Musical Form is very important in music and is often neglected. People want to go straight into writing a piece of music, without a plan, and just let the music take them wherever they want to go. But without an idea of or blueprint of what you imagine the piece to be, you are inevitably going to end up with something that seems incoherent or disjointed.
A composer does not, of course, add bit by bit, as a child does in building with wooden blocks. He conceives an entire composition as a spontaneous vision. Then he proceeds, like Michelangelo who chiseled his Moses out of the marble without sketches, complete in every detail, this forming his material.
This is a quote from Arnorld Schoenberg, and explains how you should think about composing. Have you “conceived an entire composition as a spontaneous vision” before? Can you?
Musical Form is the Key
Musical form is the bedrock that we rest out composition on.
In the plainest sense, form is the same as saying that a piece of music has organization. I am not here to debate which types of musical form are the best – they are all the best. There have been beautiful pieces of music written in all forms, and terrible music.
What Are the Different Musical Forms?
It is easy to think about musical form is several different categories:
Number of Parts Dividing the Piece
This group contains what you are probably thinking about when you hear the term musical form. This includes:
- Strophic Form (not recommended)
- Binary Form
- Ternary Form
- Rondo Form
- Arch Form
- Theme and Variations
Complexity and Size of the Parts
Sometimes it is the complexity and interrelation of the parts, and their size than how many parts there are that explains the form. This group includes.
- Sonata Form
- Fugue Form
Meter, Tempo, and Rhythmic Figures
This group is basically different types of “dance forms” and is more about how the piece sounds. This group is very large but includes some of the following:
Mastery Of Musical Form
To understand musical form and use it is a three step process.
- Know the musical form – both what it means, and some compositions in that form.
- Use the musical form. You must practice using the form in your own work, so that you start to feel comfortable with it.
- Integrate the musical form into your own compositional vocabulary. This only comes with time, as you write using the forms more and more.
No beginner is capable of envisaging a composition in its entirety; hence he must proceed gradually, from simpler to the more complex. [ . . . ] These musical blocks (phrases, motives, etc.) will provide the material for building larger units of various kinds, according to the requirements of structure. Thus the demands of logic, coherence and comprehensibility can be fulfilled, in relation to the need for contrast, variety and fluency of presentation.