The strophic form is a very simple form of music in which the basic harmony-melody unit or "stanza" is repeated throughout. The structure of a song in stanza form isA A A.
You can think of a stanza as the musical equivalent of a verse in poetry. The important thing about the verse form is that, strictly speaking, the underlying harmony and melody of each verse or block of music remains the same.
Lyrics can and do change most of the time. Composers can sometimes adjust the melody or key of music, and this leads to what we might call modified strophic form (A A' A'').
In this post we will see 12 examples of songs in strophic form to help you understand it better. Let's start.
Related: For more information, see ourguide to strophic formhere.
1. Itsy Bitsy Spider – Lullaby
Since a stanza is analogous to a line in a poem, a good place to find songs in stanza form is in a book that contains nursery rhymes. 'Itsy bitsy spider' is a good example.
The text of the poem remains the same, as well as the melody and chords that accompany it.
Another example of a rhyme that repeats the same text is 'Row, row, row your boat'.
In children's songs like “As Rodas do Bus”, the text of the verse changes.
The music in the video above, from Twinkle Little Songs, features a short intro and interlude, which are auxiliary sections.
2. Michael rows the boat to the beach – Pedro, Paulo and Maria
Traditional folk music, sung by educated and illiterate people alike, should have a simple structure, which is why you will often find folk songs in strophic form.
One that dates to at least the mid-19th century is 'Michael Rows the Boat to Shore'.
The African American spiritual harkens back to an island in South Carolina and has a catchy and memorable tune to which multiple versions of the lyrics have been sung.
3. Hello Lady of the World – Brebeuf Hymnal
Hymns that do not have a "chorus" or "chorus" usually have a strophic form.
Since the melody of each verse is the same, you can simply add the lines one below the other.
If you find sheet music formatted this way, you know that the piece is in strophic form.
Watch the video to see a hymn with the text of each verse written under a common melody.
Popular hymns in strophic form include 'Amazing grace' and 'Be Thou my vision'.
4. I Love You Devotee – Saint Thomas Aquinas
The corners can also be in strophic form.
'Adoro te devotee' dates from the 13th century and is actually a hymn in the form of a song.
This piece offers the opportunity to explore how stanzas are constructed: the melodic contours of the verses accompanying the 4-line stanzas reveal 4 phrases.
Each group of four sentences comprises a stanza.
It's important to remember that each stanza should be a complete multi-sentence segment, which is then repeated to build the piece.
5. Worried Man Sadness – Midnight Run
Songs that have a “refrain” or “refrain” are usually structured as ABABAB.
However, it is also possible for songs with choruses to be in strophic form, as long asBis a variation ofAor use the exact melody ofA.
Worried man blues, performed by Midnight Run, features a modified strophic form.
The chorus is built on the same musical material used for the verse.
The verses and choruses areA, while the instrumental sections, which use the same harmonic vocabulary as the verses, can be seen asA'.
6. Blowing in the wind - Bob Dylan
The great songwriter Bob Dylan used the simplicity of the verse form as a vehicle, leaving his listeners with memorable melodies laced with powerful messages.
In some of his songs you can see the chorus sewn at the end of each block of text.
Here, the entire verse-chorus block forms one verse.
On Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the wind', the AAA structure can be clearly heard, with brief harmonica interludes interspersing each block.
Another Bob Dylan song that includes a chorus at the end of each verse is 'Times are a-changen'.
7. 12 variations of Ah Shall I Tell You, Mama – W. A. Mozart
In this piece, Mozart displays a range of variation techniques, applying them to the popular melody 'Twinkle twinkle little star'.
For example, do you havemelodicvariation on first variation,rhythmicThursday andharmonicin the seventh.
All but the last variation are 24 bars in length.
A modified strophic model of A A' A''... seems adequate for this "theme and variations".
However, it could be argued that some variations, for example the minor mode, alter the music too much to continue to be considered a close relative of the verse.
8. Talk to me more – Pierre Guédron
“Air de cour” or “court air” is a genre of vocal music that dates back to the royal courts of France in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It has elements of Baroque and Renaissance music, and in many of these secular songs, you have one or two voices accompanied by a harpsichord or lute.
In 'Qu'on me parle plus' by Pierre Guédron (c. 1565 – 1620), successive lines of the text can be heard sung to the same melody.
The instrumental intro and outro can be seen as auxiliary sections.
9. Heidenröslein – Franz Schubert
The German “lied”, which in the time of Franz Schubert (c. 1797 – 1828) referred to the musical setting of romantic poetry, is often found in strophic form.
"Heidenröslein" or "rose in the moor" speaks of rejected love and was written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1789.
Schubert sets it in double time for voice and piano in 1815.
While the song is essentially the same for all three verses, the third is handled differently in terms of dynamics, with the soprano singing more intensely.
10. String Quartet in B flat major, Op.50, No.1 – Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn, the "father of the string quartet" and a contemporary of Mozart, was known for using the strophic variation form in his quartets.
Here it appears in the second slow movement “adagio non slow”.
The structure of the strophic form marks the playing field within which Haydn masterfully creates variations that successively display the skill of each performer.
The movement ends with a coda.
11. Blue gamuza shoes – Carl Perkins
A rock and roll classic and a hit in the 1950s, 'Blue Suede Shoes' is in strophic form, or modified strophic form, you might say.
The entire song can be divided into sung and instrumental verses, with the same harmonic structure underpinning each basic unit.
Although the guitar solos add melodic variety, the chord progression remains intact and therefore the sung sections can be calledAand the instrumentalsA'.
The Blue Suede Shoes are an example of how the 12-bar blues is extremely compatible with the strophic form.
12. Take Me Back to Jamaica - The Jolly Boys
Like Americans, you may find the strophic form used in other cultures, such as Jamaicans.
Reggae music has roots in Jamaican “mento” music, and this form of music features guitars, banjos, light percussion, and the verse form.
'Take me back to Jamaica' offers a taste of Mento music, and the simple tonic-dominant-subdominant harmonies provide a foundation for the instrumental and vocal parts.
Even when the solo instrument deviates from the vocal melodic line, the verse is clear, as the harmony is as simple as it is apparent.
wrapping things up
Now that you have a better understanding of what music sounds like (and looks like) in strophic form, chances are you'll find it while listening to your favorite songs.
If you're a composer, explore the potential offered by the simplicity of the strophic form - it helps draw attention to the lyrics and provides fertile ground for subtle melodic variations!