Music Theory and Practice - Musical Motives or Motifs
Updated: Mar 28
Finding The Motivation
A musical motive (sometimes motif) is the smallest distinguishable idea in music, like how one tile becomes part of the entire floor.
What Makes A Musical Motive?
A musical motive (sometimes motif) is the smallest distinguishable idea in music. This small idea can be thought as a musical seed that is planted in a main theme (or themes) and then is “watered” and “nurtured” through developmental techniques such as fragmentation, augmentation, inversion, etc. until it “blooms” into a full “bouquet” of an entire piece. These developmental techniques sometimes also called melodic alterations.
Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor, Op 2, No. 1, Mvt. 1:
The two main motives in Sonata in F minor are the ascending quarter notes that outline the harmony [A] and the dotted quarter note followed by the turn [B].