Study Guide for Musical Form
A Complete Outline of Standardized Formal Categories and Concepts

Robert T. Kelley
February 2001


Note: This is not a tutorial, and cannot serve to replace classroom instruction in form and analysis. It is intended to function as a study resource for students preparing for an exam or for anyone needing to review their terminology and analytical tools. Although formal concepts are discussed in some detail, the text provides no musical examples of any forms or concepts except by reference. For specific analyses from musical literature of any formal consideration introduced here, see any of the books listed in the bibliography given below.

  1. Introduction

    1. The Analytical Problem
    2. The Reasons for Division and Categorization

  2. Basic Structural Units

    1. Single Musical Events

      1. pitches
      2. rhythms
      3. gestures
      4. motives

    2. The Phrase

      1. melodic/vocal
      2. structural/cadential
      3. introduction
      4. interpolation
      5. extension
      6. phrase construction from repetition and contrast
      7. the sentence

    3. The Period

      1. antecedent and consequent
      2. symmetrical and asymmetrical
      3. parallel and contrasting
      4. HC AC type and IAC PAC type (and other possibilities)
      5. non-modulating and modulating
      6. three-phrase periods
      7. the double period
      8. the repeated period

    4. The Phrase Group

      1. modulatory/transitional phrase structures
      2. the section (extended passage with no cadential divisions)

  3. Structural Functions (from Spencer/Temko)

    1. Expository(/Recapitulatory)
    2. Transitional(/Modulatory)
    3. Developmental(/Variational)
    4. Terminative(/Cadential)

  4. Larger Structural Units (The concept of closure)

    1. Closed Section

      1. Completed Harmonic Motion in One Key
      2. Non-Modulating Periodic Structure

    2. Open Section

      1. Modulatory Periodic Structure
      2. Phrase Groups and Extended Phrases

  5. Binary Forms (Large-scale antecedent-consequent functions)

    1. Simple (Periodic or Cadential Division only)

      1. Sectional
      2. Continuous

    2. Balanced (Periodic or Cadential Division with Cadence Rhyme)

      1. Sectional (rare)
      2. Continuous

    3. Rounded (Periodic or Cadential Division with Clear Return of Opening Material in the tonic)

      1. Sectional
      2. Continuous

    4. Sonata (Clear Return of Opening Material and Advanced Cadence Rhyme)

      1. Expository Sections with Two or More Themes and Modulation
      2. The Concept of Development as Larger Formal Division
      3. The Sonatina
      4. Concerted Sonata Form

  6. Ternary Forms

    1. Simple Ternary Structure

      1. Three closed sections, no development

      2. Three closed sections with transitions
    2. Composite (or Compound) Ternary

      1. Paired Dances
      2. Minuet (Scherzo) and Trio
      3. The March and Trio
      4. Other combinations

  7. Refrain Forms

    1. Concerto Grosso
    2. Verse and Refrain Songs
    3. Rondeau and Rondo (5-part and 7-part)
    4. Sonata-Rondo

  8. One-Part Forms

    1. Prelude and Toccata
    2. Programmatic One-Part Forms
    3. Contrapuntal Forms

  9. Variation Forms

    1. Theme and Variations (Sectional Variations)
    2. Continuous Variations
    3. Developing Variations

  10. Contrapuntal Genres

    1. Compositional Process as Form
    2. Head-Motive Structures

      1. Imitative Motet
      2. Invention
      3. Fugue
      4. Canon

  11. Multi-Movement Structures

    1. The Suite
    2. The Sonata
    3. The Cycle

  12. Summary of Analytical Procedure

    1. Background Research
    2. Listening
    3. Segmenting of Motives and Themes
    4. Harmonic Analysis
    5. Phrase Structure Analysis
    6. Segmentation of Larger Formal Divisions
    7. Categorization with Regard to Larger Formal Units
    8. Discussion of the Whole and its Place in Musical Literature


Selected Bibliography


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