River bedforms arise as a result of morphological instabilities of the stream-sediment interface. Dunes and antidunes constitute the most typical patterns, and their occurrence and dynamics are relevant for a number of engineering and environmental applications. Although flow variability is a typical feature of all rivers, the bedform-triggering morphological instabilities have generally been studied under the assumption of a constant flow rate. In order to partially address this shortcoming, we here discuss the influence of (periodic) flow unsteadiness on bedform inception. To this end, our recent one-dimensional validated model coupling Dressler's equations with a refined mechanistic sediment transport formulation is adopted, and both the asymptotic and transient dynamics are investigated by modal and nonmodal analyses.