Dances and Song Forms in Music

This section takes a look at the various dances and forms found in Classical music. If you’re learning a waltz, say, it’s useful to know what a waltz is, and what some commonalities with waltzes are.

I hope that this section will enhance your understanding of the pieces you’re learning, and give you a greater appreciation for Classical music.

Short forms and genres




Binary form is the simplest and most basic musical form. It literally means “2-part form”. That means exactly what it sounds like – there are only two sections in binary form, and the pieces in binary are generally quite short.

Minuets are typically written in binary form, and they’re often found in beginner and intermediate music (though complex minuets do exist). Of the Baroque dances, they’re one of the simplest in rhythm and sound.

Dramatic title, I know! Canons are short forms that are easy to understand, but difficult to play since they require so much hand coordination. You’ll come across these a lot in early level collections, since they make such great studies for the beginning pianist.

Baroque Era Genres and Forms





If you’re learning Baroque music, you need to learn the Baroque dance suite. So much great Baroque music, by guys like Bach and Handel, are written in the dance suite form. Having a basic understanding of dance suites also makes them much more enjoyable to listen to.

This video is an analysis, but it also expands on the previous video. We takes a real, live dance suite and make sense of it.

Classical Era Genres and Forms




Mozart’s K545 sonata is very famous, and it’s the perfect way to introduce the slightly complicated sonata form. Sonata form was common in the Classical era, and was used in symphonies, sonatas, sonatinas and concertos.

Sonatinas are like mini sonatas. Before you watch this video, you’ll find it helpful to check out the previous one on sonata form, as this video builds on the information in that one. Sonatinas generally use sonata form in the first movement.

Starting from a grade 3 level you’ll be able to start playing sonatinas, the vast majority of which are between a grade 3 and 7 level.

Concertos are long, involved and virtuosic, featuring one instrument and using an orchestra for back-up. As a piano player, you won’t be getting into concertos until you’re very advanced – but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them as listeners!

Concertos continued to be very popular in the Romantic era as well.

Romantic Era Genres and Forms




Chopin is just one of many composers who wrote beautiful waltzes (Brahms is also known for his), and we discuss that and more in this video. Waltzes are relatively simple in form, and can range in difficulty from easy to very advanced.

Speaking of Chopin, he was the most influential composer in the genre of Polonaises (a Polish dance). His polonaises are quite challenging, starting from an early advanced level, but they’re great fun to listen to.

Theme and Variations is another common and important genre, one which you’re likely to come across in slightly more difficult music (intermediate and beyond). Though the example in this video is from the Baroque era, I find that Romantic and Modern music is where you’ll find the most theme and variations.