MUS 211 Study Guide D (Chapter 4)
Binary and Ternary Forms
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Review of Smaller Forms
group of notes, often four measures in length, leading to a
cadence. Phrases may be shorter, usually not less than three
measures, or they may be longer, usually by extension.
- Period--consists of two
phrases, called antecedent and consequent, the first
usually ending with a half cadence, though any cadence (including a
perfect authentic on occasion) is possible. The second phrase
normally ends with a perfect authentic cadence.
- Parallel Period--when the melodic line of each phrase is
- Contrasting Period--when the melodic line of each phrase
- Double Period--consists of two periods. Only the
last of the four phrases ends in a perfect authentic cadence.
- Phrase Group--a series of phrases, some of which may be
unrelated or lacking closure, which do not arrange themselves
conveniently into periods.
Binary and Ternary Forms Defined
- The terms binary and ternary refer to larger
structures that may be divided into two or three parts,
respectively, and include the following features:
- Each part of a binary or ternary structure consists of one of
the smaller forms: a phrase (uncommon), a period, a phrase
group, or a double period. Extensions of phrases are
commonly used in any of these smaller forms.
- The succession of parts is characterized by a relationship of
keys, especially in the ternary forms--often tonic/dominant
or tonic/relative major or minor.
- There is a definite contrast in the nature of the thematic
material between the first and second parts, and in ternary
form, a return in the third part to the material of the first
- The general format of binary form is statement/contrast,
designated by the letters AB. Each binary piece,
however, will have its own particular characteristics in regard to
the use of smaller forms, key relationships, etc.
- The use of the prime symbol ('), as in a', indicates an
"a" phrase which is similar, but not identical,
to the original "a" phrase. Similarly, A'
indicates a section similar to A.
- The two sections of binary form are usually repeated:
- A section is designated "closed" if it cadences on the
tonic of the composition (the original tonic), and
"open" if it cadences elsewhere.
- In many binary forms the first section (A) is open,
concluding with a half cadence or moving to a related key, while
the second section (B) concludes with a perfect authentic
cadence on the tonic.
Rounded Binary Form
- Rounded binary form differs from true binary form in that the
first section (A) is repeated (sometimes in part) at the
end of the second section (B), e.g., ABa.
- Theorists sometimes refer to rounded binary (the
"rounding out" at the close with a short return of the
original material) as incipient ternary;
"incipient" meaning "beginning to
appear." Either term may be used, although rounded
binary will be our preferred term.
- The general format of ternary form is
statement/contrast/restatement, designated by the letters ABA.
As with binary form, each piece will have its own internal
characteristics with regard to key relationships and other smaller
- Ternary form is more readily distinguishable from rounded binary
when the third section (A) is more balanced with the first
in terms of length and importance of the structure as a
whole. Thus, the third part is usually at least an
eight-measure period, and is often extended.
- The A sections of three-part forms are typically
"closed" in formal design, i.e., they cadence on the
Da Capo Ternary Form
- This form is created merely by placing the direction "D.C.
al fine" at the end of the B section. The fine,
then, is placed at the end of the first A section, thereby,
constituting and ABA form without having to rewrite the
first A section.
Ternary Form Written Out
- One advantage of writing out the final A section is that
the composer may wish to vary the material of the opening A
section at the conclusion of the work.
Expansion of the Middle Section
- In the more simple ABA forms, the B section often
appears to function more or less as a transition between the
opening and closing A sections. The middle section,
however, can assume equal or greater importance than its
surrounding A sections.
Larger Ternary Forms (Composite)
- It is possible for the three sections of ternary form to be
comprised of forms within themselves. For example:
These forms would be referred to as composite ternary
forms. (Composite can refer to any form in which other
smaller forms are present within.)
The second example is commonly found in Da Capo ternary form.
- Sonata form--a composition with three main sections: exposition,
development, and recapitulation.
(The term sonata also refers to all movements of a
multi-movement composition, e.g., Piano Sonata in C Major.)
- Exposition: the purpose of this section is
to "expose" or state the thematic material upon which
the entire movement is based.
- Theme 1: in the tonic key
- (Theme Group 1: Sometimes Theme 1 is not a single
melody, but a group of melodic ideas that form a "theme
- Transition: prepares for the 2nd Theme,
which is traditionally in a related key. The transition
may contain material from: the 1st Theme/Theme Group, the
2nd Theme/Theme Group, a combination of the two, or unrelated
- Theme 2: typically contrasts with the
first. In major keys, it is most often in the dominant
key. In minor keys, it is often in the dominant
minor, or relative major (most common).
- Monothematic: earlier sonata forms often have
only one theme, the 2nd Theme merely being the first theme
- Theme 3: some movements in sonata form of
extended length often contain a 3rd Theme, the closing theme,
usually in the same key as the 2nd, but it is preceded by a
- Codetta: to complete the exposition, a
codetta (small coda) is sometimes included. It has the
characteristics of an extended cadence, and may or may not
recall 1st Theme material.
- Development: this section provides
opportunity for motivic development of material presented in the
exposition. Many key possibilities are seen in development
- Techniques: sequence, modulation, augmentation,
diminution, change of mode, fragmentation (selecting fragments
from previous material).
- Form: no set pattern exists, however, identifiable
subsections may be noted.
- Retransition: the final section of the
development, which prepares for the recapitulation.
- Recapitulation: return to the tonic and to
themes stated in the exposition--provides balance to the movement.
- Return of Theme 1 / Theme Group 1: These themes appear
in the original key. (Exception: In some early
sonata forms, the recap begins in the subdominant, and is
essentially a transposition of the exposition.)
- Return of the transition: In the recap, it loses some
of its reason for being, because it does not support a
modulation, although some chromaticism may be present. If
a change of key occurs (the exception), a return to the tonic
causes the transition to be longer than in the exposition.
- Return of Theme 2: In major keys: Theme 2 is in the tonic
key. In minor keys: Theme 2 is in the tonic or
parallel major key.
- Return of Theme 3: If there is a Theme 3, it appears in
the tonic. When Theme 2 (in minor) is cast in the parallel
major, however, Theme 3 may do the same.
- Return of Codetta: If there is one, it appears in the tonic
- An Introduction may appear prior to Theme 1.
- A Coda of varying length may appear following the
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