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Developing Motifs

Developing Motifs
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In this post I’m going to provide you with a useful template that you can use to develop a short motif or idea into a full-length piece. I’ll cover the PReVaDe method and provide a brief introduction to “sentence structure.” When properly combined these tools help give you a powerful weapon for fighting against writer’s block! However, as a quick disclaimer, I’d like to point out that there are literally countless ways that you can write a piece of music, and that this template is not an end-all-be-all strategy to great tune-smithing. It’s simply one of the many strategies I’ve developed over time to help me with my own composing process. With that being said, let’s dive in and take a quick look at the template!

This is what the template looks like when organized into a chart. It might not make much sense to you now, but by the time we’re done, you’ll realize just how simple it actually is. We can even break this entire thing down into three easy steps:

  1. Come up with a musical idea/motif

  2. Use PReVaDe to write two questions and an answer

  3. Repeat the process

Right away you’ll probably notice that the bulk of this entire process falls on step number two. It’s definitely the most technically demanding of the three steps, which is why we’ll spend the bulk of our time exploring it, but first let’s come up with a musical idea!

Step One: Come up with a musical idea/motif

This step is arguably the simplest of the three. I’m sure you often come up with short musical ideas when playing around on your instrument of choice. It’s pretty easy to absentmindedly come up with a brief idea, but much harder to turn it into a full melody. Your idea can be anything, but this template typically works best for shorter ideas that last no longer than a bar or two.

Here’s a musical snippet I came up with for the sake of this project:

Step Two: PReVaDe and Question/Answers

PReVaDe is a concept taken from improvisational studies in music. It stands for “Present, Repeat, Vary, and Deconstruct”. This step forms the foundation for the entire template in this document. Below I’m going to quickly go through the basics of PReVaDe as a process and show you how it might be used to develop the motif I just shared with you. Then I’ll take a little more time to go into more detail for each step of the PReVaDe process.

Present is exactly what it sounds like, we’re going to “present” our musical idea. This kick starts our melody and introduces the new material we’ll be working with. After we’ve presented our idea, we simply repeat it (sometimes