The Components of Music: Part Three

The Structure of Music: LadyDpiano


The Structure of Music

The structure of an object is its organization or the way in which it is put together. Every object has an outer shape or form. Every object also has inner parts which give that object its unique character.

Music also has an outer shape or plan. Each piece of music has many inner parts too, which fit together to create the whole composition. Music has both outer and inner structure or form.

Introduction To "Motif"

A motif is a short musical figure that recurs throughout a composition. It is used to unify the piece. A motif is usually the seed of the main theme of a composition. AS few as two notes can make up a motif if they are melodically or rhythmically characteristic of the theme. The motif can be found in music as simple as a folk song or as complex as a symphony. Beethoven developed a highly skilled use of the motif in many of his later symphonies.

Creating Melodic Variation

Augmentation - Doubling the duration of notes in a melody
Altered Tones - Changing some of the pitches of a melody
Extension - Adding notes to make a melody longer
Ornamentation - Adding new tones within a melody

Music Background

A phrase in music is comparable to a sentence in a speech. It is a natural division of the melodic line. A phrase usually includes 2, 4, or 8 measures. A phrase mark (or curved line) should not be confused with a tie or a slur mark. A tie only connects two notes of the same pitch. A slur mark is used when two notes are sung on one syllable.

The Forms of Music

All music has an outer shape or form. There are very short forms of music, such as a three-part (A B A) song or instrumental piece, or a simple round. There are also longer forms of music.

Instrumental Forms


  • Theme and variations
  • Rondo
  • Suite
  • Symphony
  • Concerto
Vocal Forms

  • Opera
  • Oratorio
Music is often built by putting phrases together in very regular ways. For example, many folk songs have an even number of phrases, with an equal number of measures in each. One or two phrases may be repeated, resulting in phrase forms such as these.

A B A B    A A B A    A B A C

Theme and variation is a musical form that uses a musical idea (theme) and a number of modifications of the theme (variations). The theme is usually a simple tune, frequently a familiar melody. If the original melody is preserved in all the variations, they are called melodic variations. If only the original harmonic structure is kept, they are called harmonic variation.

Poetry, as well as music, may be written in either regular or irregular phrase form.

So, reinforce understanding of phrases through compositional strategy. Experiment with various ways to develop the two phrases into a melody. Write words to fit one or more melodies. The melodies created should show understanding of phrase form, cadence, and musical balance.

Does your song have a regular or irregular form?
Does your song seem balanced?
Does your song end with a full cadence?

Okay. Perhaps you have missed some earlier posts on Components of Music. You can catch up here, Part Two and Part One.

You may be interested in MACMILLAN MUSIC. It's a great resource for teachers.


Wishing you all the best!


-- LadyD
 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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