Musical Form

Learning Target OR Standards & Connections
  • NAfME MU:Cr2.1.6a Select, organize, construct, and document personal musical ideas for arrangements and compositions within AB or ABA form that demonstrate an effective beginning, middle, and ending, and convey expressive intent.
  • MU:Cr3.2.6a Present the final version of their documented personal composition or arrangement, using craftsmanship and originality to demonstrate an effective beginning, middle, and ending, and convey expressive intent.
  • MU:Pr4.2.7a Explain and demonstrate the structure of contrasting pieces of music selected for performance and how elements of music are used
  • MU:Cr3.2.T.IIIa Share a portfolio of musical creations representing varied styles and genres that demonstrates an advanced level of musical and technological craftsmanship as well as the use of digital and analog tools, resources and systems in developing and organizing musical ideas.
Essential Outcomes(s) Level(s)
Students will…

  • Learn basic musical form structures- binary, ternary, rondo
  • Use Soundtrap to compose their own pieces with those forms
General Music, 3-8
This activity can last several lessons depending on how in-depth you want to teach the musical form or how long you want to give students time to compose. 

  1. Introduce musical form and introduce binary, ternary, and rondo. You may use this video
  2. Teacher plays students binary form songs (they are more common as it is verse-chorus) to show how to identify when the section changes. Model how to identify when the song changes from the A section to the B section.
  3. Give students cards that say A and B on them or have students practice making the letters A and B with their hands. Then have students throw up their cards or hands based on the section they are hearing.
  4. Here are some songs that are in binary form:
    1. “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969, written by John Fogerty)
    2. “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder, 1972)
    3. “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1974)
    4. “Hotel California” (Eagles, 1977, by Don Felder, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey)
    5. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” (The Police, 1981, written by Sting)
    6. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (Whitney Houston, 1987, written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam)
    7. “Run” (Snow Patrol, 2004)
    8. “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye, 2011)
    9. “Good 4 You” (Olivia Rodrigo, 2021- the first half)
  5. Students will then open a Soundtrap project and compose for each form- binary, ternary, rondo, theme and variation. 
  6. Teacher will introduce copy and paste so that students can copy and paste the A section that repeats often.
  7. Students will then create a portfolio or album of all their pieces in a Google Drive, Google Sites, Wakelet, or Padlet.
Extended Learning
  1. Possible Class Discussion: Why do you think form and structure is important in music?
  2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a great ternary example to share depending on the grade of your students.
  3. You can teach theme and variation by taking one loop and having students try to vary it using Soundtrap effects.


The author of this lesson plan is Serena Robinett, previous NYC DOE music educator and now an Education Specialist at Soundtrap for Education. 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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