Week 7 (Mar 8): Sonata Theory (S21)

Last modified on August 4, 2023

This week, you’ll learn a new(ish) approach to sonata form. You’ll also do some practice analysis on your own to see how it differs from what you already knew.

Sonata Theory

Preparatory exercise

Many of you likely have already encountered sonata form in your undergrad degrees or in private lessons. It’s important to realize how the way you learned it before will differ from the method presented in .

Before watching the video, try doing a quick analysis of the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on your own, based on your memory of sonata form. You won’t turn this in, but I will ask you to write about it in your response, and I will discuss this movement in the video. Download the score here, and listen to a recording by A Far Cry here.

Introduction video

Alright, now you can watch!

download handout download slides download Nachtmusik annotated scoredownload transcript link to video

Concept check

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

Due Thursday: Response

In the Reading Responses channel on Teams, post a message with some type of response about the readings/videos. You may either make a new post or reply to someone else’s post (both count for this participation grade). You can approach this in a bunch of different ways! You might ask clarifying questions about the reading, summarize an important bit of it, share a related personal anecdote…anything counts, as long as it relates to the reading in some way.

In your response, compare your analysis of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik from before watching the video with the analysis I presented in the video and on my annotated score (linked above with video). How does the way you’ve learned sonata form in the past align with Hepokoski/Darcy? How is it different?

(If you forgot to do your own analysis before watching the video, just do an analysis now, pretending you’ve never heard of this new method.)

Then, turn to hypermeter: are there moments of hypermetrical irregularity? If so, describe the irregularity using terminology outlined in .

Due Sunday: 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

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

Annotate your score to indicate important moments of the sonata. Annotations should always be placed above where they occur in the score. Here is how I would like you to format each item:

  • Major sections: Write the section name in all caps and put a box around it.
  • Areas of the expo/recap: The expo/recap should each have P, TR, S, and C. Write the abbreviation for the area and put a box around it.
  • Important cadences. There are four big cadences that articulate the sonata form: the MC, the EEC, the MC of the recap, and the ESC. Write the abbreviation for each cadence and circle it.
  • The development. Then, try also to analyze the development of the sonata. Can you connect its sections to P, TR, S, and/or C? Above the staff, write whether you think material is 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.” Circle your labels.

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

4. interpretation

Finally, write a paragraph or so that articulates anything strange you noticed in this sonata, using vocabulary from Sonata Theory in your explanation. 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. There is no need to explain things that seem fairly obvious, though (remember, I prefer you to be concise—250 words max!!).

Note: the edition of the score I linked above places measure numbers after that measure has ended, not before like we are used to!


  • 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.


  • Upload both your annotated score and your interpretive summary.
  • Submit your assignment on Canvas.
  • Upload your assignment as a .pdf attachment. Please do not use other file types.



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

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.

Note: You can peruse the entire Elements of Sonata Theory book online through our library, but you do not need to read it for this course.