you just listen.........
How do I determine the form of a song? i.e. ABAB, AABA, 32-bar, 12-bar, etc.
I have no music background, so it's a bit hard for me.
Hi Syrup. The example you give is a 32-bar form. It's in 4/4 time. Count the bars. Listen: You will hear that the first phrase Charlie Parker plays comes again in Bar 9 - so the first part is 8 bars. After another 8 bars, something completely new begins, at Bar 16. That lasts for another 8 bars. After that, at Bar 25, the first part begins again. When that is over (after Bar 32), that's the end of the first chorus.
Call the first 8 bars "A"; thus you get AA. Call the different third part "B", and the last part is A again.
So here we have a 32-bar theme in AABA form. The same form is kept up for the choruses that follow throughout the improvisation.
Do you have a specific example you are working on?
Syrup gave a link to a Charlie Parker tune - but it seems to have disappeared somehow ...
And then there are tunes like "Take a Chance On Me" and "Dancing Queen" which are ABBA.
But the head melody of a tune will tell you its form right away. When the melody repeats itself, you'll have reached the end of the A section. Or if the melody doesn't repeat, but starts a new idea, you'll be at the beginning of a B section.
How do you know when a melodic section has ended? Well-written melody almost always follows a pattern of even phrases that sound like a challenge and response. You can hear the full stop at the end of a section.
What you can also do is to count along with the music. Most standard tunes (though by no means all) are divided into eight-bar sections, and almost all blues tunes are twelve bars long.
At the end of eight bars in a 32-bar tune you should hear a sense of "turning around" (which is called, appropriately enough, a "turnaround"). Then you'll hear either the same melody repeated, which almost always tells you that it's a 32-bar AABA tune, or you'll hear a new melody, which probably means it's a 32-bar ABAB or ABAC tune.
There are many tunes to that don't adhere to these rigid structures, but once you become adept at recognizing the familiar forms you should be able to determine the unusual ones.
I don't know if it's much use continuing here, because, since his/her initial posts, Syrup seems to have disappeared from the surface of the earth, along with the YouTube link of the Bird tune that was given there originally. Maybe our first reply turned him/her off?
I got the feeling Syrup got a bit discouraged by the first reply. Hope he/she will come back since your reply was really clear and helpful, Tom. Jerry is right too about the notifications. Let us try to answer clearly to new members whom have a question even though the answer might be obvious to us ourselves.
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