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What Is Rondo Form In Music?

Rondo is not a word that many of us use when discussing music. However, it is well-known and was widely used during the Classical and Romantic periods. And is still sometimes used today.

So, I decided to take an in-depth look at its form and its structure, and how it works. And ask the question, what is Rondo form in music? But before I do, let’s just remind ourselves what ‘form’ in music is all about.

Form In Music

Music is a way of communicating, in a way like a language. We get emotions from it, and it can move us just like words. And just like words and language, music needs structure. If music can be called a language, then form is its grammar.

Rules

Music can be seen to have rules, just like a language. It also has exceptions to those rules, just as in language. But, what they have in common is that they both have a basis for construction and composition.

What Is Musical Form

What Is Musical Form

It is simply a way of describing the song or piece of music by way of its structure. We look at it, then analyze it, and then allocate letters to the various parts so we can recognize it.

For example, let’s think of a modern pop song. We could label a verse as A and the Chorus as B. If the structure of the song was Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, then we would label the form as A, B, A, B, B.

Form Can Be Complex

That was a very simple example just to show you how it works. But it can get quite complex, especially in some Classical Pieces. But whether these parts are short or long, as in verses or for movements in Classical music, they can be described this way.

So, What is Rondo Form in Music?

Rondo is an instrumental form that can be described as having an initial section or melody that is subsequently repeated. These sections are separated by other music or form that offers a contrast to the original.

In Rondo form, the main theme is sometimes called the Refrain. The pieces it alternates with are known as episodes or couplets.

An Example?

If you are looking for a well-known example of Rondo form in music from Classical Music, then the ‘Fur Elise’ by Beethoven is a piece you will be familiar with. That has an A, B, A, C, A, form and is a “second” Rondo.

How Many Rondos?

How Many Rondos

There is more than just one version of what we are calling a Rondo. The Classical era had three main Rondo forms in music that were often used. The forms looked like this:

  • The First Rondo pattern was the most simple at A, B, and A.
  • The Second Rondo Pattern had a little more with A, B, A, C, and A.
  • And the Third was more involved with A, B, A, C, A, B, and A.

It can be looked at as extensions to the Binary and The Ternary Form. Binary is a simple A, and B. Ternary takes that on a bit with A, B, and A.

Rondo takes it further, offering more inclusions and could be A, B, A, C, A, B, and A. In some compositions, you may also come across ‘D’ sections added.

Alternating

As I have already said, the Rondo theme takes the Refrain or principle section. And then alternates it with various other themes, as I said, episodes. 

You will note in the descriptions the continuing repetition of the ‘A.’ This interjected with what we are calling alternative episodes labeled B and C. You can make these repetitions as long as you choose. 

There is no rule about how many or how long you can continue, other than what sounds good. You can repeat both Refrains and alternative episodes where you choose to place them.

Returning To The A

So, what we see about Rondo form is this continuous return to the A or first section. Despite how many and how varied the episodes are, it always returns to the A. 

But whilst it returns to the Refrains, these refrains can vary tonally and even thematically. That is why the Rondo form in music is so unique when compared to other musical forms. Figuring out how to tell if a piece of music is in Rondo form is relatively easy. If you hear the music continually returning to the A section, it’s most likely in Rondo form.

Other examples of Rondo Form

Other examples of Rondo Form

The Rondo form is usually quite lively, often at a reasonably quick tempo, and of course, can be quite repetitive. I mentioned Beethoven’s Fur Elise is a good example of the Rondo form. Other popular Classical pieces in Rondo form include:

  • Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.
  • Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.
  • Bach’s E major Violin Concerto.

Today, the pieces are much less in number and not so well-known. Of course, Lennon and McCartney did a “Rondo-based” song. Not surprising, really, they did everything else. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is not a classical Rondo form, but it is close with its continual return to the A section.

A Rule

There is one thing that must apply in Rondo form. The ‘A’ theme has to be in the tonic key. Major or Minor, it doesn’t matter which, as long as it is in the same key.

Just another part of musical theory to grapple with and understand. If you want to learn about the importance of forms in music, then you’ll find these very useful…

Want to Learn More Music Theory?

Our experts can help with that. Take a look at our handy guides to What is Strophic Form In MusicThe Mixolydian ModeThe Phrygian ModeThe Dorian ModeWhat Is Homophonic Texture In MusicWhat is Melody in MusicWhat Is Timbre In Music, and What is a Refrain in Music for more useful musical information.

Also, an instrument upgrade could help your progress. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Flute, the Best 88-Key Keyboards, the Best Digital Pianos for Under $500, the Best Cremona Violins, the Best Tenor Saxophones, and the Best Alto Saxophones you can buy in 2022.

What Is Rondo Form In Music – Final Thoughts

Musical Forms are the language that music speaks. It is how we understand it and how we analyze what is going on. The Rondo form is a great example of how returning to a theme can have such a profound effect on the music and its structure.

Until next, let your music play.

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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