My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair by Joseph Haydn Analysis

Publishing this piece in 1794, Haydn was one of the most famous composers in Europe. ‘My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair’ comes from the first set of six canzonettas (short songs). Many folk songs such as this are typical of the High Classical ‘public’ style where the key is in A major, there are balanced phrases, diatonic, has modulation close to related keys, has use of the forte piano, melody dominated homophony, and the use of a second inversion cadence. Below is a complete analysis of Haydn’s piece. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

Haydn as a Composer

  • He was nicknamed the ‘Father of the Symphony’ from the way he lived the whole way through the Classical era and wrote 104 symphonies.
  • By around the 1790s he was recognised as one of the leading composers of the day.
  • The ‘London’ symphonies which he created when he travelled to England were the last 12 symphonies he ever wrote.
  • He met a poet, Anne Hunter, who he set some of her poems to music as ‘Six Original Canzonettas’ (little songs) in 1794.
  • The second of this original canzonettas was called ‘A Pastoral Song’. However, it much wider known by the first line of the text, ‘My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair‘.
  • During this period, women were expected to entertain by singing and playing the piano. It is clear Haydn has aimed at this market from the simple structure and graceful melodies in My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair.

Strophic Form

The exact same music is used for each verse. This is known as strophic form.

How the Song was Intended for the Amateur Market

  • There is basic syllabic setting of the works.
  • The melody moves in steps (conjunct motion at ‘with bands of rosy hue’) and has the use of tonic triads (on ‘My Mother Bids’).
  • The vocal range is only once octave which is narrow.
  • An introduction is used to establish the key as well as reminding the singing the tune of the beginning.
  • The piano accompaniment frequently doubles/shadows the vocal melody.


  • The song is rarely melody dominated homophonic texture. It is more of a heterophonic texture
  • The piece in the key of A major.
  • There is periodic phrasing in the intro.
  • There is an imperfect cadence at bar 4 being C major. 
  • The song has thin texture of just two instruments.
  • There is a perfect cadence at the end of bar 8.
  • ‘My Mother Bids’ uses the tonic triad of A major. During this, the piano is doing the same which is known as shadowing or doubling.
  • Bar 11 has the vocal melody moving in step which is basic. 
  • On the word ‘hue’ there is a dissonant C sharp on B which is an example of a form of decoration: appoggiatura. This is a resolution.
  • There is an acciaccatura at bar 15 in the vocal melody line.
  • At bar 17, we modulate to the key of E major from the added D sharp.
  • The phrases continue in the form 5 bars, 4 bars, 2 bars and then back to normal. This makes clear how the phrases are more varied.
  • There is word painting at bar 23. The descending chromatic scale in the vocal melody line reflects the words of crying with tears going downwards (descending).
  • The texture is mostly heterophonic. There are remixes of the melody in the piano being played at the same time as the original.
  • Bar 30 has the modulation back to the tonic key of A major. The phrases are back to four bars long.
  • At bar 35, there are descending parallel 3rd chords.
  • The meter is compound duple.
  • Haydn compresses the four verses of Anne Hunter’s poem to just two verses.


  • The key is in A major modulates to E major.
  • The strophic form means verse 2 uses the exact music of verse 1. This doesn’t really work considering the lyrics are different (therefore the chromatic descending scale that reflects crying doesn’t match with the words.
  • There is the use of second inversion chords throughout.
  • The melody line always starts with a quaver.
  • Perfect cadences are used such as the one at the end of the piano introduction being Ic (tonic 2nd inversion), V7 (dominant 7th) and then chord I again.
  • The song is very much diatonic (uses the keys of the scale) but features moments of chromaticism.
  • There is the use of decoration in the melody line using appoggiaturas and acciaccaturas.
Be sure to check out other pieces I have analysed on Ask Will Online.

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