I know that binary form has 2 equal sections (AB) and ternary has 3 (ABA), but because my piece of ABA form music has 6 bars and can be divided into 3 equal sections, it means that the same total number of bars can be divided into 2. So with the uploaded attachment, how am I able to determine it is not a binary tune?

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1 Answer 1


Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman? It's essentially ternary. The first 4-bar phrase starts and ends on the tonic; the repeated 2-bar phrases are pretty much elaborating the dominant; and the last 4-bar phrase performs a slightly varied reprise of the first. The very clear tonal scheme and the equally clear thematic divisions enforce this reading. The repetition of the middle two bars acts as a unitary idea, not as an ending of the first half/start of the second.

  • In the version Mozart uses in his variations, this is a rounded binary with written repeat signs around the two sections. Jun 10, 2015 at 15:38
  • He had to impose repeats where there were none to achieve that, @AndrewCashner, which shows us how close rounded binary form is to small ternary form. Indeed, I've always considered rounded binary form that doesn't move to the dominant before the first repeat to be a rondeau-like variation on simple ternary.
    – user16935
    Jun 10, 2015 at 16:25

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