I have to describe short melodies composed by beginner students. They are typically just a few bars long, and are composed bar by bar, so most of the times there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between bar and motif -- although this is not always the case, I'm just pointing out that they typically are just very short motives. If I choose to represent a melody of four motives like (for example) A, B, A', C (that is: A, B, and C are distinct motives and A' is a variation of A), what is the name of this representation? My advisor called it "motivic analysis notation" but I cannot find a source to confirm this. I'd also rather not call it "thematic analysis" because I have used the term elsewhere with another purpose.

I haven't done proper music studies myself, but I will have to defend that against a musician, so I'd like to use the proper name.

  • How about form (or formal) analysis, at the motive level? But I would recommend jotting down a handful of possibilities, and meeting with the musician on your committee to get his/her opinion. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 4:29
  • I will jot down a few possibilities (thanks for your suggestion), but I won't be able to have direct contact with that person before the actual examination. Oh well, I suppose I'll just go in prepared to make changes if needed :)
    – Morpheu5
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 8:59
  • What a strange system you have! Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 3:32
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    I just can't imagine that! Well, I suppose each country has its own way of doing things; different strokes for different folks.... Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 4:52
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    It's just a variant of form analysis where you are looking more in depth.
    – Dom
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 17:13

2 Answers 2


Schoenberg in Fundamentals of Music Composition uses a variety of terms—"motive, unit, element, phrase, fore-sentence, after-sentence, segment, section, division" (p.xiii)—where motive is the smallest, perhaps corresponding to the A, B, etc. bits. So "motivic analysis notation" would jive with that.


It can be looked at as a slight variant of form analysis. Typically in form analysis the smallest units you deal with are phrases, but can always look more in depth.

For example, in the link above the first form analysis is as follows:

enter image description here

As you can see, you can clearly see the end and start of the phrases and you can dissect it further to get a better look at the motives that make up each phrase like as follows:

enter image description here

This is a quick analysis of the motives used in the example. For simplicity sake and because form analysis typically uses both upper and case letter I used greek instead.

  • Thanks Dom, I agree on your use of greek letters. I think generally "form analysis" works, but I was concerned that my level of detail was a bit lower than phrases. Also, because the works I'm look at are composed on a software that explicitly encourages you to work with separate/connectible blocks (roughly equivalent to bars, if you want to see it that way), many of the blocks are essentially self-contained, and used as building blocks, so they could also be seen as phrases in their own right.
    – Morpheu5
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 11:27

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