Following The Music Map – Musical Form – Part 3

Updated: May 11, 2020

If you have ever performed a large solo instrumental work or chamber music work—especially of the Classical Era—or played a part in an orchestral symphony, you have almost certainly played a Sonata (sometimes called Sonata-Allegro) Form. The Sonata Form gives its name to the classical multi-movement work, the Sonata. In a Sonata, at least one movement will be in Sonata or Sonata-Allegro form, and this is usually the first movement. Other movements in this multi-movement may be in this form as well, and there are even cases where all movements composed in Sonata form, such as Beethoven's String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1. (Listen and follow the score below.) Multi-movement works, such as the sonata, the symphony, and the concerto, are all based on sonata form movements.

Two-Themes and Three Sections

Sonata Form Diagram
In music theory, capital Roman numerals indicate major and lower-case Roman numerals indicate minor.

Sonata form is similar to ternary form. The sonata movement can be thought of as a large, three-part ABA' form. The first A section reveals or "exposes" the two main themes of the movement. For this reason, it is known as the exposition. The first of these themes will normally be in the tonic key of the piece (I or i) and the second theme will normally be in the key of the dominant (V) in major keys, and the relative major key to the tonic (III) in minor keys. The second section or B section of the movement, develops these themes and is called the development. In this section, composers often demonstrate their compositional skill and prowess by venturing into other key areas, creating unique variations of the themes, using motivic development, and expanding material from transition or coda sections. The third section (A') features a return of the first sectiion's material, however, this time both themes will normally be presented in the piece's tonic key (I or i).

Analyzing a Sonata Form

Muzio Clementi, Sonatina No. 1 in C major

Listen and see score

FIRST MOVEMENT: Sonata Form (also called Sonata-Allegro)

1. In what measures do the exposition, development and recapitulation begin?

2. In what measure does the first theme begin in the exposition?

3. In what measure does the second theme begin in the exposition?

4. What key is the first theme in?

5. What key is the second theme in?

6. What key does it modulate to in the development section?

7. Where does the material of the development section originate and how does it relate to the first and second theme?

8. What is different when the first theme returns in the recapitulation?

9. In what measure does second theme begin in the recapitulation?

10. In what key is the second theme in the recapitulation?

11. Use the map below and draw a map for the Sonatina in C major.

Janae J. Almen is a professional music instructor, composer, sound artist, and writer. She has a BA in Music/Education from Judson University and a MM in Computer Music/Composition from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. She is passionate about tea and creating our own daily rituals. for more about music lessons and for more about a variety of wellness related topics including tea, sound healing, and more. Contact her via for questions about tea, ceremony, music composition, sound healing, writing, photography, or other relevant topics.