The motif is a series of at least two notes repeated in a piece of music, with which a musical idea is formulated. It forms

the smallest musical entity that achieves musical understanding by recognition; the “recognition” is made possible by the circumstance of the repetition of the motif; in addition to the unit-forming repetition of at least partial elements of the motif, motivic work also includes formation of variants, which ensures the required variety of the musical work of art.1)

Often the motif is understood as the “germ” of a theme.


Motif from Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburgisches Konzert No. 3, 1st movement, in four repetitions



1) Stefan Keym: Motivisch-thematische Arbeit als Inbegriff der Musik?: Zur Geschichte und Problematik eines 'deutschen' Musikdiskurses. Georg Olms Verlag 2015, 157