MUSICAL TEXTURE

The Challenge of Experiencing Pluralism in the Context of the Sounds of Our Culture

A definition of texture in music can be based on a metaphor...
Musical Texture is a Structure of Interwoven Fibers of Sound

In music, texture refers to the way multiple voices (or instruments, or parts, or lines) interact in a composition. You can also think of musical texture as a description of musical heirarchy in a given selection that answers the questions: Which voice/part/line is most prominent? Are all of the voices/parts/lines equal?

There are three basic, common ways of describing musical texture:

MONOPHONY - - - - POLYPHONY - - - - HOMOPHONY

Note - It is not always easy to detect the texture of a piece of music. Monophonic music is fairly transaprent, but polyphony and homophony can sometimes sound quite similar, and you might have to invest extra and careful time in order to differentiate the two. And to make matters even more challenging, for the most part our popular music is fundamentally homophonic, and there are only limited, secondary and conditional instances of polyphonic texture in "our" music.
Definitions & Examples of Musical Textures

Literally meaning “one sound,” monophonic texture (noun=monophony) describes music consisting of a single melodic line.  Whether it is sung/played by one person or many, as long as the same notes and rhythms are being performed, monophonic texture is the result. Examples of monophonic texture = 

(1) Unison singing at a religious service
(2) Happy Birthday
(3) A bugle playing Taps
(4) The National Anthem

Monophonic music
looks and sounds like this:

 

Literally meaning “same sound,” homophonic texture (noun=homophony) describes music consisting of a single, dominating melody that is accompanied by other parts or lines that usually form chords (blocks of sound).  Sometimes the chords move in the same rhythm as the melody; other times they are made up of voices that move in opposition to each other or do unique, background-like decorations.  The important aspect is that the other parts or lines are subservient to the melody. Examples of homophonic texture = 

(1) Hymn singing at a religious service
(2) Most pop music styles (rock, country, etc.)

Homophonic music
looks and sounds like this:

homophonic

 

Literally “many sounds,” polyphonic texture (noun=polyphony) describes a musical texture where two or more melodic lines of relatively equal importance are performed simultaneously.  If sung, polyphony requires a group of musicians, but it can be played on some instruments by only a single musician (piano, organ, guitar). A common example of polyphonic texture is a round or canon, like...

Three Blind Mice or Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Polyphonic music
looks and sounds like this:

polyphonic