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Can anybody please suggest what it is called when different instruments that play in an agreement to the melody, suddenly deviate from each other by couple of notes creating an asymmetry and then reconcile in a little while.

You can hear an example in this youtube video 5:46 - 6:16.

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As the three instruments (trombone, sax, guitar) are all playing exactly the same lick but everyone starts a quarter-note after the previous one they are just producing a simple Delay-Effect...

Of course, this is a technical term but I am not aware that there is a musical term for it. You could call it 'sequence' but that usually includes the shifting of that 'pattern' to another note and is usually done by one instrument playing them one after the other - not at the same time.

You could call it a 'Canon' (round) although this usually strives for some 'harmony' in the resulting clusters - well... - some kind of 'a-tonal canon' ;-)

I would rather call it a 'Delay-Effect', like Seal often does it by simply 'singing' the delay line instead of using an effect-box...

  • Tight imitation. – user16935 Sep 8 '15 at 16:09
  • It is a canon, at the unison. Very popular in minimalist music. – Robert Fink Sep 8 '15 at 18:53
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The way you describe it makes it sound like voice exchange. Counter melody is also something to look into (a less prominent melody played against a lead melody).

  • Voice Exchange is pretty specific to 4-part harmony. – jjmusicnotes Sep 9 '15 at 0:21

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