Electronic Composition
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What are some common variations of song form?

We already introduced you to three common variations in the previous section: strophic form, 32-bar form, and verse-chorus form. Let’s look at these and others in more detail.

NameFormHistoryPopular examples
Bar formAABOriginated in Germany, what makes this form unique is the A section and B sections do not need to be the same lengthStar Spangled Banner, 12-bar blues (see below)
32-bar formAABAThis was the musical form of the Tin Pan Alley and is also known as the “American popular song form.” It became popular in the late 1910’s.Over the Rainbow (from the Wizard of Oz), Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
Ternary formABAThis form is also sometimes called “song form.” It is very popular in classical music and has been used by nearly every composer of note.The trumpet shall sound from Handel’s Messiah, the Raindrop Prelude in Db by Chopin, and the opening chorus of St John Passion by J.S. Bach
Strophic formAAAPerhaps the most basic song form, it can be applied to a few other song forms like the verse-chorus or 12-bar blues if the larger sections repeat verbatim.Barbara Allen, Erie Canal, and Michael Row the Boat Ashore
12-bar bluesAABTo anyone familiar with American music, this form is foundational. It’s popular among jazz, R&B, pop, rock, and of course blues songs. It grew out of the musical traditions of African slaves and freedmen in the deep south.Almost any blues song, Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry, and Give Me One Reason to Stay Here by Tracy Chapman.