Structures

Composers use structure to shape and give balance to their music. Like the other musical elements, certain musical structures were used in different musical periods. For example, binary form was mainly used in Baroque dances, and sonata form was used mainly in the Classical period.

How to identify the structure of a piece

When you are trying to identify the structure of a piece of music, you will often find at least one of the following features will help you identify the different sections of the music.

Repeated sections

You might be able to find sections that are repeated and then be able to work out if there is a pattern.

Double bars

You might see a double bar line (sometimes with a repeat) at the end of a section. This can help you identify the starts and ends of sections.

Keys and cadences

Conventionally, some structures modulate to specific keys at certain points in the music. There are likely to be clear cadences at the end of sections, mainly to indicate a change of key.

Melodies

Depending on the period of the music, some sections have distinctive melodies.

Textures

Some music may change texture between sections, or create significant textures at the beginning or end of sections.

Words

Repeated text, such as a refrain or a chorus, can be used to give a piece of music structure.

We often label different sections in music with letters, such as A, B or C. This makes it clear when a section is repeated. For example, ABA has three sections, where the second section A is the same as or very similar to the first section A.