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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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8. Sequences, Imitation and Motifs in Trio Sonatas

Grade 8 Music Theory - Sequences, Imitation and Motifs in Trio Sonatas

Trio Sonatas normally make a lot of use of melodic sequences and imitation. Rhythmically, certain motifs are normally repeated throughout the piece.

  • Imitation is when a section of melody is echoed in one of the other parts.
  • Sequence is when a melodic fragment is repeated but starting on a different note.
  • A motif is a short musical idea which recurs frequently and gives a sense of unity to the piece.

Imitation: the melody is repeated in the middle part, at the same pitch.



Sequence: the melody here is repeated a 4th higher, and the sequences interlock.



Motifs: A certain rhythm, for example this rhythm in 6/8, might appear frequently throughout the piece.


Part of your task in the exam will be to recognise where sequences/imitation will fit, and to use them appropriately. Look carefully at the parts of the piece that have been provided for you – usually they will include at least one fragment which will work as a sequence/imitation elsewhere in the piece. A clue to the location that a sequence/imitation will fit, is often where you’re given only a few notes, which will be the beginning of the sequenced section.

(Sometimes the parts are filled in for other reasons, such as awkward or unusual harmony, or to guide you to the right part of the stave. Don’t assume that all the filled-in bits will make sequences – look carefully!)

Sometimes the location where a sequence/imitation will fit is a bit more obscure. You may find that after you have sketched in the main melody based on the figured bass, an outline appears which mirrors the outline of another part of the piece, in which case, you will probably be able to decorate it in the same way, to produce a sequence/imitation. Sequences can bear minor alterations to fit with a change in harmony – they’re not always “exact” copies.



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