The main section or theme (known as “A”) alternates with contrasting themes (you will hear these called various names such as “episodes”, “couplets” or “digressions”). These contrasting themes are labelled B, C, D, etc.. So, a typical Rondo Form structure looks like:
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Each new section contrasts in some way to what has gone before it. You will find that most composers writing a Rondo Form piece will use changes in melody, key and harmony to contrast the different sections.
It is quite similar to Theme and Variations form except for the fact that Section A returns each time in Rondo Form, but does not return in Theme and Variations Form.
An Example of Rondo Form
Have a listen to this example of Mozart’s Rondo in D major K.311:
How To Compose Music in Rondo Form
Composing in Rondo form is great – it is something I am always encouraging people to do because it provides a solid and interesting structure to any piece of music.
The contrasting sections give a sense of variety to the piece, whilst the return A Section helps give the piece a sense of coherence and unity. It is a great way to develop your compositions beyond Binary Form and Ternary Form.