There are separate wikipedia articles for 32 bar form, but song form and ternary are in one article. From my understanding, repeats do not change the form in terms of classification, which is something emphasized by this article; yet the AP Barron's Music Theory Textbook says that "thirty-two bar song form" evolved from ternary with the first section repeated.

So what I'm confused about is: what makes song form, and "thirty-two bar song form" for that matter, different from ternary form? Is it the time period? Or are they equivalent or subsets of each other?

1 Answer 1


32-Bar form is a special case of ternary form that is so commonly used that it is deserving (at least in Wikipedia's estimation) of its own discussion

Ternary form and song form are essentially two terms for the same thing. This is reflected in the Wikipedia entry:

Ternary form, sometimes called song form ... [emphasis original]

32-bar form is also a ternary form, but it is so commonly used — and rather specific to American "Tin-Pan Alley" music of the early 20th century — that it gets its own term.

Though the 32-bar form resembles the ternary form of the operatic da capo aria, it did not become common until the late 1910s. It became "the principal form" of American popular song around 1925–1926. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

32-Bar form is specifically AABA with each section being 8 measures long. In general, however, the A and B sections of ternary form can be of any length, and they may or may not be repeated.

  • Since Wikipedia is edited by multiple people, I was worried that articles could contradict each other, so it would be nice to have a non-Wikipedia source. But pointing out the specific quotations, thanks for making it a bit clearer. I suppose in the sentence "Though the 32-bar form resembles the ternary form of the operatic da capo aria", "the ternary form [that is used in the] operatic da capo aria" is a specific thing, rather than referring to "the ternary form [which is used in the] operatic da capo aria". ?
    – awe lotta
    Apr 16, 2021 at 14:29
  • @awelotta Yes, "da capo aria" is a ternary form. There is also "minuet-trio form", which is a ternary form. I'll look around for a more authoritative source; just know, Wikipedia does have it right in this case.
    – Aaron
    Apr 16, 2021 at 15:49

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