thing you may look at when you're looking for sound devices is rhyme scheme. So you may have studied Shakespeare sonnets or Pertakian sonnets and they all have their own different rhyme scheme that sets them apart from other kinds of sonnets. And they're labelled with letters and we'll take a look at how to do that in a little bit. And then you also want to listen closely to rhythm and I think this is one of the harder things to pick out. But if you look at a poem say like Longfellow's midnight ride of Paul Revere, as you're reading it, what you'll notice is the rhythm sounds a whole lot like a horse's hooves galloping. And he did that on purpose because the poem is about, the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
So let's take a look at a famous poem. One of my favorites is the last two stanzas of it and I'm going to read it out loud. I want you to listen to see if you can pick up on the alliteration, the rhyme scheme and see if you notice any kind of rhythm. So this is the last two stanzas of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe; But our love it was stronger by far than the love of those who were older than we, of many far wiser than we and neither the angels in heaven above, nor the demons down the sea can ever dissever my soul from the soul of my beautiful Annabel Lee. For the moon never beams without bringing me the dreams of the beautiful Annabel Lee and the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes of the beautiful Annabel Lee. And so, all the night tide I lie down by the side of my darling...my darling, my life and my bride, in her sepulchre there by the sea, in her tomb by the sounding sea. So one of the first things that probably stuck out to you is, the rhyme scheme. There's words that rhyme here. So if we were going to label the rhyme scheme, we would say that the first sound we hear at the end of a line 'love' would get the letter 'a'. And in any other time we see a word that rhymes with love, we'd give it the letter 'a'. So, we go on to the next line, it doesn't rhyme, it's 'we' so I'm going to give that as a new sound 'b' and anything that rhymes with we or is the same as we is going to get 'b'. So we can go to the next line, 'b', heaven above is 'a'. Now we've got 'c'. So, so far we've got a, b, b, a, b, and now we've got soul which is a new sound and then 'Lee' rhymes with 'we', so we go 'b' again. And that would be the rhyme scheme, so that how you would denote what rhyme scheme was.
If somebody asked you what it was on a test, you would write the rhyme scheme of the stanza is a, b, b, a, b, c, b. So that's how you would denote that. And I wonder if any of you picked up on alliteration. Now, there are some sounds that are repeated but remember we're looking for the consonant sounds which will mean names are consonants. And the ones that stick out to me are down here, her sepulchre there by the sea in her tomb by the sounding sea, we hear that 's' sound repeated. And if you think about what that stanza speaking about, it's about a woman, his bride who has died. A sepulchre is her tomb and it's there by the sea. So if I imagine being at the sea mourning my loved one, what sound I'm I going to hear as the waves come in? That 's..' sound. So it really repeats that sound and really kind of creates the imagery there. And then finally, let's take a look at the rhythm. Like I said this is a little bit harder but harder to pick out but I can start to see it just in the form of the sonnet. You got a long line, short line, long line, short line...and what that reminds me if you turn it on its side, right, we've got waves. So this idea of rhythm, long, short, long, short, is much like the rhythm of the sea that you hear when you're sitting by it. So you can see that he intentionally made these choices to create that imagery and that sound in our heads that really makes us feel like we're there and feeling what he feels. So this is just an example of how a poet can use sound devices in a poem to really create meaning and how to be able to dig them out.