Form in Jazz and Classical Music

I would like to start the discussion on elements in music with form.  Form is an often overlooked aspect of music because people just expect to hear certain forms.  In pop music we are used to the verse/chorus format which usually goes:

verse – chorus – verse – bridge – chorus

or some version of this usually adding an intro, outro or a groove at the end.  In jazz and classical music it is known as sectional form and there are letters used to delineate the form. Some common forms are:

            A – A – B – A
A – A’

These forms have come out of European classical music as an abbreviation of the classical A-B-A sonata form.  If you listen to Beethoven’s frequently heard 5th symphony you can hear the sonata form distinctly.  It is actually A-A-B-A but that’s because he wanted the audience to get acquainted with the melody so the A section is repeated.

A section - 1:30
A section #2 - 4:30
B section - 2:20
A section - 4:30

“The first movement is in the traditional sonata form that Beethoven inherited from his classical predecessors, Haydn and Mozart (in which the main ideas that are introduced in the first few pages undergo elaborate development through many keys, with a dramatic return to the opening section—the recapitulation—about three-quarters of the way through).


The tunes in the American songbook that come out of Broadway and show tunes are the descendants of classical sectional form and they became the jazz standards that many jazz artists still play today.
Here is the tune “I Got Rhythm” from the musical Girl Crazy whose chord changes and form have been ubiquitously known as rhythm changes:

This song uses the AABA song form and has been the inspiration of many jazz standards like Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooche” and Miles Davis’ “The Theme.”

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