Patterns in Music

I’m always asking my students to look for the patterns in the music they are learning. It can be the pattern of a finger exercise, a scale or the repeating pattern of a section in a piece.

Here is a perfect example:

When playing an exercise, I ask my students to look at the first few measures for the pattern. When they identify it, then I ask them to look ahead and see what note will be the highest note they will play in the pattern. Now they have the pattern, a starting point and an ending point where they will turn around and work their way back.


In this Hanon exercise there is a skip between the first and second note in each measure.

Pattern: Start on C play all 8 notes and then move up one key to D. This pattern repeats until it is time to turn around and descend back to the starting note of the piece.

Syncopated Pattern Exercise


Music Pattern: AB Form

AB Form: This form uses two sections (AB…), each often repeated (AABB…). In 18th-century western classical music, “simple binaryform was often used for dances and carried with it the convention that the two sections should be in different musical keys but same rhythm, duration and tone.

This pattern you would recognize in a song with a verse and a chorus.

Songs that use different music for the verse and chorus are in contrasting verse–chorus form. Examples include:

  • “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly (1957)
  • “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes (1963)
  • “California Girls” by The Beach Boys (1965)
  • “Penny Lane” & “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles (1967
  • “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix (1967)
  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple (1973)
  • “Can’t Get Enough” by Bad Company (1974)





One thought on “Patterns in Music

  1. mramusicplace says:

    Another point about patterns is to look ahead to where it ends. As a player it is easy to get lulled into continuing the pattern too many times and suddenly playing the wriong notes.

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