Short Musical Forms: Intro

Remember that music is made of phrases. Recall from the previous section that phrases can be thought of like sentences. Phrases end with cadences, which are like the punctuation between the musical ideas. Each phrase contains a certain musical idea.

Each idea is labeled with a letter name. Each letter represents a single musical idea. We call the order in which the musical ideas occur the form of the piece.

Just like sentences and punctuation are the building blocks of language, musical phrases and cadences are the building blocks of music. If “phrase” and “cadence” don’t ring a bell, please review the section on “phrases and cadences.”

You could think of a piece of music as a sandwich. The building blocks of the early musical sandwiches were simply bread and cheese. We’ll see how the slices of bread and cheese fit together to make a tasty piece of music.

There are three main short forms that musicians, music theorists, and historians use to describe pieces of music. These forms are binary, ternary, and rounded binary.