In some songs, a line in one verse will be a syllable longer than the matching line in other verses, and this will be resolved by adding an extra note to the start or end of that line of melody (in that verse), making the line longer by cutting into the time between lines.

The first example that comes to mind is Queen's Death On Two Legs, which has this on almost every line in the last verse.

What is this called?

Something similar also happens commonly in hymns. The extra syllable is added by splitting (e.g.) a minim into two crotchets, adding the extra note without lengthening the line. I'm not specifically asking about this, but maybe it is covered by the same name.

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    I've not come across a musical term for this myself, but in poetry such a line might be called hypermetrical or hypercatalectic. Feb 23, 2017 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Hymnals that classify their contents by meter (in an appendix) refer to this simply as IM, which is an abbreviation for Irregular Meter. In other words, the metrical construction of each verse does not exactly match that of every other verse.

However, that does not really answer your question, because I take you to be asking about the adding of extra notes in the music to adjust for the irregularity of the meter. I have heard that called "rhythmic adjustment," but only by a few organists and choir directors, and I don't believe it's a generally accepted term used by musicians in general.

I'm tempted to call certain examples of it "The Carly Simon Effect," because in her early songs she did that more than any other songwriter I've ever run into. She would often cram three or four extra syllables into the end of a line, with no effort to make the stress points in the meter match the beat of the music. She always did it at the end of lines, rather than throughout a line, as a lot of hymns do.

Sorry to be of so little help. I fear there is no established term for the phenomenon. If there was, somebody would have posted an answer before now!

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