• Register
  • Help
Results 1 to 10 of 10

Topic: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

Share/Bookmark
  1. #1

    What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    My background has been in writing \'pop\' (a broad term) music and I\'m now attempting to compose some \'classical\' pieces. I\'ve looked at the scores for several Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Sonatas but I haven\'t been able to relate it to anything like \"verse, chorus\" or \"AABA\".


    Although many of the Beethoven pieces are in sonata form they are at the same time quite different in terms of form.

    I\'m sure sonata form means more than fast movement, slow mvt, fast mvt. So can anybody help a \'pop guy\' understand the construction of classical music? Thanks.

    Looper

  2. #2

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Hi Looper. In a few sentences I\'ll try to summize Sonata form for you. Although it really can take a whole chapter in a book or more!

    Sonata form or otherwise known as Sonata-Allegro form consists of several sections. The first section is called \"EXPOSITION\" Typically it begins with \"Theme 1\", sometimes more agitated in manner and in the home key (ie. I). This first theme ventures a bit and possibly there may be a \"Second Theme\" which is generally more lyrical in nature and in the dominant (V). Then these have a \"Closing Section\". Then, \"REPEAT\".

    After the repeat, the middle section is called the \"Development\" which takes musical material from either Theme 1 or Theme 2 (or sometimes even other material from the Exposition) and meanders in and out of various keys. There is no real typical rule for a developmental section, hence you develop what you have into something that sounds good! Fragments of motif\'s are usually a good thing to do here.

    The development will lead back into what\'s called the \"Recapitulation\" which is the same material as the beginning Exposition. Although it might be in a key other than the beginning, sometimes in the dominant, or even subdominant (V or IV). This will bring back both Theme 1 and 2(if there was a second theme) then lead to the ending or \"Coda\" which basically extends the ending section a bit longer.

    Double Bar!

    You may want to look at a Mozart piano Sonata. These works are pretty straight forward to the Sonata-Allegro form. Beethoven on the other hand tried to break free from all these rules, so you will have a harder time finding these sections. Send me an email if you have any more questions for me about this. I spent many years playing and studying sonatas. Good luck!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Dallas, Texas
    Posts
    5,755

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Right on, Brett.

    Peter Shickele, aka PDQ Bach, is a musicologist who has released numerous musical comedy albums over the years...his PDQ Bach schtick is pretty funny.

    One of his really funny things is a routine from an old radio show of his, called New Horizons in Music Appreciation. It\'s Beethoven\'s Fifth, done as a sportscast, with commentary about the form, the performances of the players, etc.

    It\'s funny but also pretty educational, because the \"sportscasters\" are commenting the entire way through about the form, and where Beethoven breaks convention.

    It\'s still available, I think. His website is www.shickele.com. Funny guy. He\'s been around for years.

  4. #4

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    One of his really funny things is a routine from an old radio show of his, called New Horizons in Music Appreciation. It\'s Beethoven\'s Fifth, done as a sportscast, with commentary about the form, the performances of the players, etc.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Highly recommended. I love that commentary. [img]images/icons/grin.gif[/img]

    PDQ Bach: On The Air

  5. #5

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Actually at the 50,000 foot level if you squint, Sonata form is simply ABA\'.

    The thing is that \"A\" it self is usually something like aaba.

    When I was studying form it was this realization of smaller forms within forms that finally made the light bulb go off on how I could strucutre any large composition, even if I wasn\'t going to follow a stanard format.

  6. #6

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Operator error – repeat message removed.

  7. #7

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Originally posted by Looper:
    [
    Although many of the Beethoven pieces are in sonata form they are at the same time quite different in terms of form.

    Looper [/QB]
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">No need to repeat Brett’s ideal introduction, but it just might be worth pointing out that there is a difference between ‘Sonata’ and Sonata form. ‘Sonata’ has become a common-ground generic title for a work, usually, but not always, in more than one movement. Not all Sonatas have movements in Sonata form – as you have noticed in Beethoven. However, the title ‘Sonata’ is usually reserved for pieces with an important element of development – even if that development isn’t restricted to the ‘official’ development section.

    More important than learning ‘sonata form’ is embracing the concept of ‘growing’ ideas. Classical music, for all its complexity, is often is based on very simple ideas. These ideas are then treated as if they are like living organisms – they can mutate, combine, produce offspring, argue with each other and make up afterwards. In pop music the ideas are usually shoehorned into a pro-forma song structure. In classical music the process tends to be much more organic and suited to the individual needs of the material.

  8. #8

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    There are two books:

    The Sonata Form - By Charles Rosen (available from Amazon)

    The Larger Forms of Musical Composition by Percy Goetschius - from Alexander Publishing. It\'s not currently listed on our web site (we\'re revising it), but you can call us at 1-310-559-3779 as we have it as a PDF. This book was written for composers. It goes step-by-step through Sonata Allegro plus the other larger forms. Hence, the name.

  9. #9

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Brett, thanks for taking the time to explain. Based on what you\'ve said I gather that the \'Development\' section is the real meat of classical composition. I\'m used to writing music where each section is clearly delineated by a certain chord progression, in fact I often start with a chord progression. I\'m finding it difficult to think of music in terms of \'themes\' and developing those themes. I\'m amazed by composers who can keep a piece interesting for 10 or 15 minutes by striking just the right balance between repetition and variation. I\'m currently attempting to write a longer piece for solo piano so that I\'ll forced to concentrate on the composition rather than arranging tricks or a hypnotic groove to maintain the interest. My goal is to write about 5 minutes of music that sounds unified yet varied, thus my interest in the forms used by the master composers of the past. I’ll take your suggestion of examining Mozart before Beethoven.

    “Actually at the 50,000 foot level if you squint, Sonata form is simply ABA\'.

    \"The thing is that \"A\" it self is usually something like aaba.”

    Thanks John, this type of explanation makes a lot of sense to me.

    \"More important than learning ‘sonata form’ is embracing the concept of ‘growing’ ideas.\"

    Ian, thanks, I hope to fully grasp this concept someday.


    Bruce, I’ll check out that Peter Schikele commentary.

    Peter, that Larger Forms of Musical Composition book you mentioned sounds like it would be really interesting. Is there any chance of looking at the table of contents?

    Thanks again.

    Brian

  10. #10

    Re: What Exactly is "Sonata Form"

    Originally posted by Looper:

    Peter, that Larger Forms of Musical Composition book you mentioned sounds like it would be really interesting. Is there any chance of looking at the table of contents?

    Thanks again.

    Brian
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">I checked, and it\'s $25US on PDF.

    *****************

    The Serious Composer Volume 4
    The Larger Forms of Musical Composition
    By: Percy Goetschius


    Covering the Variation Forms, Rondo Forms,
    Sonata-Allegro Forms, the Overture, Compound Forms

    Chapter 1 - The Ground-Motive

    Chapter 2 - The Ground-bass, or Basso Ostinato

    Chapter 3 - The Passacaglia

    Chapter 4 - The Chaconne
    Chaconne-Theme

    Chapter 5 - The Small (or simple) Variations-form

    Chapter 6 - The Large (or Higher) Variation-Form
    Division Two - The Rondo-Forms: Introduction
    What a Theme is
    Two Kinds of Themes
    Application to the Rondo Form
    The First Rondo Form
    The Second Rondo Form
    The Third Rondo Form

    Chapter 7 - The First Rondo Form
    The Principal Theme
    Transition
    The Process of Transition
    The First Stage
    The Second Stage
    Dissolution of the Form
    The Subordinate Theme
    The Re-Transition
    The Recurrence of the Principal Theme
    The Coda
    Relation of the First Rondo Form to the Song-form with Trio
    1. The insertion (in the Song with Trio) of a retransitional
    passage
    2. The addition of a Coda, to the Song with Trio
    3. The modification or variation of the da capo
    4. The Character of the digression (Trio), and also its key

    Chapter 8 - The Second Rondo Form
    The Principal Theme
    The First Transition
    The First Subordinate Theme
    The First Retransition
    The First Recurrence (or Da Capo) of the Principle Theme
    The Second Transition
    The Second Subordinate Theme
    The Second Retransition
    The Second Recurrence (or Da Capo) of the Principle Theme
    The Coda
    Relation of the Second Rondo Form to the Song form with
    Two Trios

    Chapter 9 - The Third Rondo Form
    The First Division
    The Middle Division
    The Recapitulation
    The Coda
    Division Three - The Sonata-Allegro Forms: Introduction

    Chapter 10 - The Sonatina-form
    The Exposition
    The Retransition
    The Recapitulation, and Coda
    Intermediate Grade

    Chapter 11 - The Sonata-Allegro Form
    The Exposition
    The Development
    The Coda

    Chapter 12 - Miniature Sonata-Allegro, as Expanded Three-part
    Song-Form
    Noteworthy Varieties of the Sonata-allegro Form
    The Basic Motive
    Transposed Themes
    Polyphony, in the Larger Forms
    Augmentation

    Chapter 13 - Irregular Forms: Introduction
    Exchanges, or Mixtures
    1. The Rondo with Development
    2. The Sonata-Allegro with a Middle Theme in, or instead of,
    the Development
    Augmentations
    Double Subordinate Theme
    The Concerto-allegro
    Sonatina-form with final da capo
    Larger Forms with \"Trio\"
    Abbreviations, or Omissions
    6 \"Dislocations\" of the Design

    Chapter 14 - Isolated Unique Designs
    a. Beethoven Symphony, No. 5, Andante
    b. Beethoven Symphony, No. 9, Adagio
    c. Somewhat similar is Schubert, Sonata, No op. 143, last
    movement
    d. Beethoven, String-quartet, op. 59, No. 1, second movement
    e. Brahms, 1st Piano quartet, op. 25, last movement, Alla
    Zingarese
    f. Mendelssohn, Scherzo capriccioso, m f-sharp minor
    g. Mendelssohn, Overture to \"Melusine.\"
    h. Brahms, 1st Piano Concerto, op. 15, first movement

    Chapter 15 - The Overture
    Dramatic or Classic Overture
    The Potpourri Overture
    The Concert Overture
    The Tone Poem

    Chapter - 16 The Compound Forms
    The Suite
    The Minuet
    The Trio
    Concerto
    Symphony

Go Back to forum

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •