Musical Form

What is Form?

Form is the frame or outline of the song.

It entails the following:

1)How many sections does the song have? For example, does it have a verse and a chorus?

2)How many measures are each section? Things like, it is 12 bars, 8bars or 32 bars are common forms.

3)Do the sections repeat?

There are many different Forms, some of which have names they are so common.

Today we are going to talk about one of the most common forms in all of music


Binary Form is a Form made up of TWO sections.  Musically speaking these are called an A and a B section.  A common version is all of your old favorite songs that go Verse Chorus Verse Chorus or Verse Verse Chorus, etc.  These can be labeled shorthand AABB or simply AB if the sections don’t repeat.  An old folk tune that is AABB is “Old Joe Clark.”  A great many fiddle tunes are AABB as well.

Understanding the Form of a song will allow you to pick up that song faster, as you will see the repetitive nature of it, rather than always learning something new each go around.  This is a common error I see in many TABS, always giving the student something new.  This is fine to keep things interesting, yet makes things more difficult than they need to be for the beginner.  A good beginner arrangement should always begin with a version that clearly outlines the Form and keeps the repetition intact.

Form is also useful if you are a songwriter as it gives you a framework to write your piece of music.  Try to write a song with Two sections before moving on to those with more sections, we will discuss these at a later date.  The form gives you something to build off.


Here is a detailed analysis of the fiddle tune “Old Joe Clark”




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Jody Hughes Written by:

I am a full-time banjo and acoustic guitar teacher, performer and composer. I have performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium. My interests include developing educational materials for the advancing banjoist and composing Original Music mixing my background in Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical and Latin Music.

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