Could someone please explain what melodic fragments are? I’ve been told that if you see scale degrees 123 or 321 in the melody or bass it calls for an idiom. I’ve also heard that there are other melodic fragments.

  • I might be assuming here, but: the term "idiom" suggests to me that you're learning from a particular type of music-theory curriculum. I teach in this manner, so I'd be happy to help, but explaining these idioms would take much more than a single answer here. I wonder if it would be best to go straight to your teacher? – Richard Feb 1 at 3:51
  • I agree with you that I should go straight to my teacher. Thanks. I was wondering if you could maybe list some other fragments if you know? For example scale degrees 221? – JellyBean15 Feb 1 at 19:27
  • If you‘d look up the gregorian chant link I‘ve posted in my answer you could see that the most used neumes like 232, 323, 132 etc. have latin terms like sandicus, torculus etc. and they are called idioms. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 2 at 23:30

Idioms or fragments in the language of music are called motives, ornaments or groups of notes, as the head motive, the mordent or the final group in the section of a sonata. Usually they are called phrases or a clauses.

The idioms your teacher mentioned will be developed by the neume and later as well by the technique of playing the organ, piano or any keyboard as there are notes of passages between thirds, fourths and fifths and change notes by the intervals of seconds.

look up the neume:

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and especially the 3 notes neumes:


Such idioms are developed from the ornaments (melisma and ligatures) of the Gregorian chant (plain chant). You will find there a dozen of similar idioms.

"In Western music, the term "melisma" most commonly refers to Gregorian chant (the first definition of melisma by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary'[2] is "a group of notes or tones sung on one syllable in plainsong"). However, the term melisma may be used to describe music of any genre, including baroque singing and later gospel."


But idioms are also built and developed by the technics of certain instruments:


  • Also known as motif (Fr.), motiv (Ger.) and motivo (It.). Beethoven's fifth is literally full of them. – Tim Feb 1 at 8:32
  • when using Kopfmotiv I was right thinking of Beethoven's fifth. But almost all classical concerts and sonatas, also in baroque and romantic time had their own "idioms", to which we can not only count the motives and phrases but also typical chord progressions as the fifth fall cadence cannot just the head motives, as well in the 20th century composers have created their idioms and finally developed their own language. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 1 at 9:30

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