Are you looking for ways to engage students in learning how music is structured?
Do you want to teach rondo form, but you need some songs to use as examples?
I LOVE teaching form. For students of all ages (and I’ve taught ages 3-60+), form is one of the most accessible and understandable for all people.
Still, it’s one thing to want to teach it; it’s another to have a handy list of songs in your back pocket.
That’s what I wanted to share with this article; my favorite songs in rondo form.
Songs in rondo form alternate sections as the song goes, but they always come back to the A section between each contrasting section. Common examples of Rondo form include ABACA and ABACABA. My favorite examples include:
- La Raspa
- Rondo Alla Turca
- Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto; 3rd movement
- Brahms Violin Concerto; 3rd movement
- I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles
- Fur Elise by Beethoven
Let’s dive into these songs along with sample tips and activities for teaching Rondo.
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What Is Rondo Form?
Rondo form is an extension of binary (AB) form and ternary (ABA) form.
Essentially, these forms start to show a preference for a repeated section or refrain.
In rondo form, we take this to another level by adding more contrasting sections, called episodes, with a return the refrain every time.
The refrain is called the A section, and contrasting sections are given in the following letter.
Each new section is called by the next letter in the alphabet, but if a section is repeated, it gets the same letter.
A brief but common example is ABACA form.
Another one you’ll often find is ABACABA form.
In this form, the B section returns at the end and stays either exactly or mostly the same as the first time it happens.
There are no limits to the Rondo form. You could even have one that goes:
But that’s a little extreme.
Historically speaking, this form was quite popular in the Classical and Romantic periods.
It came as a logical extension of the ritornello form, which used a repeated section to connect different episodes in a larger orchestral piece.
6 Great Songs In Rondo Form
Now that we know what rondo form is, here are my 6 favorite songs and pieces in this form.
Some of these are classical pieces, and some are stretching the definition of Rondo to show how it impacts modern music.
Still, all of these are great fun.
I’ll include links to the music and sheet music where applicable.
This is a Mexican dancing tune, not the Mexican Hat Dance.
It features a rondo form of ABACA, but you may also find ABACABA depending on the version.
Here’s the sheet music at Beth’s Notes.
You may also just make the moves with the song recording at the link below.
La Raspa Dance
A Section: Concentric Circles with partners or just facing partners
Hands on hips.
- Jump on R foot, extend L heel forward
- Jump on L foot, extend R heel forward
- Jump on R foot, extend L heel forward
- Freeze in place (1-4 takes 4 beats)
- Repeat pattern until next section
- R arm swing with partner (8 beats)
- L arm swing with partner (8 beats)
C Section: Face partner, hands behind your back
- 4 steps in and 4 steps out
Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca
This classic Mozart tune literally has the word Rondo in the title!
It comes ABACA form in a crystal clear way.
I love teaching this song not only for the Rondo and the excellent quality of the music itself but because it’s a great song for reading and practicing sixteenth notes.
Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto; 3rd movement
I enjoy this one a lot too, and it provides a great contrast from the shorter ABACA form of the other two we’ve looked at and the longer ABACABA form this movement covers.
It also gets more experience with the French Horn, a beautiful instrument that doesn’t typically get a lot of love in the music classroom.
For advanced students, I like to listen to both right next to each other and discuss the differences in the feeling of the songs.
Brahms Violin Concerto; 3rd movement
Here we have another concerto, this time by a Romantic composer.
I love engaging my older students in a discussion about this Rondo in direct comparison with either of the Mozart compositions.
It also serves as a great way to talk about the concerto as a form of music.
This particular movement is longer than the previous three options, so I usually save this for my older students who have more listening stamina.
I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles
This classic song by The Beatles isn’t a true Rondo, but the form does provide a great way to connect the Rondo form with the pop song form mastered by this group in the 60’s.
The key here is the repetition of the A material.
It’s not hard to draw a contrast and engage your students in a discussion of more modern music.
Fur Elise by Beethoven
There is no piano piece or classical piece quite as well-known as Fur Elise.
This song is also in rondo form!
It may be tough to figure this out at first, but I often like to lt students see if they can discover it themselves.
It has one major twist to the form (a doubled A in the beginning).
The form for this piece is AABACA.
As a launching point for discussions and activities on Beethoven, it doesn’t get much better than talking about the form of this piece.
Rondo Teaching Tips
There are a ton of ways to reinforce form, but here are a few of my favorites:
Contrasting Moves – Work in small groups of 3-5 to create three or four sets of moves that follow the form. Take turns sharing with each other.
Arrange Form Shapes – Provide pictures, shapes, or manipulative representing the different sections of the piece all mixed up.
Then, have the students figure out the form of the song using the pictures.
Drawing – Listen to each section of the song independently and draw pictures for matching how each section feels to the students.
Small-Group Split – Have the class divide into groups for each section of the song. Give them an instrument or body percussion pattern to play with different timbre to reinforce the form.
Rondo compose – Either in small groups or as a whole class guided lesson, take several simple songs they know and combine them into a mega-Rondo song.
I hope this list of my 6 favorite songs in rondo form helps you demonstrate what this common and fun musical form is all about.
Form is a great way to develop listener stamina and understand more complex pieces of music.
Have fun making music!