What is a motif?
A motive is basically the smallest element of a song, after the single note itself, that there is. It is the idea that sparks a song when you are songwriting. It is normally a collection of 3 or 4 notes. The most famous motif is probably from Beethoven’s 5th symphony.
I’m sure you’ve heard it…du du du DUUUU.
A song can be built upon one single motif or several motives.
Example of motifs
Motives can be transposed throughout a song during key changes.
Notice that the contour (the musical notes on the staff) of the melody is the same even as the key is transpose up a major third. The motif is the same but in a different key. When you combine motifs, you create a musical phrase.