Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding The Motif

Motifs! Little, recognizable chunks of music that add cohesion to compositions. Seems simple enough, let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) I don't think there's ever been a topic that more called for a listening exercise. Listen to some of your favorite songs and try to identify motifs. Look for the different types: How many can you find? Remember that many motifs are multiple types at once!

2) Now that you've found them, why not try to write your own? try writing a melody that utilizes a motif. It doesn't have to be long: Four bars or so should be just fine. Or if you want to do more, that's great too! Longer pieces give you room for longer motifs as well: They don't all have to be 3-4 notes!

3) Let's look at leitmotifs. In addition to being catchy, they also have to capture their character's personality and presence in just a short musical idea. The Jaws theme is a great example of this. Why do you think it works so well? What is it about the theme that screams "Shark!"? Can you think of other leitmotifs? What is it about those, musically speaking, that makes them fit so well with their characters? Dig deep!

And that's it! See you next week!


  1. 1) Listened to a couple different songs, I was actually disappointed by the lack of motifs, they were most prominent in the piano pieces that I listened to, less prominent in the electronic stuff.

    2) I wrote something up in Musescore:

    3) I believe it has something to do with how our brains associate music with certain feelings and pictures. Like if you're listening to a particular song when you're feeling down, every time you listen to it, you're going to be drawn back to then. As to why it gives that feeling, is due to the minor second interval being really dissonant. There's plenty of leitmotifs, such as the Fox theme signaling a movie, or the Imperial March signaling Darth Vader, Hedwig's theme signaling Harry Potter (which is what makes Voldemort's theme so cool, because it has the same leitmotif, except in a minor key, which hints at Voldemort being intrinsically connected to Harry).


    1. 1) I don't listen to electronic music much, so I can't say for certain, but it seems like it might be a great place to find rhythmic motifs, since so much of it, at least what I've heard, is rhythmic in nature. But yeah, piano pieces, especially older ones, are often going to have very prominent motifs.

      2) This sounds really cool! I like how it has two different melodic motifs that are sort of tied together by similar rhythmic motifs. Great work!

      3) I agree! Our brains are associative powerhouses, and leitmotifs harness that instinct to help us tell stories. That's also really cool about Voldemort's theme. I'd never noticed that!

    2. Thank you so much! They're actually little motifs from a duet I'm writing for me and a friend of mine, and I'm kind of proud of how it's turning out.

      I also figured you would probably want to take a look at the notation, so here: