The Structure of Music:
What is Form?
• General: The overall structure of a piece
• Example: Notice this house.
You can see that it has two
wings on either side of the main entry.
The form of this house would be
diagramed as ABA Wing Entry Wing.
How does Form appear in
• Music can also be described in terms of its
overall form or structure.
• Usually, we focus on the melody or theme
in order to determine the form. When the
melody changes, we assign a different
letter (A= wing of the house, B=Entry way,
A=other wing). This type of form in music
would be called ternary or three-part.
Types of Musical Forms
• Binary: Two part = AB (sometimes
referred to as verse/refrain)
• Ternary: Three part = ABA
Good example of this is the Minuet and
Trio. Click here to see the Flash
Presentation on this type of form.
• An example of this is the third movement
of Mozart’s Eine kleine nachtmusik
(CD2/Track 9.) [Classical era]
Types of Musical Form 2
• Rondo: The main theme (A) keeps
returning. Click here to see the Flash
presentation on Rondo form.
• A terrific example of this form is the first
movement of Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the
Four Seasons. (CD1/Track 18) [Baroque
Era] Notice how the main theme keeps
Types of Musical Form 3
• Theme and Variations: In this form, the main
theme is presented in its entirety at the
beginning of the piece. Then the composer
changes how it sounds by using different
musical techniques. Click here to see a Flash
presentation about Theme and Variation.
• A great example of this type of form appears as
the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony
No. 94 (Surprise) (CD2/Track 10) [Classical
Types of Musical Form 4
• One of the more difficult forms to follow is
the Sonata Allegro form. Your book
refers to it as the Sonata form or double
binary. Please do not use double binary
• This form appears in the first movement of
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. and also
with Mozart Symphony No. 40. Click here
to listen to Mozart 40.