1. Ted Pease, Jazz Composition: Theory and Practice (Berklee Press, 2003), 1-2.

Motive: A short melodic fragment, consisting of a specific pattern of pitches and rhythm. Motifs are manipulated in a composition in order to facilitate melodic development and contribute to the unity and coherence of a piece.

Phrase: A segment of melody that is heard as a unit but which needs other phrases in combination with it in order to present a complete musical statement. A phrase will often include an identifying motif.

Theme (thematic material): A melody, or a portion of a melody, that recurs often enough in a composition that it comes to be identified with that composition.1



Motivic development - a tool for improvisation

My name is August Estberg and I play the guitar. Playing the guitar as a child came from listening to rock bands from the 70’s. That was my first meeting with music and from there I expanded my musical horizon, listening to different genres of all kinds. When studying in high school I got introduced to jazz music and it opened another world, one with improvised music.


I started studying in the jazz and rock program at Örebro Musikhögskola, in Sweden. I was curious to learn improvisation, looking for inspiration and answers from teachers, students and by listening and transcribing other musicians. At one point I got frustrated by my own playing. What I played didn’t resonate with me and it felt like my improvisation lacked creativity and spontaneity. At the time I wanted to feel that I played within the music instead of on top of it. How could I achieve a stronger feeling of inspiration and creativity while I express myself improvising. Around that time, I was introduced to motivic development both in my individual guitar lessons and in composition classes. That made me realize that what I liked was other musicians use of motivic development in their improvisation. I started to believe that I could add more structure and allow my improvisations to be more creative with small ideas, motives, that develops. It also might give the listener a chance to follow and hear ideas develop and unfold into a structure. Motivic development could be a good starting point to find out more about my personal sound which in turn can develop my compositions and how I improvise.