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Common Types of Forms

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Strophic Form Binary & Verse-Chorus Forms Ternary & AABA Forms
Rondo Form Theme & Variations Round

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Strophic Form

Strophic form has one part that repeats over and over again. If the song has words, this one part is called the verse. Sometimes the words change in each verse (new lyrics), but the melody or tune is the same each time.

Strophic form is represented by AAAA… If you were creating a sandwich, all you would be eating is slices of bread!

Strophic Form, AAAA

Examples of Strophic Form:

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Binary & Verse-Chorus Forms

Binary Form has two parts, A and B. Sometimes the parts repeat AABB.

Our sandwich will have two parts - bread and some sort of filling. Since the A section does not come back at the end we will end up with an "open face" style sandwich - no bread on top!

Binary Form, AB or AABB

Examples of Binary Form:

Similar to Binary Form is Verse-Chorus Form. The verses usually change words each time, but the chorus stays the same.

Verse-Chorus Form

Examples of Verse-Chorus Form:

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Ternary & AABA Forms

Ternary Form also has two parts, but is different from Binary Form. In Ternary Form, the A section comes back after the B section. Ternary Form is written as ABA. We finally have a traditional sandwich!

Ternary Form, ABA

Examples of Ternary Form:

AABA Form is sometimes considered a special kind of Ternary Form. When used in jazz, rock, and pop music it is called 32-bar Form. 32-bar Form has verses (A sections), but no chorus. The B section is a short bridge that sounds very different from the A sections.

Our sandwich still only has two parts, but we stack two slices of bread on the bottom of the sandwich.

AABA Form

Examples of AABA Form:

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Rondo Form

Rondo Form is like an extra-long version of Ternary Form. The A section keeps coming back after each new section of music. The basic Rondo Form can be written as ABACA, but can be much longer if the composer chooses (ABACADAEA...). Our sandwich becomes much taller with rondo form (think of a double or triple decker sandwich).

Rondo Form, ABACA

Examples of Rondo Form:

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Theme & Variations

Theme & Variations is similar to Strophic Form where the A part repeats over and over again. The theme (main idea) is played first and then each variation changes something about the theme. A composer could choose to change part of the melody or rhythm of the theme. He or she could also change the tempo (speed of the beat), dynamics (how loud or soft the music is played) or the instruments playing the tune. Each time a variation is played, you should still be able to recognize part of the original theme.

Theme & Variations is represented by A A' A'' A'''... Just like Strophic Form, your sandwich would be made entirely out of slices of bread, but this time the bread would be all different kinds (one for each variation).

Theme and Variations, AA'A''A'''

Examples of Theme & Variations:

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Round

A Round is different from any of the forms mentioned on this page. A Round happens when two or more groups do the same thing but start at different times. If it is a song being sung, one group starts singing the words and a few beats later a second group starts singing the words. The two groups are singing the same words, melodies, and rhythms, but they are not singing at the same time so the second group sounds delayed. Rounds can usually be sung by two, three, or four different groups. When each group gets to the end of the song, they usually start all over again.

There is no easy way to write the form of a Round with letters. To represent a Round with sandwich pieces, think of laying a piece of bread down (first group singing) and then overlap a second piece of bread on top of it (second group).

Round

Examples of Rounds:

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