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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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2. Trio Sonata - Under the Hood

Grade 8 Music Theory - Trio Sonata Under the Hood

In this chapter we’ll take a look at a Trio Sonata by Corelli – his Opus 3 No. 1 in F major, second movement. We’ll use this to illustrate some of the most distinctive features of the Trio Sonata genre. The figured bass has been left out, as we don’t need to focus on that at the moment.

Listen and read the score on the video, then look through the score printed below (which will explain the boxes), and listen again.



 Corelli - Trio Sonata Op.3 No.5 Second Movement


corelli trio sonata 1

corelli trio sonata 2

corelli trio sonata 3

corelli trio sonata 4

corelli trio sonata 5

corelli trio sonata 6

corelli trio sonata 7

corelli trio sonata 8

corelli trio sonata 9

corelli trio sonata 10

Notice the following things, which are all typical of the Trio Sonata genre (examples are shown in boxes): 

  • Three parts: two upper parts and a bass line/continuo
  • Large amount of imitation (exact repeats) and sequences (bars 1-5)
  • Wide range of notes used (up to two ledger lines above the stave).
  • Majority of melodic movement is by step or thirds (bar 9)
  • Where the melody doesn’t move by step, most often it moves by a 4th, 5th or octave (bar 25)
  • Very rare to see two leaps in the same direction, unless the leaps form part of an arpeggio (bar 6)
  • Melodic movement based on arpeggios (but not always straight up/down) (bar 7)
  • Occasional parallel thirds in the 2 upper voices, particularly in scales (bar 30)
  • No consecutive perfect 5ths or octaves
  • Leading notes lead to the tonic (bar 15)
  • Dissonances are prepared and resolved (bars 31-32)
  • Upper parts cross each other frequently (bar 5) and use a wide range
  • No similar motion in all three parts simultaneously
  • Typical melodic decoration used: passing notes (bar 13), auxiliary notes (often repeated) (bar 8), suspensions (bar 11) etc.
  • Rhythmic momentum is kept up throughout, and is only relaxed at the approach to a cadence (bar 36)
  • All three parts almost never move together with the same rhythm at any point
  • Two parts may occasionally move together rhythmically for short periods (2-3 beats)
  • Syncopation is quite common (tied notes onto a strong beat) (bars 16-18)
  • Longer note values used at important cadences (bar 21)



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