I am composing a bagatelle and it is turning out to be sort of a hybrid between your typical bagatelle and a sonata. However, even once the piece is finished, it would be too short for me to put Sonata in the title(5 minutes at most, that isn't long enough for an entire sonata). I mean, I guess I could call it the Sonata Bagatelle but then the title would be confusing.

Here is how I was planning things out.

I was planning to do it in rondo form. At first I thought of sticking to ABACA such as in Fur Elise. But the rondo form quickly expanded to be ABACABA, the typical form of a rondo in a sonata. But I was still planning on having 2 sections in the tonic. That is, until my melodic improvisation lead me somewhere else. This is really when the hybridization of the typical bagatelle and the sonata started happening. And it is why I am asking this question relating to bagatelles and sonata form.

I will show both the general terms and the Sonata Form terms here.

Here is the First Theme/A section of my bagatelle:

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And here is its motive division:

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As you can see, I have a lot of motives here. This means that I can have an extensive development without it being boring or completely unrelated sounding. Here are the motives:

  • Red - Starting motive and its inversion
  • Green - Second motive
  • Blue - Triplet motive
  • Purple - Dominant motive
  • Orange - Scale motive
  • Dark red - Cadential motive

Here is my Second Theme/B section:

enter image description here

And here is its motive division:


As you can see, I have a single motive here, a scale step that descends through the theme. This means that the Second Theme/B section can't contribute as much to the Development/C section as the First Theme/A section can, but it is pretty typical for 1 theme to have more motives than another theme in a sonata form piece.

With this, my bagatelle "Exposition" is in this form:


The C section, I am planning on having be in the parallel minor. So since I am in C major here, the C section would be in C minor. Here is my question.

Can bagatelles be in Sonata Form? Because that seems to be what my bagatelle is heading towards is Sonata Form.

  • Possible duplicate of What makes a piece a bagatelle? Jul 24, 2019 at 13:30
  • How is it a duplicate? Here I'm asking whether or not it can be in Sonata Form. That is a specific question about a specific form, whereas the other question is where I talk about similarities I have found in bagatelles, more specifically, Beethoven bagatelles that are in minor keys, and whether or not any of them make a piece a bagatelle. I never mentioned Sonata Form in the linked question. I mentioned Sonata-Rondo Form which is different because it's a combination of Rondo Form and Sonata Form. I only mentioned it briefly, when I talked about why Mozart's Rondo Alla Turka is not a bagatelle
    – Caters
    Jul 24, 2019 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


If well over a century ago Liszt wrote a bagatelle that was atonal, and also something that he called a sonata (for piano, b minor) that is in four symphonic movements by any reasonable analysis, then your thematic structure can be much wilder yet before anyone complains that it wasn't both bagatelle and sonata.

If that's where it's headed, that's where it's headed. Don't look over your shoulder at the theorists too much.

If you're self-conscious about its length, just call it a bagatelle. Many shorter things (Bach WTC) have been analyzed as sonata form, never mind the title.

  • 1
    So, I don't have to worry that the Sonata Form that my piece is heading towards will make the piece not a bagatelle.
    – Caters
    Jul 24, 2019 at 1:57
  • 2
    @Caters, a bagatelle is simply a light, short piece. It can have whatever form you want it. I know composers who made up their own terms, too, for short piano pieces to avoid connotations that might create expectations in the listener for a specific sound or form. In short, do what you want, call it what you want. There are plenty of pieces out there that are called "sonata" that don't follow sonata form. And even more that supposedly have a sonata form that, when analyzed, make you scratch your head and say "huh?"
    – Heather S.
    Jul 24, 2019 at 3:44

You can call your piece whatever you want. If you are not happy with either "Bagatelle" or "Sonata" then other possibilities might be:

  • "Sonatina" (a piece that is in basic sonata form, but is shorter and lighter in character).

  • "Piano Piece No.x"

  • a fantasy or descriptive name
  • a dedication ("Für Elise")

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