Strophic: Definition, Form & Example

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  • 0:00 Why Is That Tune Stuck…
  • 0:21 The Strophic Form
  • 1:47 The Strophic Form in…
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charis Duke

Charis has taught college music and has a master's degree in music composition.

Strophic is a common song form found in many popular songs, folk songs, and hymns. This lesson will discuss the strophic form and give examples of its use.

Why Is That Tune Stuck in My Head?

Are you tired of your classmates singing 'Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall'? Do you wish your kids would stop listening to 'The Wheels on the Bus'? If these songs run circles in your brain and refuse to leave you alone, there is a very good reason. They were designed to be memorable. Blame it on the strophic song form.

The Strophic Form

Most songs have a form, which is just the manner in which the different parts of the tune are arranged. There are dozens of forms with many variations. One of the most simple is the strophic form. A strophic song uses the same melody repeated over and over, with different text for each repetition. The song may include a chorus or a refrain. In the refrain, the same text is sung to the same melody for each repetition. This most frequently occurs at the end of the song, but refrains may be used at the beginning or in the middle of the song as well.

Common examples of the strophic form include hymns and folk songs. The hymn 'Amazing Grace' is a strophic hymn; the same music is sung for each of the seven verses of the poem. And 'I Surrender All' is a hymn that uses a refrain with the strophic form. After each of the five verses, a refrain beginning with the line 'I surrender all' is repeated to the same music.

Many folk songs also use the strophic form. Children's songs like 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' use a strophic form because the repetition makes the songs easy to learn. The strophic form has been used in pop and rock music as well, although it's not as common as it once was. Some popular examples include Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind'.

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