In music, imitation is the repetition of a melody in a polyphonic texture shortly after its first appearance in a different voice. The melody may vary through transposition, inversion, or otherwise, but retain its original character. The intervals and rhythms of an imitation may be exact or modified; imitation occurs at varying distances relative to the first occurrence, and phrases may begin with voices in imitation before they freely go their own ways.
Imitation helps provide unity to a composition.
When a phrase recurs exactly as before (except perhaps transposed), it is called strict imitation. A round is thus an example of strict imitation. Repetition is defined as the repetition of a phrase or melody often with variations in key, rhythm, and voice.
Different authors define imitation somewhat differently:
— Benward & Saker (2003)
Imitation[:] The repetition of a melody or melodic group in close succession, but in a different voice; the repetition of a melody at a different pitch level in a polyphonic texture.— Benward & Saker
Imitation[:] The restatement in close succession of melodic figures in different voices in polyphonic textures.— Benward & Saker (2009)
Use in various musical styles
In European classical music, imitative writing was featured heavily in the highly polyphonic compositions of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. A more improvisatory form of imitation can be found in Arab and Indian vocal music where the instrumentalist may accompany the vocalist in a vocal improvisation with imitation.
- Melodic pattern
- Sequence (music)
- Canon (music)
- Call and response (music)
- Augmentation (music)
- Retrograde (music)