What is sonata form?

For the purpose of this explanation, we are looking at the Classical Sonata (where the Classical period is roughly between 1750 and 1810). Sonata form is the first movement of a sonata. This is split into three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation.

The exposition introduces the main "ideas" of the piece of music. This is made up of a first and second subject. The format is as follows:

First subject in tonic key --> Bridge passage ---> Second subject in dominant or relative minor

As you can tell from the name, the development takes the exposition and expands on the main ideas. This is done through several modulations.

Finally, the recapitulation provides a shortened summary of the first and second subjects in the tonic key.

Elizabeth B. IB Economics tutor, IB English Literature tutor, GCSE En...

4 months ago

Answered by Elizabeth, a GCSE Music tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£18 /hr

Maisie H.

Degree: BA Music (Bachelors) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered: Music


“I'm Maisie and I'm a second year undergraduate studying Music at Cambridge. I did both GCSE and A Level musc with OCR, but could probably pick up any other syllabus with a bit of warning - my degree means I get a range of training in ...”

MyTutor guarantee

£20 /hr

Hannah W.

Degree: Biology (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: Music, Maths+ 5 more

English Literature
English Language

“Hi I'm Hannah and I am a Biology student at Bristol University. I have always loved the sciences, especially Biology and Chemistry but I am also passionate aboutcreative subjects such as Music and English.  I completely understand how...”

£18 /hr

Sebastian J.

Degree: Music (Bachelors) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered: Music, Geography+ 2 more

-Personal Statements-

“About me... Hello! I'm Seb, and I'm currently in the final year of my music degree at Cambridge. I've been doing music since I was 6, both performing and studying, so I guess you could say it's something of a lifelong passion... As we...”

About the author

Elizabeth B.

Currently unavailable: for new students

Degree: Policy, Politics & Economics (Bachelors) - Birmingham University

Subjects offered: Music, Maths+ 3 more

English Literature

“Hi! I'm a Policy, Politics and Economics student at the University of Birmingham. Prior to that I studied IB which I think has definitely helped with my personal development and made me into a bit of an "all-rounder". Seeing as my cou...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Posts by Elizabeth

What are externalities?

What is sonata form?

Other GCSE Music questions

What is a cadence?

How does sonata form work?

List three traits of minimalist music

What is tonality?

View GCSE Music tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss