Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sonata allegro form in pop music

This post might take a while to load, since I'll be using a bunch of examples!

As you'll recall from my most-viewed post, sonata allegro form is a common form used in classical music. However, as I've been discovering over the past few months, it's not exclusive to classical music at all.

As you'll remember, sonata form basically looks like this:

Exposition - Exposition - Development - Recapitulation

Or, using letters:

(A B C) - (A B C) - (OMG!!) - (A B C ish)

Now, for comparison, here's generally what popular music form looks like:

(verse-chorus) - (verse-chorus) - (solo section) - (chorus-coda)

Now, let's demonstrate with some songs, shall we? Here are the four I'll be using:

  1. Toxicity, by System of a Down

  2. Poker Face, by Lady Gaga

  3. Sing Talk, the epic parody of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok"

  4. Bring Me To Life, by Evanescence

Toxicity, by System of a Down:

0:00 -- Introduction

0:51 -- Verse
1:15 -- Chorus

1:53 -- Verse
2:17 -- Chorus

2:40 -- Something totally different from the verse and chorus

3:04 -- Chorus
3:28 -- Coda, using material from the development (how clever of them!)

Poker Face, by Lady Gaga:

0:13 -- Introduction

0:37 -- Verse
1:09 -- Chorus

1:33 -- Verse
2:06 -- Chorus

2:30 -- Something totally different from the verse and chorus

2:54 -- Chorus
3:26 -- Coda, which is kinda the same thing she used as a bridge between the verse and chorus

Sing Talk, courtesy of College Humor:

(No Introduction)

0:09 -- Verse
0:41 -- Chorus

0:57 -- Verse
1:30 -- Chorus

1:46 -- Something totally different from the verse and chorus.

2:05 -- Chorus

Bring Me To Life, by Evanescence:

0:07 -- Introduction

0:18 -- Verse
1:04 -- Chorus

1:27 -- Verse
1:50 -- Chorus

2:11 -- Something totally different from the verse and chorus

3:10 -- Chorus
3:47 -- Coda, using the piano from the introduction

Also, now that I'm all done, I'd like to mention that I hate Vevo on Youtube so much.


  1. No offense, but your examples on this post are not sonata-allegro.

    First, the "exposition(s)" contain only one melody (ie. theme), if the verses contained different melodies I believe you might be on to something... but they are identical.

    Second, the "development" section is just a bridge. Bridges often contain contrasting material. A true development section should develop the theme(s) of the song.

    However, with all that being stated, I do want to thank you for piquing my interest. I'm looking for modern day examples of the sonata-allegro and so far have not found what I'm looking for. Also, I've been looking primarily at movie themes, and you have got me thinking in other areas, so thank you.

  2. Bring me to Life, Evanescence
    1. It is easy to see where he would make a connection between this type of pop song and then connect it to sonata form. If you look at the history of music, it only makes sense that “pop” form would develop from something. Throughout the latter years of the classical era, we see all sorts of different forms, but yes, the sonata form was popular among composers. From this into our age of music, it makes sense that some of the same traits would linger on through many centuries to come. In Bring me back to life by evanescence, it is true that we could sort of relate this to the sonata form, with very clear relations to certain themes as part of the exposition. There is even recapitulation. I think that the biggest error that would void this argument it that of the development.
    2. In traditional sonata form, as part of a development, there will more than likely a strong sense of development in regards to the songs and surrounding themes of the exposition. There are sometimes even key changes. Those two elements alone discredit the argument that this pop song is in direct correlation to that of sonata from.
    3. Although, I don’t see much connection in regards to the traditional sonata form and our pop culture of today, it is exciting to me that there would even be a push for this type of analysis. Like I mentioned earlier, all form of music are imitated from one composer to the next. A lot of the same styles and characteristics of music may be very similar, but to say that this pop song is sonata form, would truly be discredit to those who had perfected that form back in its day. But, in the same token, let us see Mozart, Beethoven, or one of the greats try to write a song like this. I feel as if their minds would be blown.
    all in all, Great post. Lots of intriguing information and research done. I applaud the author for his stamina and audacity.