Musical Forms for Music Composition

By Scott Jarrett, Holly Day

Part of Music Composition For Dummies Cheat Sheet

In composing music, you follow certain rhythm forms. These musical forms outline placement for accented and unaccented beats that form a pattern for a passage or for a whole piece. The following list offers a handy guide to the different parts in different types of compositions:

  • One part form: A, AA, AAA, and so on

  • Binary form: AB, AABB

  • Ternary/tertiary form: ABA, AABA

  • Arch form: ABCBA

  • Sonata: ABA


  • 8-bar blues: I, IV, I, VI, ii, V, I, V/I (turnaround)

  • 12-bar blues: I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, IV, I, V/I (turnaround)

  • 16-bar blues: I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, IV, V, IV, V, IV, I, V/I (turnaround)

  • 24-bar blues: 8xI, 4xIV, Ix4, V, V, IV, IV, I, I, I, V/I (turnaround)

  • Verse-chorus form (pop music): Intro ABACBCB