The main difference between Sonata and Cantata is that the Sonata is a composition for one or more solo instruments and Cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment.
Sonata (; Italian: [soˈnaːta], pl. sonate; from Latin and Italian: sonare, “to sound”), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, “to sing”), a piece sung. The term evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms until the Classical era, when it took on increasing importance, and is vague. By the early 19th century, it came to represent a principle of composing large-scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded—alongside the fugue—as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the musical style of sonatas has changed since the Classical era, most 20th- and 21st-century sonatas still maintain the same structure.
The term sonatina, pl. sonatine, the diminutive form of sonata, is often used for a short or technically easy sonata.
A cantata [kanˈtaːta] (literally “sung”, past participle feminine singular of the Italian verb cantare, “to sing”) is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.
The meaning of the term changed over time, from the simple single voice madrigal of the early 17th century, to the multi-voice “cantata da camera” and the “cantata da chiesa” of the later part of that century, from the more substantial dramatic forms of the 18th century to the usually sacred-texted 19th-century cantata, which was effectively a type of short oratorio. Cantatas for use in the liturgy of church services are called church cantata or sacred cantata; other cantatas can be indicated as secular cantata. Several cantatas were, and still are, written for special occasions, such as Christmas cantatas. Johann Sebastian Bach composed cycles of church cantatas for the occasions of the liturgical year.
A musical composition for one or a few instruments, one of which is frequently a piano, in three or four movements that vary in key and tempo
A vocal composition accompanied by instruments and generally containing more than one movement, typical of 17th and 18th century Italian music.