Whole works

  1. Baroque suite: any number of short dance movements
  2. Serenade: a set of usually 6 or 7 movements beginning and ending with a march
  3. Symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, etc: the 3 movement plan is fast, slow, fast; the 4 movement plan is fast, slow, minuet, fast
  4. Cycle: Any number of short works which share a common thread, or which encompass a unified idea
  5. Single movement works:
    • Air, Aria: a short song or melody often harmonized
    • Any Dance Movement (see below)
    • Bagatelle: (from "Bague"-jewelred ring): trifle, short, easy piece
    • Berceuse: (from "Berceau"- cradle): lullaby
    • Cavatina: (from "Cavare"- extract): a simple air based on one string only
    • Chaconne (see below)
    • Chorale: church melody, often harmonized
    • Elegy: funeral piece
    • Étude: (study): a technically difficult composition
    • Impromptu: (unplanned): a peice that sounds like the performer is just making it up
    • Novelette: free-form, romantic piece with contrasting themes


Movement: a self-contained part of a musical composition


Theme: the principal melodic idea of a piece


Form: a structure or plan for a movement

  1. Simple Binary Form: 2 sections (A-B)
  2. Ternary Form: 3 sections (A-B-A)
    • Minuet & Trio: (a-a-b-b-c-c-d-d-a-b)
    • Gavotte, Musette: (a-a-b-b-c-d-a-b)
    • Dacapo Aria: (a-b-a) or (a-b-a1)
  3. Compound Binary Form: 3 sections (AB)-(AB modified and sometimes CDE etc...)-(A)
  4. Rondo: (A-B-A-C-A-D-A-E-A-F-etc...)
  5. Theme & Variations: A-A1-A2-A3-A4-A5-etc...)
  6. Chaconne: (Passacaglia) a movement built on a repeated baseline pattern


Ways of writing a movement that are not structural formulas:


a. Fugue – (from "fuga": chase) A specific procedure for writing counterpoint. Strict fugue has a set of rules which must be observed. Strict fugue also includes all of the following elements:

    • Subject: A theme or melody which is stated successively in each part (the successive statements are chasing each other)
    • Counter Subject: A second melody written to go with the first
    • Answer: The first melody restated but starting on a different pitch
    • Stretto (compressed): When the answer begins before the subject is finished
    • Episode: A section of fugue that does not include the subject

b. Double Fugue: fugue with two subjects

c. Canon: each voice imitates a melody exactly

d. Sonata: sonata form movements usually have 3 basic sections 

  • Exposition: the section of a movement in which the primary musical material first occurs
  • Development: the section of a movement in which musical material from the exposition is expanded and modified
  • Recapitulation: the section of a movement in which the material that was introduced in the exposition is brought back
  • Optional Sections:
    • Coda: (Italian for "tail"): an ending passage sometimes added to a movement in order to strengthen one’s sense of conclusion
    • Cadenza: a flashy, ornamental passage near the end of the movement sometimes improvised and sometimes planned

e. Through-composed: a movement or piece without repeated sections