Sonata vs. sonatina - What is the difference?

Technique, methods and advice for learners

Postby Stretto » Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:39 am

Can you explain the difference between a Sonata and a Sonatina if asked? How would you best explain the difference to someone else?
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Apr 28, 2007 9:00 am

The difficulty in defining those terms is that, like many other terms in music, they mean different things in different historical periods. I just usually tell students that a sonatina is a miniature sonata, but it's not really that simple.

The word 'sonata' originally just meant "sound piece" (you can see the same word root in other terms like 'sonority' and 'sonar', the device that detects submarines with sound waves), and 'cantata' meant "sung piece". But 'sonata' can mean both a whole composition in several movements, and also the specific classical one-movement structure that became the most important instrumental form in music.

So a Sonatina can be a multi-movement sonata-form work with shorter and simpler structures (Ravel's "Sonatine" is a perfect example), and also a simpler version of the one-movement form, usually with less thematic development.

Bill L.

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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Apr 30, 2007 6:23 pm

On average, if a student is in middle school, how long would you suggest for a daily practice time? (ages 11,12, 13,14). The lesson would be 45 minutes.
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Postby jenscott90 » Wed May 30, 2007 9:53 am


You may not be asking me and may have gotten your question answered somewhere else, but I have had better luck with practicing if I ask for a timeframe secondary to practicing a piece or section a certain number of times.

I was always looking for a way to "spend" my half hour a day which my mom required of me (and I got sick of). I ended up resenting her and the piano for a while after she let me quit after 11 years, so I advocate requiring them to play over sections with difficulty 3 to 5 times before putting them back into the song, then playing the whole song maybe 3 times. This way, they can change up their practice routines.

I have warmups, scales, technic, lesson, recital/solo and theory and maybe another sheet music piece, depending. I tell them NOT to try to get through every single bit of that every single time they sit down to play, but to do warmups, scales and technic first, then choose between the rest and really focus on that one thing for the rest of the time (and play it at least a certain number of times). The next day, do the warmups, etc first and then another book. They can use one "non play" day besides doing warmups, etc for the theory.

Seems to work well and we aren't getting too burned out, I don't think. So far, they are progressing fairly well and parents and students are happy. We'll see what happens when we hit that bump in the road!!! :)

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