Week 8: Sonata Theory (F18)

Last modified on August 4, 2023

You probably learned the basics of sonata form in your undergraduate degree, but this week we will learn one of the newer and more nuanced approaches to sonata form: Sonata Theory according to James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy (2006). You’ll also read Seth Monahan’s model analysis of a Mozart string quartet movement before attempting your own Hepokoski/Darcy analysis of a sonata movement.

Due Saturday, Oct 13

Introduction to Sonata Theory

is a gigantic tome—over 600 pages of tiny type, it looks not unlike a Bible.

I am not asking you to read this book—although you should certainly be aware of its existence, and you can peruse it online through our library.  Instead, as your introduction to Hepokoski/Darcy (henceforth H/D) analysis, you should carefully read through my summary handout.

Concept check

Complete the Concept Check quiz on Blackboard to see if you are understanding Sonata Theory terminology properly.

Reading and collaborative note-taking

As a model analysis, read “I. A Test Case: Mozart’s ‘Hunt’ Quartet, K. 458” from . Appended to this article, you’ll find an annotated score for K. 458, which will help you follow the prose. Be sure, as always, to also listen to a recording.

Go to Blackboard and navigate to your group wiki. Work with your group members to create a wiki that summarizes the reading. Guidelines are available here.

Due Monday, Oct 15

Analysis assignment

Try to apply Sonata Theory to Beethoven’s piano sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No. 1.


1. Listening

Listen to this sonata while looking at the score several times to get it in your ears. Mark any significant cadences that you hear.

2. Sections of the sonata

To show your analysis of the sonata in the briefest form possible, I’m going to ask you to make four lists of sections and their measure numbers. Note: the edition of the score I linked above places measure numbers after that measure has ended, not before like we are used to!

As you conduct your analysis, you will want to reference my handout linked above.

Here are your four lists:

  1. Major sections. Make a list where you give the measure numbers for each of the three major sections of the sonata form: exposition, development, and recapitulation. Note: in this edition of the score, measure numbers are placed at the ends of the measures, rather than the beginning like we are used to.
  2. Areas of the expo/recap. Next, make two lists where you give the measure numbers for the four areas of the exposition and recap: P, TR, S, and C. Give the exposition and the recap each their own lists.
  3. Important cadences. There are four big cadences that articulate the sonata form: the MC, the EEC, the MC of the recap, and the ESC. Make one more list, where you give the measure numbers for each of these cadences. 
  4. The development. Then, try also to analyze the development of the sonata. Can you connect its sections to P, TR, S, and/or C? Make a list similar to the ones above, where you give measure numbers for sections of the development that are P-based, TR-based, S-based, or C-based. If you do not think it is based on any of those, then you should write “new material.”

Your lists should look something like this:

Major Sections

  • Exposition: mm. 1–65
  • Development: mm. 66–80
  • Recapitulation: mm. 81–140

Areas of the expo and recap:

  • P: mm. 1–12
  • TR: etc. etc. etc.

(These measure numbers are made up—this is just an example.)

Please present your work exactly like this. It makes it slower for me to grade when you format things in a different way.

3. interpretation

Finally, write a paragraph or so that articulates anything strange you noticed in this sonata. For example, if you have trouble locating the MC, EEC, or ESC, indicate why, using Sonata Theory language and clear musical details. If something didn’t go the way you expected, explain why it was surprising, using Sonata Theory language.


  • You will be assessed on the following concepts:
    • Location of areas within expo/recap
    • Location of important cadences
    • Development analysis
    • Use of Sonata Theory language in interpretive paragraph
  • You will be given detailed feedback through the rubric. Click “View rubric” in the gradebook to access this.
  • Assignments are always graded pass/fail, with a threshold of 70% to pass.


  • Submit both your lists and your paragraph.
  • Submit your assignment on Blackboard.
  • Upload your assignment as a .pdf attachment. Please do not use other file types.

Due Wednesday, Oct 17

Reflection post

It’s common to think that Classical-era music is boring. I think that Sonata Theory helps bring excitement to the listening experience. How will a better understanding of Sonata Theory help to enhance your experiences listening to or playing sonata forms? Write a 500-word reflection post on Blackboard.


      • Go to Blackboard and navigate to Reflection Journals (on the sidebar).
      • Click the appropriate link for this week.
      • Click “Create journal entry” and paste your text directly into the text box, rather than uploading an attachment.


If articles are not available online, you should be able to find them in the Readings folder.

Monahan, Seth. 2011. “Sonata Theory in the Undergraduate Classroom.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 25: 63–128.
Hepokoski, James A., and Warren Darcy. 2006. Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late Eighteenth-Century Sonata. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.