Binary Form

Music Theory Resources

Binary Form

  • Two-part form, divided by double bars;
  • Tonal pattern: first part begins in tonic and ends in dominant; second part begins in dominant and returns to tonic. Variant: first part may not modulate, and second part begins on (not in) dominant and ends in tonic.
  • Thematic material: similarity of thematic material between parts.
  • Cadences: can have endings with the following: Rhyming termination (similar cadences); Echo (repetition of last few bars).

Two basic types of binary form:

Simple Binary

|: A :| |: A' :|
Major key I V V I

||: A :||: A' :|| or ||: A :||: B :||

Major key: I V V I I V V I

Minor key: i III III i i III III i

  • 1. Symmetrical; both parts equal.
  • 2. Asymmetrical: unequal parts (second usually longer).

Rounded binary

||: A :||: B A' :||

Major key: I V V I (the A section modulates)

Minor key: i III III i


Major key: I V I (the A section does not modulate)

Minor key: i III i