Methods of Theme Development

A Composer's Guide

A musical theme is a melody, usually a complete musical phrase, upon which part or all of a composition is based. There are some certain principles of a theme development. They determine thematic processes and changes in a music texture.

 Methods of Theme Development


This is the basic principal of a theme development. Repetition makes a melody easier for perception. That’s why the best way to do your melody catchy for ear is to repeat it during the composition.


Another popular method to develop a musical theme is to repeat it in a different way. You can make some small changes in melody or cadence, replace major key with parallel minor etc. All these changes shouldn’t break the structure of the theme.


The difference between a variant and a variation is that a melody is repeated in an altered form. The distinctions could be much more essential and involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.


A sequence is the immediate restatement of a theme at a higher or lower pitch. It consists of two, three or four segments continued by same interval distance. This method adds ‘colours’ to the music palette.


A complete replacement of the main theme by another melodic material creates a contrast and enriches a musical texture.