In this lesson we will learn about two devices or “tools” composers use when they write music. These tools help the composer to create more ideas which are connected to the music that has already been heard. This helps them to write longer pieces of music and also makes a piece of music feel “glued” together, because it uses similar ideas as it goes along.

The two devices will will learn in this lesson are ostinato and sequences


“Ostinato” is a repeated pattern in music. Ostinatos (or “ostinati”) can be built on a melody or just a rhythm (on a drum, for example). In the Trinity exam you may be asked to find an example of ostinato in a score, or to write out some repeats of an ostinato pattern.

To write out repeats of an ostinato, simply copy the given bar(s) exactly as they appear. Pay attention to the spacing of the notes, as well as things like stem direction, and how notes are beamed (joined) together.

Here is an example question and answer:

Write out one more repeat of this ostinato. 

writing ostinato repeats


A sequence is a repeated section of melody, beginning on a different note. The interval distance between each of the notes in the melody will stay the same.

Look at this example.


The original idea is a short melody of 2 bars beginning on C. Sequence 1 has the same idea, but this time it begins on a D. Sequence 2 is the same idea again, but it begins on E. A sequence can begin on any note from the scale of the key the music is in.

The intervals between each of the notes in the melody stay the same, and the rhythm stays the same.

Notice how the beginning of each repeat has a dotted crotchet (dotted quarter note), which moves upwards by the interval of a 2nd to a quaver (8th note).


Next, each repeat moves downwards by the interval of a 3rd, to a crotchet (quarter note), and so on.


Musical Devices Exercises

a. Write out two more repeats of this ostinato.

ostinato ex 1

b. Write out one more repeat of this ostinato

ostinato ex 2

a. Write out two sequences of this melody, each one starting one note higher.

sequence ex 1

b. Write out two sequences of this melody, each one starting one note lower.

sequence ex 2