In a nutshell. In understanding and sharing our music with others through performance, our sense of the 'form' of a song is a quick way to get everyone on the same page. For how a song is shaped is how its story gets told. And for improvising musicians, knowing the form sets up the collaborative improv and our single note solo lines. If you're just now coming to music, study this page, do the suggested rote learning and various exercises and take the written quiz for our learning closure.

solo lines

form quiz

What is a musical form? In my general terms according to the Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music; form in music includes all of musical components and their woven together relationships moving through time that would distinguish these sounds from any haphazardly arranged sounds, such as the cacophony of street noise. (HBDM).

A first task. If there's a form for a song, and it loops, there must be a start point yes? Well, when we loop a form a couple of times to make a fuller song, we end at the beginning of the form a couple of times. Commonly known as the 'top', our first task here is to know these terms and their musical meaning, form and top, and then to aurally hear this spot in the music. In this book we use the 12 bar blues form to rote learn these basics.

count 12 bars
recognize the top of the form in 12 bar blues

A four bar phrase.

In uus exercises and take the written quiz for our learning closure.

solo lines

form quiz

Review. Our musical forms are based on the balance we create with words, expressions and motions we find in our everyday lives. Extracting a piece of any of these, we can build up a work that is shaped by common forms that we've had through the many many generations of musicians that have come before us. Working both ways; shaping an idea into an existing form as well as well as shaping a form to fit our idea, gradually these meld and we have the best of both; to create the balance of content and expression in our creative works. In finding this balance we can have a greater 'universality' of delivery that can be intuitively perceived and shared by all, regardless of their own personal interests in art, music and beyond.

"What is remarkable about Western music is that by its chosen scales, modified through equal temperament, and by developing complex forms and complex instruments, it has raised the expressive power of music to heights and depths unattained in other cultures."

wiki ~ Jacques Barzun.


(1) Appel, Willie and Ralph T. Daniel. The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960

(2) Ottman, Robert. Elementary Harmony, Second Edition, p. 4-7. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

(3) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 210. U.S.A. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(4) To find "middle C", sit at the middle of the piano, extend both your arms outward to touch the furthest keys you can, then bend from the waist and bring your nose to gently touch the keys. The closest "C" is probably "middle C."

(5) Ottman, Robert. Advanced Harmony, Theory and Practice, Second Edition, p. 272- 298. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

(6) Ottman, Robert. Elementary Harmony, Second Edition, p. 8. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970.