Binary Form

We’ll start with the BASIC sandwich of musical form, what we might call an “Open faced” sandwich.

In a Nutshell:

Music with this form has two contrasting parts,

A: the “bread”



B: the “cheese”


One of the main things we need to remember is that the B section needs to do something different, maybe a different type of melody, new rhythm, or hanging out in a new harmonic land.

Here is a song that has a VERY basic BINARY form. This form is written as

A | B

or bread + cheese

You can hear that the B section “Land where my fathers” is definitely centered around a new note, and has a new tune. What you get here is an open-faced cheese sandwich.

Topics In Depth:

In Classical Music, Binary form often has repeats after both A and B

||: A : ||: B : ||

If those funny lines and dots are looking strange to you, then please go back to Music: Getting Oriented to Reading to learn about notation!

Here is a piece by Bach, the Orchestral Suite No. 2 “Minuet,” which includes those repeats.


The A section is centered around I/i, or tonic in Major and minor.

The B section is most likely going to be in V or Dominant in Major and III or Mediant in minor.