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Sonata form?

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Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Posts: 73

PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2006 2:52 am    Post subject: Sonata form? Reply with quote

Can anyone explain for me the structure of a sonata? How many sections are there in a sonata? Why are there sometimes three, sometimes four? What is Main theme, Recap?
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Joined: 18 Sep 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Ede, Netherlands

PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opening is called the exposition I thought. The main theme comes after the exposition mostly. This theme is developed and converted into many ways. A second theme comes. Depending on the sonata, after a number of themes the first part is usually finished. After that comes a part in minor, transposing into other keys very often. Then follows the first theme again, which develops into another key (very often the V of the main key). The piece ends in this key (the end of the first section was in V, so the end of the V is in I again).

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." - S. Rachmaninov
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Joined: 24 Sep 2006
Posts: 16
Location: Gold Coast, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2006 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Basically the Sonata-Allegro form is devided into three parts: Exposition, Development and Recapitulation.


The exposition is devided even further, into the First Subject (probably the 'main theme'), a Bridge, Second Subject and Codetta.

The first subject is traditionaly in the tonic key, that is, the 'home' key of the piece. After the first subject is played, a bridge follows that traditionally modulates into the dominant key (for example, if the first subject is in C major, the bridge will modulate the piece into G major). After the bridge is heard, the second subject begins. This is traditionally in the dominant. The second subject is generally of a contrasting nature to the first. After the second subject is heard, there will be a codetta, which will end the expoisition and generally return the piece to the tonic.


The development doesn't really have a structure as in-depth as the exposition. Basically, the first and second subjects are variated (developed) however the composer sees fit. Generally, there isn't any new material introduced, but rules are made to be broken Laughing


The recapitulation is basically the exposition with a few key differences. There is usually some small change to the thematic material; for example, the length of certain notes is changed, or the register of the notes. Of course, the changes aren't restricted to just these, these are just examples. Traditionally, the largest difference between the recapitulation and the exposition is that the bridge does not modulate into the dominant. Therefore, the second subject is repeated in the tonic. After the second subject, there is a coda which finishes of the allegro movement.

So there you go, that is Sonata-allegro form. Please note that this is the 'traditional' form. There are, of course, many varitions on this formula (especially in 20th Century music), but this is the basic formula for Sonata-allegro form.

Now here's a nice little text-diagram-thing so that you don't have to read all that rubbish again.

First Subject
Bridge (modulating into dominant)
Second Subject

(Thematic material from exposition is variated as composer sees fit)

First Subject
Bridge (retains the tonic)
Second Subject (in tonic)
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