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Rondo Form in Music: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition: Rondo Form
  • 0:56 The Parts of Rondo Form
  • 2:00 Order of Sections
  • 2:58 Example
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Erika Svanoe

Erika has taught several college music courses and has a doctorate of musical arts in conducting.

Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

In this lesson, you will learn about rondo form. You will find out about the parts of rondo form, how these parts are labeled and organized, and the definition of theme/refrain and episode.

Definition: Rondo Form

A form in music is the way a piece of music is organized. The form is determined by several factors, including changes of tonal center, when new musical material occurs, and when old musical materials are restated. When a composer chooses to compose a piece using a particular form, this helps him/her organize the music so listeners can have a good balance of music they recognize mixed with music they haven't heard before.

Rondo form is a piece of music where the musical material stated at the beginning of the piece keeps returning. This opening music can be called either the theme or the refrain; they are the same thing. You can remember in a 'rondo' that the theme will keep coming back 'around.' Just like a white horse on a carousel, the theme of a rondo will keep coming around again.

The theme of a rondo will keep coming around, just like the white horse on this carousel.
Carousel

Between the statements of the theme, or refrain, there are episodes. An episode is musical material that is different from the theme.

The Parts of Rondo Form

As you just learned, there are two main parts to rondo form: first, there is the theme, or refrain, and second, there are the episodes. Let's take a closer look at each of these parts of a rondo.

The theme, or refrain, of a rondo, our white horse on the carousel, is the first main melody or musical material that occurs in the piece. It will establish the tonal center of the piece, and the theme will most often be played in this same key. Since it is the first material you hear in the piece, you would label this part of the music as the A-section.

The episodes are usually identified by having a change in melody, a change in musical character, or change in tonal center from the theme. If we think back to our carousel, this could be a different animal other than our white horse, such as a giraffe. We would label the first episode as the B-section. For each different episode that occurs in the music, or animal on the carousel, we would use a different label for each section, such as 'C,' 'D,' and so on.

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Additional Activities

Rondo Form Activities

True/False Statements

For this activity, you will respond to several true/false statements about the rondo form in music. If the statement is true, simply write 'T' or 'true' next to the respective statement. However, if the statement is false, write 'F' or 'false' next to the statement, and then explain why this statement is incorrect. Make sure you are specific in your explanation.

Statements

  1. _____ A musical form refers to how a piece of music is organized and structured.
  2. _____ The opening music is known as the theme or refrain.
  3. _____ An episode refers to the parts of the piece that differ from the theme or refrain.
  4. _____ In rondo form, the theme is never repeated again in the piece of music.
  5. _____ All music written in the rondo form have five musical sections.
  6. _____ Fur Elise by Beethoven is written in the rondo form.

Answers

  1. True.
  2. True.
  3. True.
  4. False. In the rondo form, the theme will return after every episode. In other words, every other section of the piece of music will be the same as the theme.
  5. False. The rondo form can vary in length. For example, some can be written in five sections and others can be written in seven sections.
  6. True.

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