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The term musical form is used in two related ways:
- a generic type of composition such as the symphony or concerto
- the structure of a particular piece, how its parts are put together to make the whole; this too can be generic, such as binary form or sonata form
There is some overlap between musical form and musical genre. The latter term is more likely to be used when referring to particular styles of music (such as classical music or rock music) as determined by things such as harmonic language, typical rhythms, types of musical instrument used and geographical origin. The phrase musical form is typically used when talking about a particular type or structure within those genres. For example, the twelve bar blues is a form often found in the blues and rock and roll music.
In classical music, there are many labels applied to forms. Typical structures used to shape a single movement include:
- Strophic form
- Binary form
- Ternary form, less often tertiary
- Sonata form, also called sonata-allegro
- Variation form, sometimes theme and variation
- Arch form, ex: ABCBA
Types of piece which may or may not incorporate one or more of the above structures as part of their overall makeup include:
- Ballet (music), larger musical composition intended for Ballet dance form
- Dance (music), smaller musical composition intended for presentation of a dance, either as accompaniment for dancing or as music as such
- Fantasia (music)
- Symphonic poem
See also: List of musical topics, Susan McClary.